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Edgewood Plaza needs to be scraped

Original post made by Bill T. on Jan 18, 2007

Count me as a strong supporter of tearing down the entire Edgewood Plaza center and starting over with an attractivly designed retail/mixed use development or retail only center.

The Palo Alto Online posting on last night's meeting was a great summary and I think the developer is trying hard to listen to the neighborhood.

Web Link

I'm sorry, but even though I'm a great believer in historic preservation, I can't see saving this ugly center just because it was built a long time ago incorporating Eichler architecture.

Comments (33)

Posted by Theresa, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2007 at 11:39 am

I see zero architectural charm at Edgewood Center and do not understand those who think its Eichler heritage needs to be preserved. It's just ugly, not to mention badly laid out on the available land.

Another vote to rip it down and start over.

Posted by smithee, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 18, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Here's an idea.

Stand in the parking lot of the run-down Edgewood Shopping Center and look across the street at the well-maintained, million-dollar-plus Eichlers.

They look pretty darn good!

Any building neglected as long as those at Edgewood would look like it needed to be "scraped" (sic).

Those who want a faux Tuscan Villa, faux Spanish-style or faux Cape Cod shopping center, you will now most likely get what you want: an architectural abomination.

Palo Alto deserves something that belongs in the California landscape. There's a reason Mid-century Modernism is still so popular here: The use of open spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and sparse geometry works with our environment, weather and lifestyle.

Pick up a copy of Dwell Magazine, or Sunset, or Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, etc. . . It all looks pretty "eichler-esque" to me.

For the developer to say the new center definitely won't be Mid-century Modern shows he already has his mind made up. . . and also, he probably doesn't ever look at any of the above magazines.

Too bad.

Posted by suzie, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2007 at 12:36 pm

I'm all for razing Edgewood Shopping Center. It is ugly, old and dirty. There are plenty examples of beautiful Eichler homes on the Peninsula!!

Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Smithee wrote: "The use of open spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and sparse geometry works with our environment, weather and lifestyle."

Hope you enjoy your eichler utility bill this month. I personally am very glad my 1994 house has some insulation. I think global warming is going to make these weather extremes much more common in the coming years.

As for Edgewood Plaza, how long would you like a vacant grocery store to last? Those Eichler's across the street only cost $1M because of the land value. To make the redevelopment viable, the shopping center needs to put in new housing units to make the numbers pan out. The cost of the shopping center land is its downfall. Let go of the past for once. You might like it.

Disclaimer: My neighborhood is going to get a Home Depot to replace a Sears. But we also have an empty Albertson's for now.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

No idea about the Plaza itself, but the entrance and egress make that whole off ramp/where to turn area, a driving nightmare. I have often seen "lost" drivers causing all sorts of problems there.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Let's see what the developer plans - almost anything would be better than the current arrangement and I am in favor of starting from scratch on the land. The situation is extreme at Edgewood, I am a former owner of two Eichler homes and I like Eichlers but Edgewood needs a completely fresh beginning.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2007 at 6:06 pm

Thank God they are going organic. Now perhaps Safeway will let the dirty produce business go elsewhere and not contaminate mine.
Once the new store opens on the old Littieman's site whoever is at edgewood will have slim pickings anyway.

Posted by ????, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2007 at 6:15 pm


Where and what is the old Littieman's site? I don't remember hearing about this one before. Maybe it is mentioned somewhere in the growing up in Palo Alto thread.

Posted by SilverBullet, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Mid-century modernism is soooooo over. See ya! Bye! Catch ya in 2050.

Posted by Need imagination, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Of course it looks bad now, Albertson's neglected it for years. They've had financial troubles and closed 3 stores in our area including the fancy new one in Mt.View.
An imaginative architect should be able to design a modern building that uses some, not all, Eichler ideas, and it could satisfy everyone. They can use good insulation, double and triple pane glass, solar heat, and lots of new construction materials.
They need a really good architect with Imagination! They are hiring a local company with experience getting through the process, that isn't too encouraging. We need to see what kind of shopping centers they have built.

Posted by John Dewey, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2007 at 10:00 pm

Why not raze Edgewood and replace it with a combined new Main Library
and new Police Headquarters? That way there will be cost savings compared to building each on separate sites. As a bonus, library book thefts will be greatly reduced.

Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2007 at 10:40 pm

The whole Eichler thing is just another wacky California cult obsession. Anywhere else, these shabby structures would be chalked off as just one of the myriad post-war cheap housing blights, like Levittown.

Posted by SilverBullet, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2007 at 9:50 am

Obviously this post is about the Plaza, but I think you make a good point, Howard. Its funny how Eichlerites tend to forget that Eichlers were the cookie cutter homes of the 50's. There's about 4 different types of Eichlers, and they all pretty much look the same. I'm growing tired of their holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to more recently built homes and structures. I'd rather look at a tuscan-inspired or mediterranean structure. Of course I'm probably just an unsophisticated slob....

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2007 at 10:06 am

The old Littleman's site is in East Palo Alto at University and Bay.

Posted by Nan, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 19, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Eichlers are a drain on our resources. They eat up energy like crazy. I could never in good conscience support the restoration of such an environmental enemy. I personally would be happy to get rid of every Eichler in our community.

I also have to mention how ugly they are. I live in this neighborhood with all the "million dollar" Eichlers. Believe me, the ones that have been taken care of are far from beautiful. They are also eyesores.

Eichlers architecture was far from genius. We need to let go of it and move on.

Posted by smithee, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 19, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Eichler wasn't an architect.

But unlike the garden-variety merchant builders of the day, he hired world-class architects to design his homes. He was a smart developer, and was inspired to become one after he and his family lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Hillsborough.

He thought it would be a great idea to bring the feeling of living in world-class architectural spaces within the reach of the average family.

You can dislike Eichlers if you want, but they're not cheaply built. Compare an Eichler to any 50-year-old merchant-built shingled house with gingerbread trim and see which still looks relevant.

Yes, the shopping center needs a massive facelift. So would your house if you let it become run down over 50 years. Tearing it down and building new is the same mindset that led to all the monster homes popping up in modest neighborhoods.

Too bad enlightened Palo Altans turn out to be so narrowminded.

Please, prove me wrong!

Posted by John Dewey, a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Why not just tear down the Albertsons and replace it will a high rise with a new police station on the bottom, a new main library in the middle and subsidized housing at the top. That way, all of three City needs would be met in one place in an economical way. As a bonus, library book thefts and the number of overdue books would fall (due to police presence), saving the library money and the library patrons the aggravation of not finding the book they want to borrow (because its overdue and on someone's coffee table). Also, any fears about subsidizd housing coming to the neighborhood would be pacified by the police being right in the same building.

Posted by Architect, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2007 at 7:17 pm

If Eichler were alive he himself would have been ashamed of his works.

Eik! Ler

Posted by Kacee, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:06 am

Whether you like Eichlers or not is not the point. The fact is that this shopping center was deliberately built to be an integral part of its surrounding neighborhoods and as such should be kept as close as possible to its original scale and aesthetics. It was also built by A. Quincy Jones, a very important architect. If it had been built by Frank Lloyd Wright, whom most of you have heard of, I'm guessing that many of you might reconsider your opposition to it preservation.

I would ask those of you who "hate" Eichlers to understand that Mid-Century Modern is one of the preponderant styles of Palo Alto architecture, representing the era of this city's greatest growth. It may seem preposterous to you that anyone would want to preserve these representations, but that has been said of important aging architectural styles throughout time. I'm sure there was a time when buildings by Birge Clark seemed quaint and antiquated and their owners wanted to tear them down and start over. Thank heavens most of those buildings have been maintained, because Palo Alto would not be the same without them.

An architectural style that grows organically out of a cultural context says something about the place and the time in which it developed. Whether you like the style or not, this is true about Mid-Century Modern and Palo Alto. It represents a lot about the aesthetics and even philosophy of the people who helped create Silicon Valley in the 50s and 60s. And many people elsewhere recognize this, and would like to come and see it. The fact that more people here don't appreciate this is probably because we are surrounded by it and inured to it. It is "too close" to us for us to realize what we have here.

To underscore this, I want you to know that the number one subject of inquiry that people from around the world pose to our Palo Alto Historian is not about Stanford or Stanford University, or about the birth of the electronics industry here. The number one subject of inquiry is about Joseph Eichler and his buildings in this city. If you don't believe me, ask Steve Staiger.

There is no question that Edgewood is in disrepair and needs refurbishment. But before you all scramble to tear it down, please use a little vision and think of the future a little: We have a rare opportunity to capitalize on the architectural uniqueness of Edgewood Plaza as a focal point for tourism to our city, as well as provide a great new shopping center for the Edgewood and Green Gables neighborhoods. All this will be lost if it is torn down and replaced by any other proposal. You can have a good grocery store, a nice coffee shop, and many other things in this plaza, without destroying what is there. You don't have to throw out an important piece of history in order to buy a good cup of coffee.

Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2007 at 11:45 am

Hm. I avoided commenting on this thread, in the hopes that it wouldn't degenerate into another for/against Eichler brawl. I'm amazed at the antagonism. Are the new houses that replace torn-down Eichlers any less cookie-cutter in their esthetic? And no, the new houses are not more energy efficient per family - they have twice as much volume to heat, more bathrooms, vastly more built-in electric, water and gas usage. I would also think from the other threads on this forum that Palo Altans would be concerned about the inherent waste of tearing down usable buildings and throwing old-growth redwood and douglas fir lumber on the landfill, but apparently not. As "Kacee" noted above, it's the California Modern architecture that sets Eichler houses apart. Palo Alto was one of the main studios for developing this unique style - designed in and for this specific area. It's important no matter how you personally feel about it. Every historical age is associated with a city: Athens and Rome from the Classical eras, London with the Elizabethan era, New York with 20th century capitalism. Palo Alto is the city of the Silicon Age (I didn't make that up - it's from Cities in Civilization by Sir Peter Hall). California Modern architecture was about building for the future in the same way that the electronics engineers were designing for the future. The rest of the world IS more interested in Palo Alto's indigenous architecture than most people from around here. The Japanese design magazine "Axis" did a story on Eichler's communities and the architecture just last month. A few years ago it was the Italian magazine "Spaziocasa".

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Because of California Energy Commission regulations I will guarantee you that the "Monster Homes" replacing torn down Eichlers are more energy efficient, both per square foot and by unit.
In Sacramento, the Eichler style was the Strizik Flattop.
I recall having, joking, commented on earlier preservation efforts that next they would be preserving Eichlers. Bad joke.

Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Japanese design magazine "Axis"? Italian magazine "Spaziocasa"?
To their readers, and the other elites around the world who revere Eichler: OK, if you want to preserve the Eichler look and feel, send your donations to the Edgewood Plaza developer, and maybe he will be in a position to preserve it, or better yet buy the land and do it yourselves.

Posted by Out with the old and in with the new, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2007 at 9:56 am

I've lived near the Edgewood center for over 20 years, and in those 20 years and I can count the times I've stepped foot on that property on one hand. The biggest reason is I don't feel safe over there, and the other is there's nothing in that center that I would want to shop or eat at. (I'm not a drinker and I don't need a wig.)

I can't wait for them to level that place and put up something nice and new. As far as Eichlers goes, it reminds me of when people say "They don't make them like they used to". Well there's a reason for that, it's because we've learned a little bit in the process. How many of you would still like to be driving a '50's Dodge or Buick? Gee, the Ford Pinto and AMC Pacers were really great cars, maybe some Prius drivers would like to trade the technology they're driving for some '70's technology. And while we're at it, maybe I should dust off that old Apple Performa we have in the attic and start using it again, it was so artistic and ahead of it's time.

I think a lot of people like the old styles and looks, as long as they don't have to actually use or live in them. I know what the '50's cars drive like and I don't think you'd get any Prius drivers to switch. How many Eichler owners would rather live in a modern home? If your Eichler burned to the ground, which happens very quickly I've heard, would you rebuild the exact home again? And how many of those million dollar homes (property actually, the houses are practically worthless) are being leveled and replaced with modern ones? There's a reason for that, it's because most people would rather live in a modern home, with forced air and heat, insulation and dual-pane windows, silly stuff like that.

There will always be people that don't mind a drafty old house or a ratty old car in the name of tradition or historic preservation, but I doubt that's the majority. For me I'll stick with new technology, and I'm looking forward to a new Edgewood center. Hopefully it'll have something for me, and I won't be scared to send my kids over there. At the very least an ugly eyesore will be gone and our property values will go up a little bit because of it. I can't wait!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Palo Alto has plenty of imaginative architects. This was true even when the city hired a franchise hack from out of town over the local talent and got a less than impressive stack.

Posted by shallow alto, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 22, 2007 at 8:08 am

Yeah, I think it's an excellent idea to bulldoze a shopping center because it has a wig shop. Great, logical argument.

You'll definitely feel safer there once the place looks like a home depot!

Also, it is Eichler homes that are Modern. . . the kind of thing most people build today don't even fall into an architectural category because they borrow and steal "architectural details" from so many traditions they end up representing nothing in the process.

Wigs and relevant, historic architecture are evil and therefore we must destroy Edgewood!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2007 at 9:26 am

The owners need to change Edgewood because what is there now does not work.

Posted by charles, a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2007 at 9:41 am

I was emailed about this topic from a friend on the west coast, and honestly can't believe the tone of this thread.

In your community you have a rare architectural gem in need of restoration. If I'm not mistaken, the center was designed by architect A. Quincy Jones.

Go to your library or bookstore and look up the Phaidon Press book about him by Cory Buckner.

Even if you aren't a fan of his style, it shouldn't be disputed that what your city has is a historically significant structure in need of some love and care.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2007 at 10:19 am

This is 2007. I don't believe it is a question of arguing about the style at this point - the place looks like it is falling down, poorly laid out and does not serve the community as it is basically derelict. I don't find the center particularly beautiful. Like I wrote previously, I have owned two Eichler homes (they were not derelict) and that has nothing to do with the state of this supposed shopping center. Some Eichlers are possible to preserve, worth preserving, and some are not.

Land is scarce here and a new design/layout with architecture that respects the surrounding area and is functional would be great. I don't know the ideal mix of commercial vs. residential, that's another issue, but I hate to see the current blighted area day after day and the property owner really needs to move forward with ideas and action.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2007 at 6:16 pm

They wanna preserve Edgewood and tear down Hangar One.
Pour me another.

Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2007 at 10:22 pm


If Edgewood is such a great example of Jone's work, then hopefully Corey Buckner has it well documented in the book. If not, take some photos of it and write one yourself. Then let it go and allow the center to be reborn. It needs a change and a simple renovation is not enough.

Others be glad you have the chance to see a complete rebuild of Edgewood. I live within walking distance of San Antonio Shopping Center. That Center is a pedestrian and vehicular nightmare that will never see a complete rebuild because it is divided into so many different parcels owned by different people.

Posted by Questioner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2007 at 9:11 am

If the Center is so beautiful, historic and important to preserve, why don't "they" just do that. Dissemble, move and rebuild something ugly and derelict and build something we do want. The pieces could go in some museum somewhere and we could earn some money selling it to recover the cost of the new building. If "they" can do it with London Bridge, then Edgewood should be easy!!!

(Tongue in cheek)

Posted by Lynne, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Does anyone know what is going on with the future development of Edgewood(weed?) Center? It is now November, 2007 and I've seen nothing on this site to indicate any movement. As a resident of this area, I am really tired of needing to get into my car to buy a quart of milk. Also, driving or walking by the "center" is quite sad, depressing and a total waste of valuable space. I love my Eichler home but would at this point sacrifice the dead Eichler designed propery for a mixed use develpment plan that was reasonably attractive.

Posted by Whats taking so long, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm

I don't know what is taking so long either. I do know that Sand Hill Property and Jim Baer are busy trying to buy (at a very low price) the Palo Alto Art League building downtown, against the wishes of many of the League members.

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