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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Seemed like a good idea at the time

by PJ on 9/02/2008 11:39:00 AM

(Note: Don't miss Tanta's post on Frannie, well worth your time to read)

The OC Register's Andrew Galvin has an interesting look at a retail concept that is a stunning failure now, but seemed like a good idea at the time:

The vast sea of empty parking spaces at the South Coast Home Furnishings Centre tells a story about our local economy better than any graph or chart.

The Costa Mesa retail center, envisioned as a Mecca for people looking to upgrade home interiors, was conceived and built during the historic run-up in housing prices a few years back. It opened in 2007, just as the housing market was dropping into freefall.

Today, the center has the feel of a ghost town. Stores sit empty, while shoppers are few and far between. The food court has a single tenant. The center's owner is in foreclosure after defaulting on an $84 million mortgage.

Yet some merchants are sticking it out, convinced that better days are ahead.

"We'll get through it," said Chris Mulhall, whose store, Visions in Contemporary Living, sells what he calls "high-end contemporary" furniture. "It's just going to take time and perseverance."

By time and perseverance, Mulhall means you've got to have lots of cash to burn, with no guarantee you'll see any of it come back; such high-end retail might have a shot in Newport Beach, but Costa Mesa? I can think of much more fun ways to lose money, personally, and most involve a trip to Las Vegas.

It's a little early to pull out a quote of the week, but here's a candidate:
"When you think about all those mortgage guys driving around in their Lamborghinis and spending money hand over fist, driving up the local economy – what everybody's got to understand is that the weirdness was when those guys were making that kind of money, not what's happening now," said economist Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics.
I interviewed Thornberg when he was with the UCLA Andersen forecast, and he was always among the most bearish of the group. He's also been among the most correct, even if he's also the most blunt.

And, for those yearning for a little rock-blogging, this story conjures up a great little rock-and-roll song from the band OK GO, called A Good Idea at the Time. Rock on.