Move MacArthur Park building to golf course?

Parks and Recreation commissioners to discuss idea to make way for office project near Caltrain station

A proposal to move the historic building now housing the MacArthur Park restaurant to the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course will be discussed tonight, July 24, by the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission.

According to the commission agenda, a recommendation to relocate the building, designed by noted architect Julia Morgan, would be "part of the 27 University Avenue development project" -- a bid by developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga to build a new multi-story office building and theater on the current MacArthur Park site, adjacent to the University Avenue Caltrain Station.

Arrillaga's plan -- unveiled in a city staff report in March -- has been the subject of high-level discussions but has not yet officially come before any city governing body.

The idea to move the Julia Morgan building to the golf course was developed by an "ad hoc committee" of Parks and Recreation commissioners, including Commission Chair Ed Lauing and commissioners Stacey Ashlund and Pat Markevitch, according to city staff member Rob De Geus.

The proposal is listed as an "action" item, meaning commissioners could vote tonight to recommend the idea to the City Council.

Parks and Recreation commissioners earlier discussed and rejected the idea of moving the building, dedicated in 1919 as Palo Alto's first community center, to the nearby El Camino Park, De Geus said.

The Arrillaga plan earlier was described as "a new multi-story office building fronting El Camino Real, a separate theatre building on approximately 60,000-80,000 square feet, and a three-level underground garage."

The Parks and Recreation Commission will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the Council Conference Room of City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

Chris Kenrick


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:32 am

Here's an idea. Let's stop over-building downtown. Leave the building where it is. We don't need another office building and we don't need another theater.

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Posted by pa architect
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:55 am

Haven't been to the old Julia Morgan building in several years but I wonder if it's worth "keeping," a.k.a. "moving." Granted she was a great architect and the face that it has stayed with us is remarkable, but this was not her finest building.

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Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

@Crescent Park Dad:

While I'm not a Palo Alto citizen, I will point out that downtown Palo Alto's office space occupancy is very, very high. The lack of available office space forces companies -- particularly startups -- to consider other cities like Mountain View or Sunnyvale.

As mentioned in an earlier article TheatreWorks is looking for a home base. They currently perform at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (capacity 600) and the smaller Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto (capacity ~400).

Web Link

Now as a Mountain View resident, I am happy to have ticket tax revenue drop into my city's coffers, but this is not an ideal situation for TheatreWorks.

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Posted by E
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

@PA Architect. I'm sure you are more knowledgeable than I am regarding what might be Julia Morgan's finest work, but to a layman such as myself, I think that building is certainly worth moving. I think that the interior space is wonderful.

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The building is beautiful and belongs where it is. Stop with the building of eyesore buildings and the addition of traffic congestion in that area. Apparently some people didn't learn the lesson of the bubble burst when so many buildings became UNOCCUPIED in not only Palo Alto, but the entire valley. Last thing we need is a multiplex of theater's bringing in more of the thug element with easy escape access to the trains and buses.

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Posted by Longtime PA resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Boy do we ever need a theatre! Our wonderful TheatreWorks has been taking most of their shows to downtown Mountain View (where a person can stroll from dinner to a show and then to drinks afterwards). That venue is overcrowded with arts groups vying for space, and the Lucie Stern theatre is also bursting at the seams, accommodating the PA Players, West Bay Opera and others. Why can't Palo Alto become like Berkeley and San Jose, with a beautiful downtown theatre of its own?

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I'm sure Stanford would like such prime land to be put to better use than a restaurant. BTW @enough, the proposal is for a performing arts theater and office space, not a movie theater. Being next to the train station, it's a great location for office space (which is at a premium in Palo Alto).

The current building is beautiful, it would be wonderful to preserve it.

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Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

> but this was not her finest building.

It was designed for the US Army for soldiers to use as a "day room" (place to spend one's free time) during WWI. When I was in the Army I found myself spending my Sunday afternoons during Basic Training in a building almost board-for-board like this one.

These buildings were never designed to last forever, since most Army/Navy buildings are replaced every 20-30 years anyway. It is a nice example of the period, but nothing that is that exciting as a building.

There is no reason it has to stay in Palo Alto. It could be moved to some other town which has not exhibited such an anti-military mindset.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I love the idea of moving more recreational facilities to that area of Embarcadero Road. However there are two problems.

First big problem is cost. At city expense, we can't afford it.

Second big problem is getting through the traffic to that part of town. From mid afternoon until after 7.00 pm Embarcadero and Oregon bridges over 101 are almost at a standstill. This is only going to make the problems worse.

Were these issues discussed?

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Posted by Douglas Graham
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

If the golf course become the ultimate landing place for the Hostess Building, I sure hope that the site will be "padded up" enough to keep it safe from the regular winter flooding (which is likely to start soon, due to the ongoing global warming. It would be a shame to move it from its current location where it is reasonably flood-safe only to have it damaged or destroyed.

Like this comment
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Why Move it??
So some Billionaire can Develop the land?
We will be watching this one...

Like this comment
Posted by Julia Morgan Fan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 1:54 am

I love Julia Morgan's architecture, and support the preservation of the MacArthur Park building. Even if, as Wilson said, it was originally constructed to be an evanescent Army building, if we tear all such buildings down after they've served their purpose, then we forget how things were once done, and once looked. (What of the once-substantial Camp Fremont remains in Menlo Park, for example?) All the better if the handful of such buildings that do manage to get preserved are significant architecturally.

That said, I would not oppose moving this building. It currently is lost in the maze of roads, on-off ramps, railroad tracks, and other buildings surrounding it, and does not stand out where it is now. Frankly, I think the restaurant might do better business if it were more easily accessible by major roads (101 and Embarcadero), and it would certainly be easier to visually appreciate the building.

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Posted by Old Timer
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

How many of you remember when they moved all the houses to build Oregon Expressway down to the Baylands near Alviso. They sat there for many years - nobody bought them - then they were bulldozed into obliteration. If you put McArthur Park down near the Bay it too will be obliterated because no one will want it down there.

Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

John Arrilga is a billionaire. When is enough enough? Hasn't he developed enough? Is that what we need-another office building in downtown? And is he going to kick the restaurant out in order do it? That building belongs right where it is now. Perhaps Arrilaga should be encouraged by his son-in-law to retire and smell the roses instead of over-developing our town.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I could be wrong about this --- but I believe the land where MacArthur park stands is actually Stanford property, not part of CPA.

Arrilaga is not making any money on this. He is donating everything. Stanford provides the land, he does the building. Stanford will own the building, garage and the theater.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr E
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2012 at 9:34 am

This Arrilliga has an agenda, plain and simple. Leave the historic building alone and enhance the surrounding area, not office buildings and a theater, you can do that at the old Varsity building on University. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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