Gottschalk owner wants tax incentive as part of deal

Joe Levy, the former CEO of Gottschalks, said Tuesday that a city sales tax incentive would be a key factor in his decision to reopen the shuttered department store inside the Carson Mall.

"We're still very interested in that Carson City location and we're still in negotiations," Levy said. "We've been hoping, and I think it's going to take the city working with us to make it happen."

Since October, when the Board of Supervisors approved a 50 percent local sales tax incentive for the owners of the Southgate Shopping Center, city officials have been considering a similar proposal for other property owners with vacant commercial space in one of Carson City's two redevelopment districts.

It's an incentive that Levy and the owner of the Carson Mall, Francis Carrington, would like, too.

"Is it a deal breaker?" Levy said. "It is certainly something we're trying to put this deal together with."

While the incentive has been met with skepticism by members of the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee, City Manager Larry Werner said Tuesday that he is considering bringing the proposal and the concerns of the citizen committee to the Redevelopment Authority by next month.

"What we should do is take the policy as we presented it to the committee and take it to the (Redevelopment Authority) with the committee's comments," Werner said, adding, "That's probably where we're going to head."

Supervisor Shelly Aldean, who also chairs the Redevel-opment Authority, said she's keeping an open mind.

"There are obviously a lot of questions I would have about how much capital Levy has," Aldean said. "Obviously Gottschalks went out of business, but, of course, there are plenty of safeguards we can apply to any agreement."

Aldean said she would prefer the city end its redevelopment incentive programs altogether and focus on infrastructure improvements instead.

"I'm anxious to see what the ultimate recommendation is from the advisory committee," Aldean said. "Redevelopment is undergoing an evolution and I think we're all anxious to adjust our course."

Since the Southgate tax incentive was approved in October, which helped attract Big Lots, Big 5 Sporting Goods and the Olive Garden, members of the Carrington Group, which owns the Carson Mall and the vacant Gottschalks space, have called on the city to make the tax incentive open to other vacant commercial properties.

Since then, the tax incentive proposal has been considered twice by the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee, but was tabled again last week when committee members expressed concerns over the length of the incentive - 15 years - and the kind of properties that would be eligible for it.

Right now, the proposal would require a property owner to have at least 15,000 square feet of vacant commercial space. Some committee members said such a limitation is unfair to other businesses in the rest of the city while one committee member, Gigi Valenti, said she disagreed with the ban on restaurants and businesses from other counties applying for the incentive.

Meanwhile, Levy has been touting his revamped department store, Gottschalk by Joe Levy, since last May.

Gottschalks went into bankruptcy in 2009 and shuttered its 58 locations. The Fresno, Calif.-based company had assets of $288.4 million and debts of $197.1 million, according to its bankruptcy petition from January 2009.

The rebooted department store concept has yet to open a new location.


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