The proposal would significantly transform the northeast portion of the shopping center, along El Camino Real and Quarry Road. It would entail the demolition of the current Bloomingdale's — one of the anchors of the upscale shopping center — and construction of a new, smaller, Bloomingdale's. It would also include a standalone building to house Fleming's, a steakhouse now adjacent to Bloomingdale's, along with what the applicants refer to as a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex."
The new proposal, unveiled at last month's Architectural Review Board meeting, is a radical departure from the shopping center's 2006-07 master plan, which was looking at a major expansion and a possible new hotel. The new plan, by contrast, is a "net zero" project, said Kathy Shields, vice president for development at Simon Property Group. Simon operates the 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center, which is owned by Stanford University. The five new buildings would total 246,118 square feet, the same area that would be demolished, she told the Architectural Review Board March 1.
The new configuration would eliminate 300 parking spots, according to Simon's application. But the development would continue to comply with the city's regulations regarding minimum parking spaces.
Shields said Simon and Stanford University are "singly focused on making sure that Stanford Shopping Center remains a premier world-class shopping and dining destination in the Bay Area."
"We're very aware that we have formidable competition for upscale shopping in San Francisco Centre and, south of us, the Valley Fair and the Santana Row complex," Shield said. "Retail does not stay still. We know the center needs to continue to evolve, and we're focused on taking it to the next level."
Opened in 1955, the mall once housed tenants such as Woolworth's and the coffee shop Sandy's Kitchen. Now, purveyors include jeweler Tiffany & Co. and Italian men's clothier Ermenegildo Zegna.
Construction would proceed in three phases, with the first phase involving the building of a new Fleming's restaurant in the front parking lot. The second phase would involve demolition of the existing Bloomingdale's and construction of the new one about half the size. The third phase, according to the application, would add a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex in the footprint of the former Bloomingdale's."
Bloomingdale's demolition and rebirth is part of a broader restructuring plan by its parent company, Macy's. The company announced in January its plan to close five Bloomingdale's stores throughout the country and to open five smaller Bloomingdale Outlet stores this year. The Palo Alto store, while not an Outlet, is "expected to emphasize merchandise categories such as women's and men's apparel, accessories, cosmetics, shoes and home," the company stated.
Pam Decharo, owner of Hair International and president of the Stanford Shopping Center Merchants Association, said that while details of the new plan have yet to emerge, Simon's track record gives her reasons to feel confident. The company took over management of the mall in 2003 and has overseen its transformation into what she called a "fantastic, world-class shopping center."
Decharo said shoppers' behavior has changed in recent years, with people becoming more conscious of their shopping experience.
"It's not just about value," said Decharo, whose salon has been a shopping center fixture for 22 years. "People want a little more of an experience. They want to feel like their time was well-spent."
At its first look at the plans, the Architectural Review Board generally supported Simon's plans for new retail and a smaller Bloomingdale's but expressed concern about the proposal to construct a new standalone structure for Fleming's. Board Member Lee Lippert said he was "very disappointed" and called the proposed site plan "somewhat disjointed." Board member Alex Lew noted that the proposed Fleming's location would isolate it from the rest of the mall and criticized the location for "not really responding to the things going around it.
"I think there's still something missing in this particular design," Lew said.
The board didn't vote on the proposal but directed the applicants to return with revisions to the site plan. Project architect Geno Yun said the team plans to come back later this year with more details about the proposed demolition of Bloomingdale's and construction of the new store. After that, the focus would shift to the new retail complex.
"Right now, we're looking at trying to establish a site plan that works for all three phases as well as moving forward with the Fleming's building design," Yun said.