Monday, October 28, 2013

Whatever Happened to the Downtown Retail Market Demand Study?

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You can find all sorts of things on the Internet. Apparently there is an unlimited amount of stuff out there, and if you poke around a little you just never know what you are going to turn up. As an example, I came across the following article on an archival site called Paperblog. It was originally published by something called LA Newser, which is sadly no longer with us.

The Newser took an enthusiastic viewpoint on the governmental affairs of our town, along with those of many other burgs in this area. And none more so than when they wrote about the Buxton Downtown Retail Market Demand Study. Dated June 14, 2012, judging by this article you'd have thought it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Or something as equally exciting and momentous.

Sierra Madre to Attract Downtown Business with Marketing Study (link): Sierra Madre, like most cities in this Post-Redevelopment Era, must go to creative lengths to attract new downtown business to fuel economic growth.

At its Tuesday meeting, the City Council gave staff direction to implement a downtown market demand study that would not only help recruit new business, but invigorate current businesses to help the city compete with neighboring market areas.

Prepared by Fort Worth, Texas marketing firm Buxton, the study identifies Sierra Madre’s retail strengths and weaknesses to assist the city in recruiting specific retailers that would best compliment the area’s consumers. The study was also intended to assist current businesses with making strategic merchandising and marketing decisions, according to City Manager Elaine Aguilar.

The first step in implementing the market demand study is to focus on business retention, said Aguilar. The idea is to inform local merchants with the study’s consumer propensity reports, which list retail items that local consumers purchase most frequently in Sierra Madre’s trade area.

“We could prepare these reports for current businesses to help them figure out if there is something they should be carrying in order to capture some of the sales that are being lost to our neighboring communities,” said Aguilar.

She told the council that staff would like to provide these study findings to local business owners by setting up two forums this month. Staff would then survey participants to know whether or not business owners find this information to be useful. Staff also proposed that members of the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce help get the word out to local merchants, while also generating enthusiasm toward the market demand study.

Bill Coburn, Executive Director at the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce and editor of Sierra Madre News Net, told the council that the Chamber had discussed the Buxton study at previous meetings and was excited to make it work for Sierra Madre as it has for other communities.

“I have seen it implemented in other cities where businesses benefit directly from specific items that nobody in the town is carrying,” said Coburn. “Once they saw that, they started carrying them – now all of a sudden they’re selling them.”

According to Aguilar, the next phase for the study would be business recruitment. She said that staff has already been provided a list of specific retail businesses that match Sierra Madre’s market demand area.

“Once that list is narrowed down to two or three businesses, Buxton actually prepares what they call pursuit packages, and that is information tailored to that specific business showing why Sierra Madre has the customers that will support their businesses,” Aguilar reported.

As part of the recruitment plan, staff suggested that the city offer potential businesses special incentives to setup shop in Sierra Madre. Aguilar said that staff had brainstormed some ideas such as reduced building and safety permit fees, expediting permit processing at no extra cost, relaxed parking standards, or reduced business fees. She noted that the City Council would need to discuss this idea in greater detail at future meetings.

“We’re just throwing this at you as a way to generate ideas,” said Aguilar. “We could do none of these, or we could do one or two things that you might think are interesting.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Nancy Walsh did not hold back her enthusiasm for putting the study to use. She said local merchants would need to be inspired by the prospects of increased economic activity for the study forums to be truly productive.

“It’s going to take all of us talking to business owners,” she said. “And I think it’s going to be very interesting that we are going to have to sell it to the business owners because they have a lot on their hands, and they’re not going to want to go to these meetings if they think it’s going to be a waste of time.”

As you might recall, the Buxton people did not come cheap. The price of admission to their Downtown Retail Market Demand Study was a cool $30,000. A lot of dough at any given time, but especially so today when the constant demands being made by the City for ever larger amounts of the tax and ratepayer's dime has become controversial here in town.

So where did all of that money come from? According to the June 28, 2011 City Council Agenda (link), it was paid for out of Community Redevelopment Agency funds. A cash source we no longer have access to I'm afraid. It was all taken away by Jerry Brown to pay for things that he wants, like the state's public schools. Perhaps that is a good thing. This money may have been too much of a temptation for our people, and they didn't quite understand how it needed be handled.

Being curious about what exactly we ended up getting from Buxton for our $30,000 in CRA money, I turned to the June 12, 2012 Agenda Report for this item. It is titled "DOWNTOWN MARKET DEMAND STUDY – IMPLEMENTATION." Many bold claims are made there about Buxton and the sophisticated marketing methodology that they call "Psychographics." A word that might suggest to some the artwork of a madman, but in the Buxtonian worldview actually indicates how people might decide what consumer products to purchase, and where exactly they would go to do that.

According to verbiage found in this Agenda Report, all we would ever need do to bless our downtown shops with hitherto unseen levels of prosperity is identify these products, and then convince our reluctant retailers to bring them here to Sierra Madre to sell.

Our retailers apparently being a little too slow to figure any of this out on their own. Fortunately for Sierra Madre, Buxton's psychographics would make that just as easy as snap for them.

As an example, here is a portion of that Agenda Report, as authored by Sierra Madre's City Manager, Elaine I. Aguilar. There is some forward thinking to be found in this material.

Marketing and Branding: A possible implementation item pertains to the creation of a new, “Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre program,” or a similar marketing program for Sierra Madre. The marketing program would be aimed at enhancing the experience of the City’s residents and visitors and the goal is bringing more residents and visitors downtown.

The development of a marketing program is a very involved process. It can involve branding, developing a slogan, logo, and marketing materials including digital information such as a website, and full use of the internet and social media. Most importantly it will involve making a decision regarding “how” Sierra Madre should be marketed – for example, is Sierra Madre:

 A “day trip” destination – walking through the downtown shops and enjoying a meal
 An outdoor person’s paradise, with hiking trails, bicycle riding, etc.
 A “dog-friendly” place to visit
 A family oriented town with parades and special events
 And any other ideas.

Additionally, a decision will need to be made on “who” to market the City to, for instance:

 People living in Sierra Madre
 People coming into Sierra Madre for work or school
 People inside or outside the City’s market trade area
 People looking for daytime destinations or “staycation”

Making a decision regarding how and to whom Sierra Madre should market itself, will aid in the development of the rest of the marketing plan (or plans), including the development of a slogan and the marketing materials.

It is recommended that a “Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre” committee be formed. The Committee can be assisted by City staff, but it is recommended that the committee members be one or two Council Members and interested community volunteers, with involvement of residents with a background in marketing and advertising. Staff would need Council direction regarding the formation of the committee. The committee could either be a committee formally appointed by the Council (and subject to the Brown Act.) Or, the committee can be an informal committee composed of any interested individuals and less than a quorum of Council Members.

A very involved process indeed. But at least it's dog friendly.

So here are my questions. It has now been about a year and a half since implementing the Downtown Retail Market Demand Study was discussed by the City Council. To date I have yet to hear of any meetings of the Shop, Dine, Visit Sierra Madre Committee. Did that not happen? Do we know who was appointed to serve on this committee yet? I happen to be an expert on menu use, and would be glad to help out.

And the flood of exciting new products and businesses that Buxton's acclaimed "psychographics" concept was to bring to our little portion of the western paradise, what's up with that? I personally will tell you that I still cannot seem to find superfoods like quinoa or goji berries in town. I was in the Bottle Shop just the other day and they didn't have either of them in stock. Though they did try to get me to taste some wine. I had to turn them down, however. Unless I am in church I rarely drink that early in the day.

Certainly there has to at least be a logo, marketing information or a slogan available by this late date. "Sierra Madre: We now stock toilet paper" would be a good one.

Can anyone supply me with information about how exactly this all turned out? I'd be curious to know.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

61 comments:

  1. I think we were conned.

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    1. when cons get conned it's sort of poetic justice

      but our cons are just incompetent with dealing with real business or afraid to admit when they don't know an answer - the answer is always to hire a consultant and deflect responsibilty

      our next city manager should understand basic retail and if he or she automatically calls for a consultant, thats a good sign we are being underserved by the manager

      it took Measure V to slow down the cycle of city managers who just would approve and encourage development because that padded the city manager's resume

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  2. From past performance some cities tried to boost their Downtown Retail Market performance by creating a B.I.D. or Business Improvement District, these have NOT faired so well during this up and down economy.
    Besides extracting fees [tax dollars] from the business owners to the level of criminal charges being applied if you didn't pay then your business license was revoked.
    Of course some B.I.D.'s did succeed to some level of satisfaction, those of course were done with deep pockets and money to burn, in some cases City Hall used their power over the B.I.D. to exact political revenge on business owners and finally drive them out of town.
    B.I.D. creations were pushed hard by SCAG along with every other clerkish city hall groupie association that is paid with by tax dollars.

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  3. I remember hearing about that $30,000 study and have also been waiting to see what that kind of money brings to our down town business. I'm guessing they still need to spend some more money to get a phase 2 study done. I would like to know what kind of money they have spent for us home owners to help us out and to enrich our lives a little more. Giving the business a break on the parking restrictions will not help us home owners get to or from work any quicker and may well cause some parking difficulties to our senior citizens who can't walk all that much further in reaching a business. Think I'll start a drive-by Filtered Water Dispensary business, also, isn't it nice how the city has helped us out with our water problems.

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    1. The downtown study has as much value if it had been written by SM elementary students - but the students would have known the name of streets, businesses and would have made more sense because it wouldn't have been done out of Texas?

      it was a $ 30,000 google maps and internet search consultant job and it's the same old same old with SM

      Our city managers, present and tfor he last 16 years are being selected by council majority vote (3-2) consisting of 2 utility company lawyers, a mortgage salesman, a commercial lender, a union lawyer (supported by the SMPD), a local construction guy, a local reel estate landlord and always the ever present building lobbyist/Mayor who is directly tied to the screw ups and accused of malfeasance with the OUR water bonds.

      if we stop electing EVERYBODY associated with the building industry and giving them a majority of the Council, we will continue to waste city money with a building focused city manager

      I'm surprised that our city manager, who is responsible for retail tax revenue, is completely clueless to any level of retail.

      Instead she and the Council want to raise our property related taxes.

      Josh Moran once advocated a boycott of Sierra Madre businesess, actually all businesses that advertised in the SM Weekly, since Josh is such a real estate guru and genius, why can't he offer any solutions.

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  4. That's a good idea.....8:35.......

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  5. Parking studies and or survey's are just a "red herring", this is the first step in creating a BID or Business improvement District, your customer's will hate it and more often than not you will lose customer's but you will gain revenue from all the tickets that are written or even worse money from those parking meters.

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    1. where u been?
      it twernt just a few years ago the SoCal Edision laywer/Mayor was trying to give away the city parking lot next to Howies as part of a deal to bring 70 condos/mixed development to the lot and we'd get a 3 story parking lot with paid parking - lame deal for the city but great for SoCal Edision.
      when SM is built out in downtown, downtown will be impossible
      It will be easier and less congested to shop in downtown Monrovia than SM with the way our leadership has been running the city for the last 20 years

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  6. 8:08 you are so right. I can right off of the top think of 3 business that left town because of city hall. One company from Australia spent a year hear trying to set up a business, he and his wife left town after the baby was born. Many of us were sad to see them leave as they were very smart and had a lot to offer our little town. Now that I think about it, that was very upsetting seeing how city hall handled that, cant wait to hear the response to that question.

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    1. Just interested in what kinds of business they were and the names of the ones that left since they are gone it would do no harm to tell us

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    2. Small towns can only support a few businesses. It's not personal. It's numbers.

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    3. I blame everyone. Except me.

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    4. dude, please

      our downtown has been a revolving door for years - but that's retail

      if you got the money to waste and zero experience, open a restuarant or a retail store in SM

      but waltz in with visions of housing tracts, condos and big promises, our city staff (selected by Council) will shove everybody out of line to service the whims of another huckster developer

      we'd save millions on attorney fees if we'd just make developers stand in line like the rest of us at city hall and a residents request always takes priority



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  7. Nancy Walsh's big campaign them was downtown business development. This is what happened.

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    1. she had plans for a 20,000 sq ft dance studio but that was only in her head.
      I heard she was looking for a mortuary to move into town because it'd fit perfectly with our retal environment - dead.
      she was hoping for volunteers to step on and help her, but then she remembered that she despises volunterers so she's all out of ideas
      her other campaign theme was "civility"
      that didnt work out too well for us either




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    2. You are way too funny, 1:20 pm. If Beantown still had an open mic you'd be a natural!

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  8. The water dispensary could be called the Sierra Madre water bottling company. All proceeds could go to making our wells perform better like Arcadia did, oh well.

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  9. Ease up on parking? Wah, wah! Most of us who ever venture into town to do "business" know where to park so you don't get t-boned or side-swiped by the bone headed parking designs in the "downtown."
    Now, some cities are really interested in getting customers into the business district and use some signage to indicate there is something going on. We might try that. I thing the color wistaria (check out the old, tired purple parking this way signs) is a turn off to the young, hip generation that also includes males that don't cotton to 'color me purple' with a red hat. Gack!

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    1. Purple and Wisteria are blah. Both remind me of old ladies with purple hair. Make us the entrance to the foothills.

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    2. Very few old ladies out there with purple hair these days. You're dating yourself, 9:29 am. And I can assure you that the young males don't understand your reference to either "color me purple" or "with a red hat". As for me, I'm not sure I'm on board with attracting the under 30 crowd to our slow pokey village. I'm thinking a haven for families and seniors from the craziness of sports bars and twerking emporiums may be the biggest selling point Sierra Madre can claim.

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    3. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince likes purple.

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    4. my solution is I just avoid downtwon - I can walk there if I need a $ 5 coffee but crossing Baldwin is a challenge and on Sat/Sun downtown is full of smelly bikers in awful bike suits that would embarass even NASCAR - logos everywere and too much information

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  10. Is it too late to get our money back?

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    1. Once that money passes from your hands to City Hall, they see it as their money. You can't get it back because it isn't yours.

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  11. Interesting comment from a conversation I had with the Mayor.
    Every company she sent a letter or called did not respond.
    She said that the businesses need to be responsible for attracting customers.
    She said the city has tried this on other occasions and nothing is ever done the city or the businesses.

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    1. Ring the bell! This could be the ONLY true statement that Mayor Mean has ever made in her tenure as the spokesidiot of Sierra Madre, "...the businesses need to be responsible for attracting customers."

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    2. The businesses are responsible. That is why the successful ones have been here for so long. When the town is inconveniently located, and the population is small, there's only just so much business that is possible.
      That's my consultation, and I look forward to receiving your $20,000

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    3. Translation: "I did everything I possibly could. If things don't work out it is hardly my fault."

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    4. I think she knew it wasn't going to work, but it's great to appear concerned. It did not cost her a penny.

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    5. Nothing like blowing $30 grand in property tax money to make you seem sincere.

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  12. Maybe they weren't as impressed with Buxton's psychographics as Nancy was.

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  13. 1.9 million hits. Damn. Will there be a party when The Tattler hits 2 million?

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    1. There's been one for every milestone The Tattler has hit so fair! Didn't you get an invitation? Must have been lost on the interweb...

      Congrats Sir Eric and your intrepid team of reseachers!

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. Why would a party be required?

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    4. Perhaps they should have given this job to the Green Committee. That way, they could have saved the money and still had no results. Last time I heard about this study, they gave the businesses top secret information that they shouldn't be shared with the outside and told the business owners to go to it. Signage was also a big issue. I propose they create a big sign that says "This way to the Nancy Storage Room located in Memorial Park." After all, she has been working at this project much longer than the marketing plan,

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    5. You know what is also kinda wild? Total comments is now over 90,000. Going to need to do something special for whoever leaves comment #100,000.

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    6. Let me guess Mod. A box of cds?

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    7. signage??? it's kinda obvious when you get to the downtown.

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    8. How about dinner for two at the Sierra Madre restaurant of their choice?

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    9. How about a bottle of Evian?

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    10. You know what Evian backwards spells, right? Inman.

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  14. New city slogan: Sierra Madre~ Run by Dumbasses

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    1. can't be a new slogan

      it's been going on for 20 years

      this is intentional not ignorance

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  15. Newsflash: Power pole knocked down at ALF, live wires completely covering customers cars at Arnolds.

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    1. Looks like the Kensington is off to a great start!

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    2. Hopefully they are electric cars.

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  16. Here we go and for free!! How about restoring the (undesirable carrotwood trees? A source of delightful shade from the blazing sun) with many many benches along SM Blvd and Baldwin? In addition to the signing on the businessses lets put up kiosks, two or three where all businesses are included as well as, ( citizen spaces for lost dogs). And there is WATER a major source of publicity and consternation. Lets take the venerable business and name "Waldo Ward" and add Sierra Madre's "finest water in Southern California" bottle it and sell it right here in Sierra Madre.. These are a few of the many ideas that would generate business and traffic for SM. I spent 48 years in retailing and am convinced that "creative ideas and a passion for implementing" as well as patience make for the successful and vibrant community, not studies, just one person pushing it all.

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    1. The benches would absolutely work! And the kiosks would be cool. The water has to wait until we actually have our water again. Your enthusiasm and knowledge come through clearly - too bad no one like you works in city hall.

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  17. 11:08, lol, lol
    "Perhaps they should have given this job to the Green Committee. That way, they could have saved the money and still had no results."

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    1. Experts don't have to do anything. They're already experts.

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  18. What's with the Nancy Storage Room?

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  19. Bless her hard black heart. The poor lady has been working on this for a decade. The matter goes to the council in November. It is more important to her that the seniors have a place to keep their toys than the entire city have bathroom facilities. Will she want the children of Sierra Madre using the day worker bathroom?


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  20. Reduced business fees to entice new businesses? So the businesses that are making it here will pay full price for everything, but new businesses will get reductions. Can somebody explain that?

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  21. There is no equality in the statement from 9:08 PM - resentment is sure to fester with this plan, did it come from city hall? If so please throw it away at once.

    If any reduction is considered it has to be across the board and retro active it activated mid year for those who have already paid the higher fees.

    A formula for attracting and keeping your customers, a variety of shops or business that attract three or more age groups must be in place to keep the down town busy and vibrant for those age groups to keep returning again and again.

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  22. Does someone know anything of what 9:08 is saying?

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    1. It is mentioned in the LA Newser article cited in the post.
      "As part of the recruitment plan, staff suggested that the city offer potential businesses special incentives to setup shop in Sierra Madre. Aguilar said that staff had brainstormed some ideas such as reduced building and safety permit fees, expediting permit processing at no extra cost, relaxed parking standards, or reduced business fees. She noted that the City Council would need to discuss this idea in greater detail at future meetings."

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  23. 12:01 We need NO MORE RELAXED PARKING STANDARDS ,,,, we do this and there will be no places to park, we will be like old town Pasadena. We have parking standards for a reason not to use as an incentive for the builder. This would be something we will pay for for the rest of that buildings life.

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  24. As a business owner in Sierra Madre, I read the study and found very little of value. This city has little money to even execute some of the simplest and easiest of ideas suggested in this plan. I'm still trying to figure out why there isn't a sign pointing to the Sierra Madre business district. How much could that possibly cost?

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