Fast forward 13 years to Saturday. My admittedly overly spoiled, now-teenage bundle of joy put her cell phone down long enough to look over at me from across our expansive sofa and asked, “Dad, I need some new jeans for school. Can we go to the mall?”
Quickly determining that her “need” for new jeans for school was more like a standard teenage “desire” for the latest new jeans, it was easier to accept her request for what it was and make a decision.
Having scrolled through the last of the 200-plus TV channels and despite all claims to the contrary, I determined that indeed there was nothing on. I tossed the remote control onto the coffee table and said to my little girl: “Let’s go get you some jeans.”
As we jumped onto Lammers Road and headed toward West Valley Mall, my daughter again looked up from the keyboard of her cell phone only to say, “Dad, you know there’s no Abercrombie and Fitch at the Tracy mall.”
Not wanting to drive back over the hill on my day off, I suggested we try Aeropostale or Pac Sun at the local mall. The look upon my daughter’s face said it all. Her intention was clearly to go to a mall that provided an experience of more than just picking up some pants.
I knew we wouldn’t find an Abercrombie and Fitch at the Tracy mall. We would be limited to an experience that rivals a trip to a local strip mall to pick up some dry cleaning, overpriced milk or perhaps a used book or two.
So we headed over the hill to Pleasanton. We found Abercrombie and Fitch. We searched for some skinny low-rise jeans that met her desire to be fashionable while meeting my demand to keep the top two or three inches of her backside out of the public view. In addition to the jeans, we had a nice lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and picked up a few items at Williams-Sonoma for the evening’s dinner.
Walking out to the car, I could not avoid thinking of just how much Tracy has regressed in the past few years.
Sure, we are in the midst of an economic crisis, but our town is not just struggling to stay afloat in a tough economy. We have found ourselves becoming one of the least-desirable locations in the Central Valley.
Once a gateway to the Central Valley that offered reasonable housing prices and expanding dining, entertaining and shopping options, it is now a town offering a vast array of rental properties and a growing number of low-end retail options.
As we sit back and watch our Central Valley sister cities, Manteca, Modesto and Lodi, progress with destination experiences, Tracy is left to dream about what could have been.
When we could be looking at a real downtown revitalization, we have a hodgepodge of buildings and retail space with no distinct vision.
When we could have taken from the success of Livermore only 15 miles away as they have transformed into the Napa Valley of the Tri Valley, we went our own way. When we could have attracted or helped facilitate an attraction like Big League Dreams or Bass Pro Shops, we pushed for a WinCo.
Tracy residents recently learned that the city is going to spend a great deal of money to lure a Macy’s to come anchor the West Valley Mall. This news came as a surprise. Reading about the pipe dream the City Council apparently had that Macy’s would agree to anchor Tracy’s enclosed strip mall, I almost had to laugh.
While there is no question we need to reverse the demise that has taken hold of Tracy, before we simply throw money at an overreaching dream we may want to take some simple steps that may not only materialize but be in the best interest of our town.
While Macy’s may not be the symbol of prestige it once was, it is not about to come and take residence next to Ross Dress for Less, Payless Shoes and the Suit Outlet for Men.
Is it really in our best interest to spend much-needed funds on an attempt to anchor a mall that is not just in an uncontrolled drift to relative obscurity, but is truly a mall with just an enclosed roof to distinguish it from your average half-rented strip mall?
As my teenage daughter and I drove back from Pleasanton after what will soon be a rare day together, two thoughts seemed to consume the 25-minute ride:
The first obvious thought was that the first developed city you encounter passing into the Central Valley should not be the one you would be least likely to stop and experience.
My next thought was, of course, how can we stop the regression of our town?
Let’s focus on a true downtown revitalization, stop facilitating low-end retail and grocery outlets, put in place a vision of what we want our town to look like and create a plan to get there.
• Brian Williams has been a Tracy resident since 1993 and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.