[ NEWS ]







pacing the void

By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 22, 1997

Three Main Gate stores open


Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Most of the new shopping and food places in the new West Main Gate Center have opened. Business has been slow for the new shops in the past month, and there have been some concerns about the limited parking spaces throughout the west University Blvd. area.

As students peer into store windows along East University Boulevard and wonder who will move into the empty suites, businesses that have set up shop at the West Main Gate Center are experiencing only a trickle of customers.

After Coffee Plantation opened Wednesday, the four tenants contracted to lease new spaces at the center are in business, except The White House, which is expected to be open in August, said Don Semro, project manager for the West Main Gate Center.

The shopping center, which consists of two buildings at 825 and 845 E. University Blvd., houses The Gap, Bath and Body Works and the Coffee Plantation. The center has room for six or seven tenants.

Bath and Body Works opened Feb. 14.

"I think it's got a lot of potential. It is going to take a little time to let people know we are down here," said Jacqiue Rinder, general manager of Coffee Plantation, about the new shopping area.

Rinder said the Coffee Plantation has 43 employees, with at least half being University of Arizona students.

The Coffee Plantation's business has been good considering its grand opening was less than a week ago, Rinder said.

"I know it looks dead in here, but it was busier earlier," Tara Reilly, a nursing senior and Coffee Plantation employee, said yesterday.

Reilly said business has improved since last week's opening.

Josh Dalton, a theater education senior and shift leader at the Coffee Plantation, said business will increase as people begin to realize the business is open. Dalton said he predicted business will increase in the fall semester.

Numerous employees of The Gap, which opened March 28, said company policy forbids them from talking directly to any publications. The Gap's public relations director could not be reached.

Semro said primary construction of West Main Gate Center is nearly completed. He said the city of Tucson's improvements to the area are finished on the north side of the street.

Conelly Construction, the contractor for the West Main Gate Center, has completed most of its work in the area except for a few finishing details on the north side of the commercial area, south of the University Services building, Semro said.

Semro said the project is running about a month behind schedule because basements of homes formerly on the property were in the way.

Craig Conelly, vice president for Conelly Construction, said he felt the project was a success.

He said some windows at the center were broken during the postgame celebrations in the area three weeks ago, but he did not know the cost of replacing those windows.

Students have mixed opinions about Main Gate Square.

"I think they did a really good job with these buildings aesthetically," said Sarah Owens, a graduate student in Spanish and Portuguese.

Owens added, "I think the Marriott is too tall; it blocks the mountains."

She said she would like to see a bookstore or academic businesses in the center instead of corporate businesses that can be found at a mall.

Owens said the Coffee Plantation is the most appealing of the new establishments, but the prices are too high.

Damon Scott, a political science junior, said he likes the new area and it reminds him of Mill Avenue, which is lined by commercial establishments near Arizona State University in Tempe.

Bob Lane, former president and current board member of the West University Neighborhood Association, said the area has improved aesthetically, except for the Main Gate Parking Garage.

Lane said the association has no official position on the West Main Gate Center because they are waiting for it to be completed.

"We originally approved the concept," Lane said. "It would be safe to say we like that they have tried to capture the historical context."

Mike Butler, president of the neighborhood association, said he is concerned with parking issues and is also concerned about the area being uniform in appearance.

Butler said parking has been a problem west of the university because students park on the streets there to avoid being charged for parking elsewhere.

"Our neighborhood does not like large parking structures," said Butler, adding that the buildings are inconsistent with a residential neighborhood.

He said there is not enough parking available in the area and existing parking is too expensive.

"We still have substantial problems with U of A students parking in our neighborhood - the Main Gate structure was to solve that. The problem is worse, if anything," Lane said.

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