Williams-Sonoma coming to Savannah: good news for midtown, bad news for downtown

It wasn’t until earlier today that I found out that Williams-Sonoma is opening a store in Savannah, but the news has been available since at least June 3rd.

According to Citybizlist:

Williams Sonoma has signed a lease for 5,000 square feet at the Edens & Avant-owned Abercorn Walk shopping center in Savannah, GA. [. . .] Williams Sonoma is scheduled to open in July

Totaling 69,369 square feet, Abercorn Walk is located in the middle of Savannah’s primary retailer corridor. Its major retailers currently include The Fresh Market, Ann Taylor Loft, Jos. A. Bank, Kirkland’s Home and Chico’s.

That seems a perfect location for Williams-Sonoma, and it’s certainly no surprise that they’re interested in Savannah. There’s an existing store in Augusta and there were plans three years ago to open one here by fall 2010.

In November of 2008, the developers of Savannah River Landing announced that Williams-Sonoma and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro had been finalized as phase one tenants. Ha.

I’m sure some will regret the coming of another chain, but retail in America — especially in suburban style plazas like Abercorn Walk — is dominated by chains.

I think the most notable story — and it’s a worrisome one for downtown — is that Williams-Sonoma preferred a midtown location to one on Broughton or in Savannah’s central business district. Remember, too, that locally-owned BleuBelle Boutique left downtown last year for Twelve Oaks, just across Abercorn from Abercorn Walk. That’s a lot of tourist traffic to give up on, but Savannah never adequately addressed parking issues: the new Ellis Square garage is overpriced and there has been no effort to create more on-street spaces where there is obviously room for them. The parking ban around Savannah’s federal buildings since 9/11 has been a terrible drag on the downtown retail economy.

Ironically, for all the complaints I hear about how busy downtown is and how hard it is to park, the vast majority of the time the downtown streets are pretty slow, except when tourists are here en masse. Williams-Sonoma is obviously more focused on the higher-end local market — and our lightly populated downtown is not the place to go for that.

So maybe P.F. Chang’s will land somewhere just the other side of Derenne soon . . .

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