Dealer: Right time for auto mall

Jeff Woodward, owner of Carson Jeep Nissan, says the time is right for development of an auto mall in Carson City.

"Everything is coming to together. The freeway is coming in and, to my knowledge, neither Douglas nor Washoe counties are planning a mall," he said. "The feeling is, whoever goes forward first will have the opportunity to increase that business."

Woodward moved here from Ohio five years ago to purchase his dealership, the smallest considering the move to a mall. As such, he feels he has the most potential for growth.

He said business is good at his present location on South Carson Street, but people still have to drive from one dealership to another, and a mall could provide one-stop shopping.

Far from the traditional rows of cars on acres of asphalt, the auto mall concept includes a number of user-friendly features. Landscaping, trees and an easy walk between dealerships are a few of the amenities designed to draw customers and keep them.

"This is a real opportunity for everyone to move forward," Woodward said. "I don't have any hard numbers, but it's a simple fact. When dealers group together and create a destination point, they tend to draw people into the market. It's proven, especially in California. The whole idea is to create a destination point.

"We want to pull customers from a larger geographic area, including California," he said. "A mall can be a positive for dealers, the city and the community. If it isn't, then the idea won't go forward."

Existing auto dealers generate about $3.7 million in sales tax revenue for the city per year and make up nearly 20 percent of its total sales-tax income -- an even more significant number when the losses of two major big-box stores, Wal-Mart and Kmart, are considered.

Woodford said Carson City does have some land issues. Two attempts failed to locate auto malls here.

In May, plans for a $50 million, 100-acre mall off Hot Springs Road and bordered by Arrowhead Drive suffered a setback when Carson City supervisors backed away from endorsing a $27.5 million incentive package.

The North Carson site was one of five potential sites for the project.

The second choice was to build a mall on land owned by the Lompa family, but the family is tied up in negotiations with the Nevada Department of Transportation concerning the planned freeway.

Other sites being considered are in South Carson on either the east or west side of Carson Street, where several dealerships are already.

Due to restrictions, a clustering of dealerships could be developed, but the area would not have all the amenities of a mall, said Joe McCarthy, Carson City's development/redevelopment manager.


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