Remade as a Retail Mecca, Emeryville Falters

Emeryville, CA is a success story of redevelopment. City leaders transformed a decaying industrial area into a booming retail landscape. But with the economic downturn, locals are questioning the wisdom of basing the city on retail.

"Civic leaders banded together and created a redevelopment agency that allowed the city to borrow money for the cleanup through the sale of long-term bonds. Then it basically gave away the land to developers, along with rich tax incentives, and is slowly paying back the debt with the new property tax revenue.

Bay Street Promenade, for example, was built on heavily polluted lands once covered by a paint plant. The huge blue IKEA store opened in 2003 on the former site of Judson Steel, once among the largest steel manufacturers in the Western United States.

Emeryville officials note that the city has a more diversified revenue stream than places like Detroit, the capital of the beleaguered auto industry, or parts of Southern California in the 1980s that were wholly dependent on aerospace and military contractors.

BUT that is of little consolation to area businesses, whose problems are likely to become worse as Emeryville tries to address its new challenges. With new budget holes opening, the City Council has proposed a variety of new taxes, including a levy to raise additional money for the city's parks and take pressure off of other parts of the budget."

Full Story: A City That Shopped Till It Dropped

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