Combining politics and commerce

It may not be a national retail giant, but downtown San Mateo’s newest resident may aid the shopping district’s continued growth as a major shopping attraction along the Peninsula.

Monday night, the San Mateo Redevelopment Agency approved a lease to bring the four-person Economic Development & Business Assistance Division back to downtown San Mateo, where it was temporarily located in the first half of the decade.

“The primary purpose of them being downtown was for the construction of the [Century 12] cinema. There were a number of programs that the Economic Development program ran for downtown businesses to deal with construction impacts at the time,” division manager Laura Snideman said.

The division will share the space with the Business Resource Center.

“A lot of the biz owners are trapped in their businesses from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so having the ability to just pop in and find a city council member or staff member will be great,” former Downtown San Mateo Association President Tony Musich said.

The move is being touted by some members of San Mateo’s business community as the first step in bringing all of City Hall to a location between El Camino Real and U.S. Highway 101.

“It would be more approachable and practical if it were near transportation,” Musich said. “There’s also an impression that you can go to City Hall and never see San Mateo.”

But, in the short term, Snideman said she hopes the proximity will help spur economic growth. She said that by providing meeting space and staff resources in the downtown area, the division hopes to attract more retail to the area, a goal identified by the city as a priority.

That retail may focus on furniture and entertainment — two areas identified as possible strengths — and contain more national name brand stores to attract Peninsula shoppers. The Business Resource Center is also being looked at as a way for existing San Mateo businesses to expand within the city, Downtown San Mateo Association Executive Director Kelly Mitter said. He said that the city’s proximity during the construction of the cinemas helped the area weather what many saw as a period of construction noise and traffic impacts.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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