target-logo.pngRepresentatives from both the Target Corporation and the owners of the property the company is leasing made themselves available for what turned out to be an extended presentation and Q&A session last night, at the possible future site of the popular chain store at Geary and Masonic.

Regional Development Manager for Target, John Dewes, accidentally revealed to the audience that plans for their new “urban” store style, of which the store at Geary/Masonic is representative, was also in the works for SOMA’s Metreon. This would give Target, a store thus far without a presence in SF, two outlets in the city by the Bay. With this news in mind, the evening’s proceedings stayed remarkably on track.

After about twenty minutes of poster board and PowerPoint aided presentations involving sketches of what looks to be an external overhaul of the old Mervyn’s building, including paint jobs, planter boxes, colorful window displays (on the particularly dreary Geary St. side) and even small wind turbines atop the structure -Target’s nod at sustainable energy – the crowd was ready to chime in.

Much of the commentary was in the form of congratulatory and welcoming statements, from attendees jubilant that Target was (tentatively) moving in at all. One audience member, echoing the opinion of some others in the room, was excited at the prospect of no longer having to drive to Colma or Daly City to pick up certain staples, like 36 rolls of toilet paper (a product archetype that was thrown around, no pun, a few times throughout the evening). As he wryly observed, “There aren’t a lot of people in Colma, just a lot of cemeteries.”

Others pointed out that the tax revenue forgone by the absence of a major chain store where one could easily move in was a shame, especially given the city’s current fiscal troubles.

Most of the criticism – and there had to be some – came in the form of expected traffic nightmares, primarily from attendees who live and drive nearby. The Target representatives attempted to assuage these fears by pointing out the existence of 600 + parking spaces available at the location, and noted that if such a number of parking spaces were proposed today (and not the early 1960s when the current site was built) they would not be approved. But suspicions lingered nonetheless, as evidenced by persistence of parking related questions throughout the meeting.

One solution came from local resident Kat Anderson: How about a delivery service? She asked for a show of hands from those that would take advantage of a delivery service if Target were to offer it. Only a dozen or so people were in the affirmative on that concept, a disappointing outcome judging from the look on her face.

Another audience generated plan for calming traffic included price discounts for those taking Muni to the store. Present your receipt, and save a little on those 36 rolls of toilet paper. (The Target reps pleaded the fifth on that one.) There were almost as many traffic reduction ideas being voiced as there were people in attendance.

Some feared that Target, which will feature a grocery, may impinge on the turf of the Trader Joe’s across the street, with one audience member stating she’d be “pissed” if TJs were forced to close up shop due to competitionwith a department store. As Thom Lasley, Target’s lead design project architect, tried to reassure, Trader Joe’s caters to a different kind of customer. Whereas Target will carry basic foodstuffs,Trader Joe’s carries, well, “freeze dried pineapple crisps.”

Some wanted assurance that older members of the neighborhood would be considered for employment, and a promise of no discrimination in hiring, while others implored the corporation to hire only locally during the remodeling phase.

All in all the reception was overwhelming positive. A suggestion by someone in the back of the room that all further public meetings on the issue be packed with Target supporters, to help combat the anti-chain hostility that is expected to rear its head, drew much applause. But given the mostly approving feedback on display, this is probably an unnecessary plan of action.

Even under the most optimistic approval process scenario, Dewes estimated the opening of both the Geary/Masonic and Metreon stores for Spring of 2012.

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