The Landing makes sure shoppers will have plenty to eat

Any neighborhood needs a few good places to eat. Right now, The Landing has – or will have soon – eight restaurants and drinking spots to cater to shoppers and the residents filling up the Sanctuary Apartments.

Rising in north Renton, The Landing is both a retail center and neighborhood. It’s what’s known as a “lifestyle” center and food is central to that lifestyle.

There are some intriguing possibilities, especially when it comes to finding a place to eat or to buy groceries.

A grocery store “is one of the top things on our radar,” said Bob Baker, a partner in Harvest Partners, the Dallas-based developer of the 68-acre development in north Renton.

Of course, there was Uwajimaya

, the Asian specialty food and gift store.

“We chased them to come to our project,” said Baker.

Instead, Uwajimaya is replacing Thriftway at the Renton Village Shopping Center.

Uwajimaya considered The Landing and in particular liked the location. But “unfortunately, the available spaces weren’t large enough for us,” said Alan Kurimura, an Uwajimaya spokesman. Uwajimaya will have about 30,000 square feet at Renton Village.

Or take Trader Joe’s. There’s been a campaign going on for months online to get the specialty grocery store to come to Renton and The Landing. In fact, says Baker, that campaign “obliterated” the Trader Joe’s website.

Baker says The Landing has a building in mind for Trader Joe’s, but so far the company has demurred. Still, discussions are continuing to “incentivize” them to come to Renton, Baker said.

“They are very smart and very cautious,” Baker said of Trader Joe’s. “Nothing is going to push them to make a decision.”

Baker said The Landing couldn’t offer two grocery stores, because it doesn’t “want to oversaturate a category.”

But on the other hand …

“We could have both (two groceries). It would be great, if they could live with each other,” he said.

This process of growing a neighborhood is taking time, perhaps longer than expected.

What will help is the filling of the 900 or so units at the nearby Sanctuary Apartments, which are owned by a different company, Fairfield Properties.

The apartments will bring people to The Landing “24/7,” Baker said, a benefit to the stores and the restaurants. That’s the idea behind a mixed-use development.

Right now it seems the restaurants and places to get a sip, or bottle, of wine are leading the way in what is the core – The District – of The Landing. To paraphrase Napoleon, an army of SHOPPERS relies on plenty of good food to get the job done.

Recently opened in The District is Vino at The Landing.

Owner and general manager Rick McMaster can look out his window on North 10th Place in the epicenter of The Landing and see empty storefronts. But, he’s bullish about the future and his place at The Landing.

“We want to be the gathering place at The Landing,” said McMaster, who worked at Intel for 11 years. He got interested in wine about five years ago, an interest, he said, that grew “into a passion.”

One of his specialties in a wine sampler, called “flights,” three glasses of wine displayed on a stand. One of those “flights” is called “Ahead of the Curve,” in recognition of Renton’s marketing slogan.

Baker says the developers look at the restaurants collectively as an anchor for The Landing. The restaurants complement each other and at the same time, appeal to as many people as possible, he says.

Someone may not know exactly what they want to eat, but at least they’ll have choices in making a decision, he said.

There’s no magic formula to build a portfolio of restaurants, but just good basic instincts, Baker said. The Landing has a number of Asian restaurants, but each has it own specialty, he said.

A Greek restaurant and an Italian pasta shop didn’t pan out and the developers are looking to replace Starbucks.

Baker said The Landing has “place holders” for three more restaurants.

The restaurants come as The Landing works to fill its retail space.

One big draw is the Regal Cinema that opened at The Landing last October. Target and LA Fitness are proving to be winners within their own corporations.

One large anchor store at The Landing, Joe’s Sports, Outdoors and More, has declared bankruptcy and will close soon.

“Like so many in the real estate and retail community, we were saddened to hear that Joe’s Sports, Outdoors and More is going out of business,” Baker said.

He said the store “was a strong performing location – in terms of foot traffic and revenue.”

Baker said the Joe’s location “will be a fantastic new location for the right retailer. We are currently pursuing several prospects for this location to make sure The Landing continues to provide a rich retail experience for the community.”

Baker said it takes about 18 months to two years for the retail mix to stabilize at a project. “You go through a cycle where everyone makes some guesses,” said Baker. About 85 of those guesses by a tenant or a landlord are right, he said. “850. That’s a good batting average,” he said.

But because of the recession, “it might take longer this time,” he said. The Landing opened in a “perfect storm,” he said, when the “economy fell off a cliff.”

Baker, too, has noticed a difference in how people view Renton, in part because the City of Renton “has done such a good job of promoting itself.”

Some of the “old views” of Renton are disappearing, he said, evident in conversations he has had with prospective tenants.

“People are definitely thinking of Renton as a cool place,” he said.

That new world view of Renton helps promote the developers’ vision for The Landing.

His “baby” has a ways to go, still.

“It will be crawling a few months longer than we thought it would before it starts walking,” he said.