Help keep the Mall at Sears Safe and Convenient

Fall 2017 Update

In July 2016, after a public hearing at which many Mall Merchants and others testified, the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) made one change to the 2014 resolution approving the site plan amendment for the Nordstrom Rack store and passed it again.The Merchants and Carr-Gottstein Properties again appealed the PZC decision to the Board of Adjustment (BOA) who firmly backed the Merchant’s interpretation of the Municipal Code, stating that a “big box” site plan amendment cannot move the “big box” further away from zoning law conformity than it was when the rules were passed in 2001.  The Board of Adjustment then sent Seritage’s proposed site plan amendment back to PZC for a “do over.” Click here to see: BOA Decision and BOA Meeting Transcript.

The PZC has now scheduled a December 4 public hearing to revisit the proposed site plan amendment

Now that the BOA has more clearly established the meaning of the Municipal zoning law, the Merchants and other interested parties plan to testify that the PZC must reject the current Sears/Seritage proposed site plan amendment altogether.

The main points they will be focusing on are that:

  • The BOA’s decision confirms that the Planning & Zoning Commission does not have the authority to approve a limited site plan amendment if it causes the property to move away from conformity with “big box” standards.
  • The site plan that was proposed by Sears/Seritage moves the property away from conformity with those standards in several areas, including having a negative impact on pedestrian access and safety.
  • If Seritage wants to amend the building’s site plan, they must propose a plan that complies with the Municipal zoning law by offering safe, easy and climate controlled access for shoppers who want to travel between any retail spaces they create and the stores in the rest of the Mall.

How can you help ?

Attend the Planning and Zoning Commission’s continued Public Hearing December 4, 2017 at 6:30PM at the Loussac Library Assembly Chambers, 3600 Denali Street in Anchorage.

Let them know:

  • You don’t want to walk out in the cold to get from store to store in the Mall.
  • You don’t want to see the Mall and the merchants there negatively impacted because the Commission won’t do their job.
  • They can’t set a precedence for ignoring the Municipal Code Standards (and your safety) to make it easier for big businesses to get what they want.

We know that hearing you at the meeting will have the biggest impact on the Planning & Zoning Commission, but if you can’t make it, you can also
submit your comments online here. Comments can be submitted up until noon on Friday, December 1st.

Make sure you let the Commission know that they can’t bend the rules when it comes to the zoning laws and you and your family’s safety and convenience!

This hearing will give the Commission the opportunity to revisit the issues in a thorough and thoughtful way. This website provides information about what happened, why it is a problem and how you to make your views known.


The Nordstrom Rack Site Plan

* Cut off 46,000 square feet of the Sears store from the rest of the Mall.
* Moved away from hard-fought Municipal design standards.
* Allowed Sears to remove the existing sidewalk on the easiest route to the new store.

Background From the July 2016 Hearing

What happened
Sears wanted to put in a loading dock on the north side of the new Rack store. To do so, they needed to remove the sidewalk next to it.  That little change (plus a few others) is causing  problems for Mall shoppers. Here are the biggest problems:

Negative Impact on Public Safety
The New plan makes walking down the service road (where Sears was allowed to remove the sidewalk) the fastest and easiest way for people to get from the Mall to The Rack. If you click to play the video on the right you will see shoppers having to dodge cars to reach a space. To have to do this when they used to have direct interior access to the space has had an undeniable negative impact to pedestrian circulation and safety. (AMC 21.50.200 – “Old Code”)
According to the Anchorage Municipal Code the Commission cannot approve a plan that has a negative impact on Public Safety.

Disregards hard-fought Design Standards developed as a result of the Anchorage 2020 Plan
The zoning law prohibits Large Retail Establishments (built before 2001) from moving away from the new design standards.  It says that any changes made to these buildings must bring them closer to compliance with the current building standards. (AMC 21.55.100 “Old Code”)

The changes Sears made move them away from the current standards in several ways, and this sets a dangerous precedent for future site plan reviews.

How the plan moves the Mall away from conformity with the new standards:

Pedestrian Access

The plan has a had negative impact on the accessibility, safety and convenience to pedestrians, the Mall’s customers and employees by not providing a safe and convenient connection from the Rack space to the rest of the Mall.

The plan specifically violates this standard by removing a sidewalk next to the parking lot that linked to other Mall entrances.  Coincidentally, the sentence in the code that specifically states this was removed from the report the planning staff presented to the Commission. Click here to see the memo.


Community Spaces

The application for the new plan claimed that the Mall’s seating and gathering places should satisfy this requirement, even though the plan does not provide direct access from the new spaces to the rest of the Mall

Shoppers now have to walk the equivalent of a block-and-a-half to reach these required community areas



Northern Design Elements

Before the change to the Mall, pedestrians could access every business via a climate-controlled environment. Now they must walk outside to reach the new spaces. In addition to forcing shoppers outside of the Mall to get to the Rack they were also allowed to remove the protective awning that used to be on the North side of the building.



Concerns for the Future:

The Sears store is owned by a Real Estate Investment Trust named Seritage, which was recently spun off from Sears Holdings. Seritage’s goal is to maximize the revenue from the property, and in many cases that means closing the Sears store and carving the building up into smaller pieces.Here’s an excerpt from their recent operating results:“We are pleased with our first quarter results as we continue to convert single tenant assets into vibrant multi-tenant shopping centers that command significantly higher rents.”According to the Seritage website, the entire Anchorage Sears store and the Auto Center are available for lease.The Mall (that is the rest building west of the Sears store), was developed by Carr Gottstein Properties, which has a long-term lease on the underlying property.