San Francisco’s Cinemark cinema turns into the most recent casualty at Westfield mall

By Harriet Alexander For Dailymail.com

23:56 14 Jun 2023, updated 12:53 15 Jun 2023

The cinema inside San Francisco’s Westfield mall is to close this week – days after Westfield said that it too was moving out, dealing another blow to the struggling downtown.

Cinemark will show its last films on Thursday and close for good Friday.

Cinemark told The San Francisco Standard they had decided to close before the conclusion of its lease term, due to a ‘comprehensive review of local business conditions.’ 

The cinema chain becomes the 24th major store to close in Union Square area since the start of the pandemic, the paper reported.

Earlier this week, Westfield announced they had defaulted on the $558million loan for the building and is handing it back to the lender, which will appoint a receiver. The mall will remain open for now.

The decision was sparked by the decision from Nordstrom, the mall’s anchor tenant, to close in August.

Westfield blamed ‘unsafe conditions’ and ‘lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity’ in large part for Nordstrom’s departure.

The Cinemark cinema, Century Theatre, in downtown San Francisco will close Friday Westfield in San Francisco (pictured) has announced that it is handing the building back to the lender A woman in a wheelchair injects drugs at San Francisco’s infamous open-air drugs market. The taxpayer funded ‘harm reduction’ facility opened and shuttered close to Westfield in early 2022, after criticism that it had done nothing to sort out the city’s many social ills

Westfield said the ‘unprecedented’ poor performance in San Francisco was a sharp contrast to the rest of its properties.

San Francisco Centre generated $455 million in sales in 2019, before the pandemic.

Last year, sales were down about a third to $298 million.

Nordstrom occupied 312,000 square feet in the mall: when it closes, Westfield San Francisco will only be 55 percent leased.

Other Westfields are, on average, 93 percent leased.

The mall is a smart and upmarket building, whose other retailers include Bloomingdales, Aesop, Rolex and Sephora.

Westfield’s struggles will pile fresh pressure on city leaders, after multiple retailers and hotels shuttered in downtown San Francisco as it continues to battle soaring crime, open drug use and homelessness.

The famously progressive city has been condemned for its ‘harm reduction’ policies, which critics say have effectively legalized drug taking. Meanwhile, its police department remains short-staffed after woke lawmakers called for defunding in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.  

‘For more than 20 years, Westfield has proudly and successfully operated San Francisco Centre, investing significantly over that time in the vitality of the property,’ the company said.

‘Given the challenging operating conditions in downtown San Francisco, which have led to declines in sales, occupancy and foot traffic, we have made the difficult decision to begin the process to transfer management of the shopping center to our lender to allow them to appoint a receiver to operate the property going forward.’

Westfield’s San Francisco mall includes 1.2 million square feet of retail space and 300,000 square feet of offices.

It is in the troubled Union Square area in the center of downtown, where homelessness and crime are rife.

Camps are set up around the city and people take drugs openly. Pictured: Homeless tents are seen in Tenderloin District during heavy rain in San Francisco on January 11 Several of the stores which have closed cited safety concerns as the downtown area of San Francisco is ravaged by homelessness and drug taking Retailer Old Navy has become the latest retailer to vacate crime-ridden San Francisco (File photo from 2020) Nordstrom recently shuttered a store in San Francisco, citing changing ‘dynamics’ in the city as the reason for the closures Employees at a Target store in San Francisco recently said it was being robbed as frequently as every ten minutes

Whole Foods, Old Navy, Gap and Office Depot are just some of the stores in the district to announce in recent months that they are closing.

Out of 203 retailers open in 2019 in the city’s Union Square area, just 107 are still operating – a drop of 47 percent in just a few pandemic-ravaged years.

The city is in something of a vicious cycle: office workers are now working from home, leaving the downtown area significantly quieter, and making the empty streets more dangerous. The rise in crime then deters people from entering downtown.

And as the downtown empties, the city loses essential tax revenues, and the area becomes less appealing.

The revenue loss to the city caused by decreased property taxes could reach $196 million per year by 2028, according to modeling published in November by the San Francisco Controller’s Office. 

The best-case scenario from the modeling expects the cost will be nearer to $100 million per year.

The building that houses The San Francisco Chronicle, a block from Westfield mall, faces a 60 percent vacancy rate by the fall as tenants Yahoo and Autodesk’s leases expire.

An analysis of official figures and other research reveals San Francisco may lose hundreds of millions of dollars through an exodus of businesses and its failure to recover from COVID Signs posted to cars near the linkage site announce ‘nothing to steal’ as crime continues to rise in one of the city’s poorest and most drug-infested neighborhood Tourism is steadily recovering to its pre-covid highs, according to figures from the San Francisco Travel Association

Next door, the 415 Natoma office tower is 97 percent vacant.

San Francisco foot traffic totaled 5.6 million visits between January and December 2022 – a 42 percent drop.

In 2019, the figure was 9.7 million visits.

The city has been affected by a state-wide shoplifting law that downgraded stealing goods worth less than $950 from a felony to a far less serious misdemeanor crime. 

A disturbing recent report showed 95 retailers in downtown San Francisco have closed since the start of the COVID pandemic, a decline of more than 50 percent.

In April, Whole Foods said it would shut its flagship store in downtown San Francisco ‘for the time being’ to ensure staff ‘safety.’

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has proposed a record budget despite the city facing a $1.3 billion deficit by 2028

‘If we feel we can ensure the safety of our team members in the store, we will evaluate a reopening of our Trinity location,’ a spokesperson said.

Similarly, a Target store in the city has been forced to lock up more of its products to stave off thieves.

An employee at the location recently said it was being robbed as often as ‘every ten minutes.’

Many major tech companies based in San Francisco – including Meta, Google, Salesforce and Twitter – have also axed tens of thousands of jobs in recent months as the industry suffered a post-covid downturn.

In April, Salesforce said it will leave its eponymous 30-story Salesforce East building in downtown, where around 1,000 staff had worked before the pandemic.

City officials launched a $6 million ad campaign in May to lure back tourists. Visitor numbers have improved since covid and in 2022 were around 16 percent lower than the record-breaking 26.2 million in 2019.

The international campaign included a commercial featuring an array of local talent, including Lady Camden, a drag queen who became popular on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ and local muralist Sirron Norris.

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