Money and Business

Amazon could lead a series of changes in downtown Santa Barbara

Tech companies plan to lease or expand

Amazon leases the former Saks Off 5th building and more changes are coming to downtown Santa Barbara in 2019. (John Palminteri/

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Amazon is coming to downtown Santa Barbara in the old Saks Off 5th store at 1001 State Street, and analysts say more hybrid, mixed use, and innovative ideas are going to emerge in the next two years in the struggling area.

Hayes commercial group says it sees a trend in growing tech companies. 

A recent report says, Amazon leased  the 46,813 square foot Saks building to house its growing local Alexa research team.  On line jobs for the Alexa team are posted.

Nearby Invoca has leased 27,773 square feet at 419 State Street, and  three others, Green Hills Software, Zoom Video Communications and Well Health Inc. have all sought new and larger locations downtown.

Commercial says have not matched levels in the last five years, according to Hayes, but the total dollar volume excluding hotel sales is only down 5 percent.

Hayes says in 2018 there were 78 sales in 2018.

In the State Street corridor downtown there are many concepts being evaluated. They include more seasonal pop up store clusters as shoppers saw in the former Macy's site on State and Ortega.   The city is also seeing if there's interested in occasional full block street closures with outside dining, entertainment and new lighting to attract foot traffic and create a new environment.

A trial to test that concept is expected before summer.

Leasing is surprisingly up considering the attention the large vacancies are getting. The report says 22 leases including renewals were signed in 2018.

Large vacancies that are still up in the air include the Macy's space, the former Verizon store, the empty Tonic nightclub, the closed Aaron Brothers store and the Staples building.  All are in a four block area.

This year, expect to see more tech companies arriving, along with breweries, restaurants and home furnishings.

The city and the Downtown Organization has enhanced its sidewalk cleaning program and more community service officers are walking the area to deal with nuisance problems.

In a larger footprint, the old Petco and Trader Joe's building on Milpas is still available.

Target is opening soon at the Galeria on State and La Cumbre. Hiring is underway.

A job fair is also set for Tuesday for the Montecito Country Club which has gone through years of renovations and is getting prepared for a reopening.

In Goleta, transactions totaled more than 600,000 square feet for the first time on record.  About 40 percent were renewals.

Within that, Google has increased its size on Mentor Drive to 54,648 square feet.

In the next several weeks, there will be public outreach sessions to get input on business and economic improvement concepts,  several annual economic reports, and Thursday the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization will have its annual awards breakfast and business update at the El Paseo Restaurant.


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