Don’t turn Eureka into “Any Mall, USA”
[Guest post by Tom Peters.]
Wherever we live, we like to feel that our location has a unique identity that makes it different from anyplace else. In the case of California, we’re ‘The West Coast,’ or ‘The Sunshine State.’ Humboldt County is ‘Redwood Country’. Eureka is a ‘Victorian Seaport.’
Most of us develop a strong connection to the uniqueness of the place we live whether it’s special places like parks or beaches or districts like Old Town or Henderson Center. It may even include certain businesses like Shafer’s, the Co-op, or Carl Johnson’s. All of these things make our place special and unique and help us to identify it as ‘home.’
Have you ever heard anyone identify with a WalMart or a Home Depot in describing their community? Big Box stores are, by their very nature, generic and rootless. They belong to no community, striving to be all the same everywhere they exist. They do not promote a sense of community. They do not create unique buildings or offer goods tailored to community needs. They exist only to serve their nameless anonymous masters, not their communities.
It should follow that if we want the place we live to be unique, to provide a sense of belonging and identification, to include businesses serving our local needs, that we would do well to avoid Big Box retail development whenever possible. We have already lost much to these generic stores. When Bayshore Mall was built, identical to every other mall built by General Growth, we lost such community icons as Bistrin’s, Daly’s, McGarraghan’s, and Arthur Johnson’s. Somehow I do not feel better served by Target or Pier 1. I do not see them as part of our community. They are just branches of something else from somewhere else.
Eureka is fortunate to have a widely varied and beautiful stock of buildings and houses. It still has a number of special local businesses that cater to local needs. Building more Big Box stores will destroy many of these businesses. What will be left? Will it be a special community, one that you would be glad to identify as your home? Or would it look just like the Hilltop Mall in Redding or one in Santa Rosa or Bakersfield or anywhere? What would you have left to identify with?
A sense of place — a unique special home — is becoming rare in the era of mass retail. We are still fortunate enough to live in a place that hasn’t lost it all yet. It is our duty to our selves, our homes, our communities, and our very sense of identity as Eurekans, to resist huge impersonal retailers. We must not let them turn Eureka into ANYPLACE — or ANY MALL, USA. If we do, we will lose our homes and our places in the world. We will be adrift in the nameless, faceless world of mass marketing with nowhere to call our own.