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Retail landlord is showing city how it’s done

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Corpus Christi Caller Times
Editorial

Elected officials hear it all the time, especially from conservatives: Look to the private sector. Learn from the private sector. Contract out to the private sector. Be more like the private sector. It doesn’t always live up to its stereotype.

But when it comes to how to take care of pavement — the city of Corpus Christi’s most glaring shortcoming — Trademark Property Co. and Institutional Mall Investors, LLC, of Fort Worth, could teach City Hall a thing or two.

Trademark owns La Palmera, the gleaming mall at the South Staples Street-South Padre Island Drive intersection, and the Shops at La Palmera, the strip center directly across Staples from the mall. Those who keep up with the ups and downs of the local economy already know the Trademark story:

The company acquired the mall in 2008 when the economy was bad, the mall was in sore need of an upgrade and the city was negotiating a huge incentives package for another big retail project that might have lured the mall’s best tenants had it come to fruition and the mall played its hand.

Trademark negotiated its own incentives package with the city and spent $50 million fixing up the place. It showed. The mall attracted attractive new tenants that complemented the longtime anchor stores.

Later, Trademark turned the sad-looking property across the street into another premier retail destination where shoppers could go to the opposite upscale extremes of outfitting themselves for hunting and saying with diamonds and platinum what they wanted to say to their significant others. The concept that Trademark should fear competition with itself on two sides of the street turned out to be downright silly. And all of a sudden there was no need for the well-heeled to fly to Dallas to shop.

Not one to sit around and wait for things to run down, Trademark officials looked around, noticed that the parking lots hadn’t been reconstructed in more than 20 years and thought, “Hmm.”

Trademark thinking “hmm” is different from how the city thinks “hmm.” With the city, it’s “hmm, let’s talk about this, appoint a committee, create an infrastructure commission, find a higher-tech way to assess the damage, maybe see if we can make voters choose.” It’s why there are more potholes than can be plugged.

With La Palmera’s parking lot, which is no small project, “hmm” meant let’s get started. Road graders and crews are on the scene, some of the lots have been taken down to the dirt and all is expected to be finished in time for Christmas shopping. Trademark felt no need to get its money’s worth out of the old pavement by waiting until conditions became deplorable. That would have undermined all the other fixing up that Trademark had done.

Trademark also is doing plenty at the mall that people tend to take for granted — replacing air conditioners and redoing ventilation. On the other side of the street, Trademark plans to build a new space for three new tenants.

For all appearances, Trademark’s investments in La Palmera’s first-class upkeep yield correspondingly handsome returns. Tenants have plenty of incentive to hold up their end.

Trademark’s example of pride of ownership is its own declaration of confidence in the future. It’s a private-sector example that the city would do well to follow.

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