State of the Union (Street) Address

San Francisco’s Union Street has long been bestowed with the power of being the high-end shopping and dining destination. But this year, like many other regions and landmarks, myriad merchants have gone under, with the survivors reporting dismal profits.

The nation’s economic crisis and its impact on tourism certainly delivered Chuck Norris-like blows in 2009, but some believe more than one factor has played a role in the shopping district’s demise. For instance, the more gradual trend of online shopping and landlords’ sloth-like response to the younger consumers of today have led to the blemishes of “Closed” and “For Lease” signs on Union Street’s previously beautiful face.

“This street was known for unique shops, art galleries and restaurants, and that’s changed,” said Lesley Leonhardt, the executive director of the Union Street Merchants Association. “There’s been a shift in buying trends; far fewer people come into the city to find a special dress or gown, and more people are shopping online.”

Now, Union Street is an awkward mix of luxury retail storefronts, such as home furnishings, jewelry, and hair salons, with an unlikely contrast of vacant, dusty, empty places with the dreaded signs on their doors.

For example, the once-popular Left at Albuquerque Tex-Mex restaurant recently closed, with the Metro-Movie Theater having been boarded up for three years. Developers have planned to convert the theater to a gym and preserve the bureaucracy slipping away from its fingers.

However, scattered small rays of hope stand a chance to bring the nearly-flat-lining district back to its former glory. One example is the city legislation’s approval of permitting 10 new restaurants on Union Street last year.

“There haven’t been many additions to the restaurant and bar scene down here in a long time,” said Cameron Baird, a commercial real estate leasing agent, who is trying to fill several properties on Union Street. “I think more restaurants will help the retailers.”

So what’s to become of this former shopping and dining hot spot? Stay tuned to find out.

Via: SF Gate