With a decision to go ahead on one major redevelopment project already in place, East Palo Alto officials last week began the process of getting the next one approved.
The City Council mulled over the details of what is called the Four Corners project area at University Avenue and Bay Road, a key area that includes the building that holds the city offices and the vacant expanse that once was the city's major retail shopping center, Nairobi Village.
No action was taken in the Council's study session last week, but the Council was scheduled to vote Jan. 18 to begin the formal redevelopment process. According to the schedule, a request for proposals for a master developer will be sent out by early March.
Unlike the Gateway 101 project at the old Ravenswood High School site already approved, there is no developer ready to shoulder the cost of developing a plan for the Four Corners area, which is why the request for proposals will be sent out.
Three or four developers were at the study session last week.
"We're looking for a master developer to take the lead in the project," said Vice Mayor Bill Vines, who is also the head of the city's redevelopment agency board.
At stake is 20 acres of land at one of the city's most visible crossroads. The hope is to establish a large grocery store, possibly with a branch bank within it, other retail, and about 100 units of multi-family housing.
"We're ready to go ahead," Vines said.
The Nairobi Shopping Center, built in 1957, once included a Palo Alto Co-op Market and other stores. But after the stores closed, the remains of the buildings became a symbol of the city's economic blight in the 1980s. The area was frequented by drug dealers until the buildings were finally torn down several years ago.
The former shopping center site can accommodate about 60,000 square feet of stores, the bulk of which would be a large grocery store, city officials hope. The project site includes more than the former shopping center land, however, as property on all four corners of the intersection is part of the site.
The intersection is an entry to the city for traffic coming off the Dumbarton Bridge onto University Avenue.
"It's very important, a focal point for the city, so we have to plan carefully," said Mayor Sharifa Wilson. "It is a center of the city."
Wilson added that if and when the adjacent Ravenswood Industrial Park area is ever redeveloped, the stores at Four Corners will then serve as service retail for the workers there, in addition to city residents.
According to the schedule the city is working from, responses to the requests for proposals from developers should be ready for Council discussion by mid-April.
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