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Sky Zone presents a balancing act for San Marcos

SAN MARCOS — When San Marcos’ “Furniture Row” was borne in 1979 when Jerome’s opened on Los Vallecitos Boulevard, city and business officials saw it as a way to keep new homeowners in the rapidly growing community shopping locally to furnish their new suburban homes.

Over the years, the stretch of home furnishing and similar retail stores along the street that faces state Route 78 has largely remained dedicated to those types of businesses.

But with the impending opening of Sky Zone trampoline park in one of the strip’s largest storefronts, the city is presented with a precarious balancing act of bringing in a coveted attraction while not opening up a Pandora’s Box that could alter the face of a commercial area that generates more than 10 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue — the lifeblood of city coffers.

“It definitely is something that we will watch closely,” City Manager Jack Griffin said. “It’s a great business and we are really excited about it, but the other side of it is that we lose that sales tax revenue that a furniture store would generate.”

The city technically can’t prohibit a business like Sky Zone from occupying space on furniture row if it meets the city’s land-use and zoning requirements; it can only place conditions on the business to ensure its compatibility with the neighboring businesses. These conditions are outlined in what is called a conditional-use permit, which typically last five years, and then the city can decide after that period whether to extend the permit or let it lapse.

These temporary permits give both the city and property owner flexibility if another business expresses interest in the property that might be a better fit, Griffin said.

While the city might be temporarily losing the sales tax revenue associated with the furniture stores, the benefits of Sky Zone’s presence is that it fills a space that had been vacant for more than a year, officials from the city and San Marcos Chamber of Commerce said.

The last business in the location was Plummer’s, one of the larger retailers on Furniture Row, which closed in 2013.

“Empty square footage doesn’t look good for anyone,” said Hal Martin, a former city councilman who serves as the chamber’s development director. “It’s not a good look for the other stores to have a large anchor vacant for a long time, it’s not a good look for the city that needs the revenue and it is a really bad look for the owner of the property, who likely missed that lease revenue for more than a year and a half.”

While the city might lose some sales tax revenue that a furniture store generates, it attracts more potential clients to the street, and that is a good thing, Martin said.

Martin said a similar phenomenon occurred when Phil’s BBQ opened in the Creekside Marketplace Shopping Center in 2011, despite reservations from some of the other restaurants that it would siphon off business from them.

“The overflow actually did all the restaurants and businesses a big favor,” Martin said. “They became a lot busier as a result of Phil’s presence.”

Martin and Griffin both said they don’t believe that Sky Zone’s presence signals the start of a dramatic shift in the complexion of furniture row. The city, they said, has done a good job of putting businesses in locations where they can thrive.

“The only constant is change, but I don’t see it changing that rapidly,” Martin said. “We still have large anchor stores there such as Mor, Jerome’s and Ashley Furniture that just moved over there, and these are really large anchors that will attract some of the smaller businesses you see adjacent to them.

“But I think what you are seeing is that it really is hard to find another major tenant; there just aren’t many of those out there and you run out of candidates,” Martin said.

Griffin said the city will be monitoring Sky Zone’s performance, but thinks it will be a positive addition to the row.

“It’s a big draw, and any time you can bring more people to our commercial areas, there is a lot of upside,” Griffin said.

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