ShopTalk: Ming's still open, downtown Palo Alto retail moves out | News | Palo Alto Online |


ShopTalk: Ming's still open, downtown Palo Alto retail moves out



Talk about a long goodbye. Vicky Ching may know the restaurant business, but when it comes to initiating a major development, she needs a little more experience. The owner of Ming's Restaurant in Palo Alto is the first to admit that. "I've still got a lot to learn as a do-it-yourself developer," she said, referring to the multi-million-dollar project to demolish Ming's and construct a four-story Staybridge Suites and a new, smaller Ming's on the restaurant's current site, 1700 Embarcadero Road. Staybridge Suites, which will have 174 rooms, is part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group. "There are so many pieces to the puzzle, and they all have to fit in at the same time," Ching said. Originally scheduled to close for construction in March, and then rescheduled for June, Ming's is still in business and its immediate future is uncertain. "We'll now be open at least until this August, maybe longer -- possibly into next year. There are a lot of uncertainties," Ching said. First the financing fell through, "but now we're on solid ground," she said. The next problem was seasonal. "We need to dig deep underground for the hotel parking lot. That means draining all the water underneath this building and dumping it into the Bay. It's a huge undertaking. But there are major flooding concerns if we don't finish the underground project by November. That's the deadline the city gave us. ... Because of our own delays, there is now no way we will be finished by November. So we have no choice but to wait to begin digging until next spring, after the rainy season is behind us," she told Shop Talk. As a result, it's still business as usual as Ming's. Construction is estimated to take approximately two years once it starts. "I have to say I'm embarrassed," Ching said. "I feel a little like a carpet store, always telling customers I'm closing. It's disappointing, but at least my employees are happy about the delay."


Two prime retail spaces in downtown Palo Alto are gone. The prestigious think tank Institute for the Future recently moved into 201 Hamilton Ave., at the corner of Emerson Street. The organization takes over the spaces of two retailers: the 10,000-square-foot site that was formerly Diddam's Party and Toy Store (Diddams left in 2010 and the double storefront has been vacant ever since) and the former Waterworks, the designer kitchen and bath showroom whose space was recently converted into a temporary home for an art gallery. The extended office space for Institute for the Future, a nonprofit that started 46 years ago and specializes in long-term forecasting, now takes up half a city block. "We're excited to have Institute for the Future headquartered on Hamilton but quite sad our downtown storefronts have changed over from retail to office. I'm not quite sure how this one happened," said an industry observer, adding that the likelihood of a commercial space reverting back to retail is almost non-existent. But Thomas Fehrenbach, Palo Alto's economic development manager, said that because Institute for the Future is a nonprofit, the move was considered a "permitted use within that zoning."

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email

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1 person likes this
Posted by Doris
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:19 am

I do not like what's happening in PA. Developers are ruining this town. Too much building, which is resulting in crowded schools, unbelievable traffic and parking issues; no respect for older buildings!! All in the name of run-a-muck greed!!

Like this comment
Posted by Recall
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:52 am

Wake up Palo Alto ~
The loss of sales tax revenue for all the many years that both Diddams and Waterworks were shuttered up, not to mention this prime retail space now going to of all things a non profit which will generate zero revenue to the City of Palo Alto.
This Council and the City Manager with his many levels of mid management are clearly asleep at the wheel.
Fehrenback as demonstrated, incapable and green with zero understanding of what economic development entails.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown BID, an outright farce, run by a bunch of employees of banks, realtors, hotel managers and law firms, who maintain a chokehold on these organizations to promote their own agenda, while the City provides no oversight.

1 person likes this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

I hope a new resident-centered city council can make it possible to retain retail so that the dream of "neighborhood serving retail" and "pedestrian oriented design" will not prove to be an excuse to create high density housing everywhere with no parking and no transit.

Congratulations to Eric Filseth and Tom DuBois for running for City Council.

1 person likes this
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:17 am

I hope that the "prestigious think tank Institute for the Future" pays a lot of city taxes to compensate for loss of retail from their space. Whose future are they thinking about? ;)

Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:32 am

Cute. If a business pays no taxes, city hall deems it retail.

1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm

A lady I knew in another owned a party store for many years, her little store tried and tried to compete with Target and Wal Marts.

She lost the battle, closed up and the store has been vacant. Across the street an old chain record store has been empty for more then 5 years.

1 person likes this
Posted by Vote the Bums Out
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The current city council members up for re election need to be voted out. [Portion removed.] Palo Alto is being destroyed. It's getting harder and harder to enjoy living here.

Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

[Post removed.]

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