Plans for Apple's new glass-fronted and topped retail store in downtown Palo Alto are edging closer to final approval this week, as Curtis Williams, Palo Alto's planning director, is scheduled to give the plan one last review.
The city's Architectural Review Board gave its stamp of approval to the modern design at 340 University Ave., the former Z Gallerie, on Jan. 20, with only a minor tweak.
The two-story, 16,600-square-foot building, which would replace the current, seismically unsafe structure, could be open for business in early 2012. The new design features ground-floor retail plus storage and office areas, with a second floor at the rear of the building and a basement.
The store will be located a few blocks away from from Apple's current retail space at 451 University Ave.
An earlier project was approved in 2009 that would have retained the existing building but added a new facade and roof and improved the interior spaces. But structural analysis disclosed "evidence of hollow clay tile" walls and substandard concrete support columns, according to a staff report. The report noted that the city's building division recommended demolition and reconstruction to meet current codes.
The new building will feature clear glass panels, framed by stone-paneled vertical columns, under a glass entry canopy, with 10-foot-tall entry doors. The slightly curved roof would be made of insulated glass panels supported by a painted steel truss system, the report noted.
"The new glass facade and roof creates an inviting day-lit interior that is designed to dissolve the boundary between exterior and interior to connect the activity on the street and within the store," according to Apple's architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ).
"The goal is to create a total experience where distracting elements have been edited out of the visual field," BCJ's letter to the Architectural Review Board said.
A picture of a similar, award-winning design for Apple's New York store can be viewed at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's website.
The overall structure would be slightly smaller than the old building.
With its ground-floor retail space, the new building meets the key requirement of the University Avenue district. The report also pointed to the design's contribution to "an exciting outdoor and pedestrian environment, including vibrant and eclectic architecture."
The report noted that "the intent of the glass material is to create a more open look and feel to the facade," making it consistent with the Downtown Urban Design Guide.
"There didn't seem to be any significant objections to the project," said Steven Turner, advance-planning manager for the city, of the review board's deliberations.
The only adjustment required is to expand a recessed area in the storefront from 57 square feet to 75 square feet.
In addition, bicycle racks, newspaper racks and a trash receptacle along the sidewalk near the store front would be moved, with details to be worked out with the public-works department and transportation division.
The proposed building could earn 44 points on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) checklist, the report stated.
The building-permit process could take two to three months, Turner said.
Before housing Z Gallerie, the building was the home to a retail food court and earlier to Liddicoat's Market. It was built in late 1923 or early 1924.