In early August, tenants of the Southampton Shopping Center received notice that real estate investment trust Kimco Realty had merged with Southampton’s owner Weingarten Realty; the operation will continue as Kimco Realty. According to its website, Kimco is North America’s largest publicly traded owner/operator of open-air, grocery-chain shopping centers. Combining its 398 shopping centers with Weingarten’s 156 properties creates a company valued at $12 billion.
Southampton Shopping Center consists of 42 leasable spaces plus one ATM, totaling 162,741 square feet. The largest, Raley’s, operates in 60,000 square feet while my Ace Hardware occupies just under 14,000 sf. The remaining tenants average 2200 sf each.
Kimco inherits a number of issues unresolved during Weingarten’s tenure. The first will come as no surprise to readers, and that is parking; a visit to Southampton on Fridays or weekends often results in a struggle to park. For this, you can blame city officials a generation ago.
Southampton’s original design called for 734 public parking spaces; however, a variance granted in 1979 reduced this to 641 spaces, based upon one space for every 250 sf of leasable area. In April 2014, my staff carefully counted existing spaces; we came up with only 557, this is 84 spaces short of minimum city code! We can only speculate that after initial build, the center was not properly inspected or that parking was deliberately overlooked. The unfortunate result is the overcrowding that shoppers regularly experience today.
During its oversight, Weingarten attempted to address the issue by re-striping the center with straight-in parking. More efficient, these are also tighter; designers claimed this would add approximately 40 stalls. However, Raley’s management objected, insisting that its shoppers needed the easy access that angled parking provided. So the issue was tabled.
The second concern is with the Southampton sign program created in October 1997, the program had been managed by Weingarten. However, it does not reflect reality and violations exist, even by Weingarten. By way of example, shoppers may have noticed the small monument sign near Raley’s for Universal Maintenance, the center’s maintenance contractor. Paid through tenant fees, Universal leases no retail space yet it was required to erect this sign and it pays a rent to Weingarten…. Convoluted and highly questionable. Other violations exist. Also, part of the sign program includes the center’s freeway monument sign; Southampton’s freeway sign needs a refresh – it is old, faded, and the original, odd looking cursive is unreadable.
Kimco’s new ownership brings with it an opportunity to improve upon Weingarten’s relationship with tenants and that of the City; Kimco must address parking and update the sign program. For tenants, this is a good time to consider improvements and investments within their own businesses; sadly, some are in disrepair (and the pandemic is not an excuse!) Finally, City officials need to step up. Their predecessors seriously erred in not applying parking standards when Southampton was built. It is incumbent upon current officials to correct this and require a fix. Allowing that odd looking cell tower appendage to be constructed was inexcusable. Any future significant changes to Southampton should not be allowed until, and unless, parking is addressed. Benicia residents and shoppers deserve no less.