Sacramento Bee, The (CA)
2006-04-15
Section: BUSINESS
Edition: METRO FINAL
Page: D1

Car dealer hopes bazaar will boost business
He plans a weekend open-air market to lure customers back from big auto malls.



Capitol City Chevrolet owner Paul Blanco has a plan to win back business that his dealership is losing to giant auto malls in the region: He'll build his own mall.

But unlike his clustered competitors, Blanco's mall would be a fashionable weekend bazaar - "Please don't call it a flea market," he says - with hundreds of small vendors selling their wares in a European-themed setting on what is now mostly vacant acreage he controls behind his car business.

The idea has drawn mixed reactions from neighbors, city officials and some businesses along Florin Road.

Some figure an outdoor market would draw consumers to a historically troubled area that has made recent strides to battle crime and fill formerly empty storefronts.

Others worry that the market would turn into a flea market, become a magnet for crime and hurt neighboring businesses with wind-blown trash, clogged parking lots and traffic congestion at the Florin Road and Franklin Boulevard intersection where Blanco does business.

"The alternative will be closing the dealership and getting another one at an auto mall," Blanco said. "And then I'd put a salvage yard in (the Florin Road dealership's) place."

Capitol City Chevrolet has lost millions of dollars in the past few years, Blanco says, and General Motors has told him his business loses 800 sales per year to nearby auto malls. Blanco said he believes the bazaar, dubbed the Sacramento Fresh Air Market, will pull buyers back to his showroom and energize his end of Florin Road.

The market would feature 610 vendor spaces that would be open on Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission would be $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. Those taking light rail or the bus would get in for free.

The gate receipts - nearly $500,000 per year, Blanco estimates - would fund student scholarships or community projects. He plans to use profits from booth rentals to refurbish his car dealership.

Natomas-based LPA Sacramento, the architectural firm behind the upscale Pavilions shopping center on Fair Oaks Boulevard, drew the market's plans with on-site parking for 536 vehicles, a food court, trees and other amenities. Future phases would include a restaurant, an antique mall and a car showroom.

Customers also would be able to park in a shopping center lot on the south side of Florin Road, and crossing guards would assist pedestrians across the street.

Blanco says that he has already spent more than $150,000, on the project, including $37,500 for a traffic impact study that will be completed sometime next month. From there, he will take the idea to the city planning commission for a building permit. The first phase will cost $650,000, he estimates.

At a special Friday board meeting of the Florin Road Partnership business group, members heard and gave comments about the project before taking a vote on whether to support it.

"I'm concerned about security," said nearby resident Frank DeSart. "What happens when gangs meet up, flash signs or look cross-eyed at someone?"

Partnership board member Tom Burruss had a different concern.

"What happens if this doesn't take place?" he asked. "What happens if Paul has to close his place? What happens then?"

After a three-hour mediated discussion, the board voted unanimously to support Blanco's plan, satisfied that it would be a plus to Florin Road.

"This was a thorny issue and a lot of the board members were initially divided over it," said partnership executive director Larry Carr. "The message the board sent can be summed up in a single phrase: Provide us with a project that's done right."

The Bee's Jon Ortiz can be reached at (916) 321-1043 or jortiz@sacbee.com.

Sacramento Bee / Nam Nguyen (map)

Stalled car sales prompt mall plan

Capitol City Chevrolet owner Paul Blanco says that he's losing sales to auto mall dealerships, forcing him to push for a mall of his own - an upscale bazaar he's calling an "open-air mall" on 12 acres behind his dealership at Florin Road and Franklin Boulevard.

THE FRESH AIR MARKET

Parcel size: 12 acres

Vendor spaces: 610

On-site parking spaces: 536

Off-site parking spaces: 600, with 500 more in negotiation

Permanent buildings: Food court; two indoor sales pavilions, a restaurant and an antique mall.

Sources: Capitol City Chevrolet; LPA Sacramento

Sacramento Bee / Nam Nguyen

Open-air market impact

Below are the revenue and sales tax numbers for Paul Blanco's Capitol City Chevrolet business, and projections for coming years with the open-air market in place.

SALES

'05: $36.7 million

'08: $63.3 million*

SALES TAX COLLECTED

'05: $2.5 million

'08: $3.7 million

PROFIT/LOSS

'05: -$0.45 million

'08: $1 million*

*Projected

Source: Capitol City Chevrolet