The Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission has approved a plan by billionaire philanthropist John Arrillaga to demolish the former downtown Apple store and its next-door neighbor, Footwear etc., and build a combination farm-restaurant.
Arrillaga plans to completely demolish the current building and construct an actual farm, where diners can come to forage their own meals. He envisions an open-air space where people can come to eat, learn and share with others.
He's also partnering with various local entities to execute on his vision for F.I.Y. A group of Stanford University graduate students who have been studying local food systems and farm-to-table trends will help with the planning process, and two d.school graduates who work at Palo Alto design firm Ideo will design the space.
"I couldn't be more excited about this project -- to take a former Apple building and turne it into this, while bringing in local connections, it just really brings together everything Palo Alto is about," commission Chair Mark Michael said last Wednesday.
F.I.Y. will be Arrillaga's first foray into the restaurant industry, but he brings a wealth of knowledge about development in Palo Alto. He cited his 2012 failed proposal to build an office-theater complex at 27 University Ave., near the downtown Caltrain station, as a learning experience for what Palo Alto needs.
"What Palo Alto needs is a true, authentic farm-to-table restaurant. It can't get any closer than this," the reclusive billionaire said in a statement.
Arrillaga has already signed a chef, butcher, bartender, sommelier, host and waiters -- all from San Francisco -- to run the respective parts of the restaurant. Diners can forage the produce-related parts of the meal, while the rest will be executed by professionals in an open kitchen. Ideo is also designing a state-of-the-art humane holding facility for livestock -- cows, pigs, chickens and the like -- to be located in the back of the restaurant.
"Everything will of course be organic, with numerous gluten-free and vegan options," said Arrillaga, who himself is a gluten-free vegan.
Arrillaga's press release also stated that he envisions F.I.Y. as not just a restaurant but also a community learning space. He hopes to host cooking classes for all ages and experience levels as well as food, health and sustainable-farming seminars.
The proposal will now go to the City Council for consideration next month.
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