American Express moving into former Zibibbo space

Bank's venture capital arm focuses on startups

Three-year-old American Express Ventures is taking over the downtown space formerly occupied by longtime restaurant Zibibbo, a company spokeswoman has confirmed. The corporate venture arm of American Express Co. moved into a small office location at 102 University Ave. in 2011.

The move into the 15,999-square-foot site will greatly expand AMEX Ventures' presence in Palo Alto. The company wants to incubate startups and have American Express teams work with the companies, Managing Partner Harshul Sanghi told The Wall Street Journal in late December. The move would increase the rate at which startups create new products, he said.

American Express Ventures is the strategic investment group within American Express that invests in innovative startups that enhance and accelerate the company's digital commerce and new business-related technologies. Its investments have included, which supplies integrated bill paying and cash-flow management for businesses; Enigma, a centralized database of public records released by governments, companies and organizations; and Kiip, a mobile-rewards platform.

Zibibbo, a popular Mediterranean restaurant, closed in April after 17 years at 430 Kipling St. The yellow Victorian house is currently being gutted and renovated. Palo Alto real estate investment company Windy Hill PV One CM, LP is the property owner.

AMEX Ventures has a 10-year lease with variable costs per square foot, spokeswoman Heather A. Norton said. The company is not disclosing the specific costs.

But the Silicon Valley Business Journal, which first wrote about the AMEX occupancy, said the company has a deal at a rate of $7.45 triple net, which means the tenant pays for utilities and other costs. Windy Hill purchased the property for $11.5 million in March, according to the journal. City of Palo Alto property records show Rowena Wu and Zibibbo as the previous owners.


Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2014 at 12:22 am

Just what we need, more retail being turned into office space.

Like this comment
Posted by no more office space
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:01 am

I live in downtown and we don't every business to be downtown. There are plenty of office buildings out on E. Bayshore. We need to keep retail and restaurants to thrive. I just heard about another proposed 3 story office in building on Lytton between Waverley and Kipling. They are going to remove the older home, another small business bldg to have another giant. Build somewhere else in Palo Alto

Like this comment
Posted by Nervous northerner
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

Ms Dremann, can you tell us how many people they intend to hire (or inhabit the space) - and second, what is a business like this required to provide in terms of parking? Thank you!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 24, 2014 at 10:43 am

I don't think the parking requirements are different currently between permitted uses. Actually the loss of a restaurant should free up more 2 and 3 hour parking.

Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

Another reason NOT to go downtown with the continued replacement of retail/service businesses with all-day office workers.

I wonder if we're still paying that PA Travel Officer to promote PA tourism? If so, we might as well stop. New Flash: Office buildings aren't tourist destinations.

Like this comment
Posted by Great Auntie
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

Same thing is happening in Mountain View. Why??????????????

Like this comment
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

What a shame...another retail establishment that contributed to the vibrancy of downtown Palo Alto, turned into another office building that does nothing for the town. Like many people who live in Palo Alto, I now barely walk down University Ave. So many of the places that used to make for a wonderful, local, pedestrian experience are gone (Borders to Samsung?). Little by little, downtown Palo is becoming an office park.

Like this comment
Posted by Aw Zibibbos
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2014 at 11:41 am

Aw, I have some very happy memories of taking my first dates to Zibibbo's. It was a magical spot back in the boom days of the 90's, with more than a few first dates stretching into breakfast dates, and even a couple long term relationships.
Must have been something in the water...what terrific memories. Pardon me now while a stare off into space while grinning stupidly.

Like this comment
Posted by Opal'z
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

Opal'z is a registered user.

16,000 sf at 7.45 NNN? Wow! No wonder the restaurant closed. I don't know if there is higher real estate anywhere! And she walked away with 11 million to retire on. Sheesh!

Like this comment
Posted by wow!
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I just did the calculation, too. $120,000 a month rent PLUS utilities, taxes and maintenance? Wow. Just wow.

Like this comment
Posted by Recall
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Yet more loss of sales tax revenue for the city. Yoohoo... anyone at city hall going to address this?

Like this comment
Posted by Nervous northerner
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 6:34 am

It's the number of all-day parkers (i.e. full time employees that will inhabit this building) that have us northerners nervous.

Lots of other reasons to be nervous as other posters above have written. I see I'm in good company.

Like this comment
Posted by So over Palo Alto
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Last weekend, I went and strolled in downtown Redwood City. Much nicer than downtown PA. RC has preserved its old buildings and has loads of character. The many mature trees make for a lovely cityscape. Theaters and a movie theater are there. Middlefield is now a one lane street which makes it basically pedestrian, with much pleasant outdoor sitting for cafes and restaurants. Many reasonably priced restaurants of all ethnic types. And no arrogant attitude issue unlike PA. Good job Redwood City!

Like this comment
Posted by Igiveup!
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

It seems if you want to rezone retail to office, you need to be rich. I tried to help two owners of retail space on Park Blvd a few years ago. This was zoned retail in a commercial/residential condo development. At that time, there was very little retail traffic in that area. While the owners could have rented to doctors, dentists,or others needing office space, and while all the other owners of the commercial condos asked the city to allow the change, the City of Palo Alto would not grant the rezoning, even though it was only a space of about 1200 square feet. The space sat vacant for about three years. I hate to think that Palo Alto is now a city of who you know and how much money you have. I look forward to a new city council come November. Palo Alto is indeed in need of a change .

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

Does this building have any parking???

If not the Change of use is likely to contribute to the workday parking problem in downtown……not a great idea!

Like this comment
Posted by Sue Dremann
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Hi Nervous northerner,

I've been trying to track down the information regarding the number of employees at the new AMEX site and the parking requirements. So far, the city building department has said the use will be "less intensive" than the restaurant, and the hours of operation will not be as long. They haven't provided specifics. I will be looking at plans on Friday and I'll post whatever I find here.

Sue Dremann, Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online

Like this comment
Posted by Opal'z
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

Opal'z is a registered user.

I have seen these start up "incubators" . There are very few employees, but in a space of this size, the clients can be numerous (in the 100s?). All working in communal works spaces very close to each other. Unlike a restaurant where people often arrive in groups all of these workers will commute on their own.

Like this comment
Posted by Sad, sad, sad
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Such a sad, sick use of retail space. Amex should know better and do better!

Like this comment
Posted by Sad, sad, sad
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:58 am

I highly doubt that Amex will pay the outrageous rent that Zibibbo's did. It sounds like the owner of the building REALLY wanted Zibibbo's outta there.

Like this comment
Posted by Opal'z
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2014 at 8:41 am

Opal'z is a registered user.

Zibibbo owned the building. She sold the building and closed the restaurant. The rent that was mentioned is what it may have been reported as the rent for this Amex venture.

Like this comment
Posted by Sad, sad, sad
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2014 at 9:59 am

I cannot for the life of me imagine that Amex would be fool enough to pay that kind of rent. No way is that outrageous sum a good investment!

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