Mall Wars: Neiman Marcus Style

Walnut Creek's debate about allowing Neiman Marcus into town ends with a vote Tuesday

Walnut Creek's expensive debate over whether to welcome Neiman Marcus to town finally comes to an end Tuesday.

The high end retailer's attempt to open its doors in downtown Walnut Creek have been hit with a small, but vocal, cry about potential traffic and parking problems Neiman Marcus will bring.

The downtown area is already home to Macy's, Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom and several other stores. Its free parking garages are usually bursting at the walls. But proponents say the city could use the $400,000 in annual sales tax the department store would generate and the NIMBY voices have had some outside help in making their cries sound louder than they are.

The real issue that has angered both residents and former politicians is the financial power of outside interests to shape the debate.

Tauban, a real estate firm that owns the Sunvalley Mall in neighboring Concord, Calif., has spent $687,000 to beat Measure I, which would bring Neiman Marcus to town, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"It is almost criminal to see that over $1 million will be spent on this campaign," former Walnut Creek City Manager Don Blubaugh wrote in an editorial for the Contra Costa Times.

Blubaugh and others allege Tauban is sabotaging the campaign to lure Neiman Marcus to one of its malls, possibly a future development in nearby San Ramon, Calif., according to the Chronicle.

Neiman Marcus says it only has plans to open in Walnut Creek, as long as residents roll out the welcome mat Tuesday night.

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