News


A gathering place, again: Formerly derelict Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center finds new life

Fresh Market, Starbucks, House of Bagels and more find homes at renovated center

Bucking the trend of many other mom-and-pop businesses owners who've left town due to rising rents, Steve Stivala, owner of the House of Bagels, has found a neighborhood niche where his small business is thriving.

Stivala, who has owned his bagelry for 27 years, moved it from University Avenue to Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center on Embarcadero Road in late January. Now his eatery is a hub where neighbors gather.

"When I started looking at it a year ago, I thought, 'No way I'm going in there. This is not going to work,'" he said, noting the then-half-finished buildings and tucked-back feel of the shopping center. But when Starbucks announced it would move into the center, he had a change of heart. If the chain was willing to give it a go, perhaps he would have a chance there too, he said.

With a sign newly stenciled on the windows and tables filled with happily munching, chatting customers, House of Bagels and the once-decrepit shopping center have started a new life together.

"I think it's working," Stivala said, smiling. The community has been "overwhelmingly supportive," he added, with the place filling up on weekends.

Once a no-man's land of crumbling buildings that eventually closed completely after the anchor Albertsons supermarket shut down in 2006, Edgewood's parking lot is now filled. Located between Embarcadero and Channing Avenue, on the city's eastern edge, the center sports a Fresh Market grocery store, Starbucks, a dry cleaner, Supercuts hair salon, Elements massage center, Chase Bank and Orangetheory fitness center in addition to House of Bagels, and there are more stores to come as the renovation is completed. The historically significant structures built by developer Joseph Eichler now have been replaced or rebuilt with an updated-yet-retro look.

Patrons said they are pleased with the results.

"For more than 10 years, I was watching the rat-infested buildings fall apart," Wendy Sinton said on Wednesday morning while enjoying an egg-and-cheese bagel.

"It's got everything now," her friend Lee Zulman added. "It's a great place for neighborhood gathering."

Stivala wants the center to become even more vibrant. He's hoping to start weekly barbecues in the adjacent plaza during the spring and summer to encourage locals to walk to the center, he said.

"It's such a beautiful place," he said of the outdoor plaza outside his door. "The parents can feel comfortable coming in and know that their children have a place to go to. It's relatively safe, and people can bring their dogs."

Neighborhood resident Linda Henigin is also enthusiastic. The revitalized center "has made the biggest difference" in the neighborhood, she said, noting that she sees people walking and biking there all the time now.

A mother of two young children, Henigin often runs into people she knows and plans to meet other families there, she said. The bagelry is a destination for young families after school, she added.

Henigin said she would welcome the barbecues.

"It would be like when we had the food trucks," she said, referring to the popular Edgewood Eats events started by Crescent Park resident Susie Hwang that brought crowds to the center as a way to keep the center alive before the renovations began.

Zulman said Edgewood is attractive because it captures a part of Palo Alto that people yearn for but that seems to be rapidly slipping away.

"There's very little of Palo Alto left in Palo Alto where everybody knows your name. It's a place where people truly can connect without pretension," she said.

Randy and Judy Cook have made Edgewood their destination, traveling from their Midtown home to the Edgewood Starbucks for morning coffee and newspaper reading.

"It's our Starbucks," Judy said, as their dog, who gets the steamed-milk foam from their beverages, enjoyed lazing in a sunbeam beneath their outdoor table.

"They've done a wonderful job with the shopping center. It was dead, now it's vital," Randy said.

Some critics said early on that Edgewood's distance from Embarcadero would doom it. But Stivala said the setback is an asset. The center has accessible and visible parking, unlike at Alma Village, which is home to a Grocery Outlet store. There, the buildings jut out against the sidewalk and create an unwelcoming wall, he said.

"When you drive down Alma Street, you blink your eye and you're past that center," he added.

If Henigin has any quibble, it's with the concrete plaza. It is popular with kids on scooters and skateboarders, but she was expecting a patch of grass, she said.

"It's not clear what the public-private split is," she added.

Henigin would like to understand what community uses might be allowed there. Thinking of her children, she envisioned at least one activity that would add to the neighborhood ambiance: "If we could have lemonade stands, people would come in the summer," she said.

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

I am delighted that there is such a rebirth here. What a shame the same wasn't done for Alma Plaza.

I would also like to see some better design at Midtown. I would love to be able to enjoy a little more plaza type space while eating my deli lunch from Safeway. I would like some improvements to the community feel of this shopping area.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2015 at 1:49 pm

It's too good - parking at times can be difficult to find. But yes, a welcome improvement over Albertson's and the old mall.

Fresh Market bails me out for last minute dinner items all the time. Their boneless chicken breasts and ground beef are half price at $2.99/lb. on Tuesdays. And their sushi is very good!

"and there are more stores to come as the renovation is completed." What other businesses are planned?


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm

I'm a big fan of neighborhood businesses like this. Local residents don't want to get in their car and fight the traffic and hunt for parking downtown.

Local businesses let local residents walk or bike a few blocks to their local market, or stop by on their way home from work.

I've noticed that the Midtown Shopping Center on Middlefield Road is also doing well these days, with the parking lots regularly full.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I think the parking will get better once all of the construction is completed. The contractors who are building out the remaining retail spaces all use the parking lot. I can't speak for the contractors who are building the homes in the back (which look very nice BTW).


11 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 1, 2015 at 8:57 am

I'm delighted to hear this as well. The City should look at that and consider how to make amends at Alma Plaza and Maybell, where we have no public gathering space, retail or community center, at all, despite the huge concentration of schools. The closest thing to a meeting place is the Walgreens and indeed the kids hang out there.


3 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

I find walking to Edgewood Shopping Center enjoyable as I live fairly nearby. The center has lovely, clean architecture and several businesses I patronize AND one can eat outside. It is a huge asset to the Duveneck neighborhood.


4 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2015 at 9:38 am

I agree that these neighborhood shopping centers really do need more outdoor seating, as well as better sidewalks and more bike racks. Parking lot-oriented drive-through strip malls really are a thing of the past.


Like this comment
Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2015 at 10:20 am

Even though I do not live close to Market Fresh, I actively support this very nice grocery store with friendly staff and good products.

Their chicken breasts on Tuesday's special are great. Also, their grass fed beef is of excellent quality.

They have a wonderful isle of salad dressings and different spices.

Do try it!


4 people like this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Mar 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Hey, ain't this the Edgewood that the neighbors got a bunch of guff over in this forum because they bent the design into something they liked instead of something that gave max profit to the developer?


2 people like this
Posted by JAH
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2015 at 8:56 pm

I am so happy to have Starbucks, House of Bagels, and Fresh Market (and all the other businesses) in this one location. I love supporting local businesses. I love the fact that parking is SO EASY (compared to University Ave), and it truly has a community feel. I can't wait to see more businesses go in there.


2 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm

It is so refreshing to have a nice little shopping niche close by and convenient to my home. I often dread having to run an errand downtown where parking o's a nightmare. House of Bagels is awesome! Fresh Market is lovely.

However; "Orange Theory" is a small overcrowded hellish workout space..i don't get why anyone would want to workout there? 1 year tops for that place to last...


8 people like this
Posted by Love Edgewood Plaza
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2015 at 6:53 am

This is indeed a wonderful asset for the neighborhood and the city. I am still baffled as to why Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (and Tom DuBois in his campaign literature) labeled its approval as being an "anti-resident" action of Council and why Karen Holman voted against it. Thank you to the City Council members who supported this redevelopment and improved life for the residents of Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by sfkilner
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

sfkilner is a registered user.

Finally, I can easily grab a cappuccino before getting on the freeway!


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I think this shopping center has gotten much better.
I used to go to this place back when the supermarket was Lucky.
It always used to be the most depressing place to shop for anything,
and bums used to loiter around there. There was crime too.

Now it is much cleaner and cheerier. Parking is OK , but it is harder
than average to navigate. I wonder what will happen when people
are living there? I'm expecting parking problems at some point.
I wonder why they leave that one narrow spot to enter the gas
station? I think it would help to isolate the gas station from the
shopping center and add a parking space and less confusion.
Most times a car goes through there it is unexpected by cars
in the parking lot already.

I don't really do Starbuck's any more but the Starbuck's is nice.
I definitely want to check out the House of Bagels too.

Fresh Market is good, but expensive. They have decent sale
prices, but often it is stuff that is just about to expire.

Fresh Market also seems to have a problem with produce.
One day I went in there to get some tomatoes, and the
attendent there had just finished arranging the cherry tomatoes,
and I went through the lot, and every container had bad tomatoes
in it. Instead of culling out the packages of bad tomatoes, they
leave them there for the unwary consumer to buy and discover
at home. Same problem with many oranges and other fruit. To
be fair, lots of supermarkets have this problem, but I have found it
particularly the case at Fresh Market and wish they would be a bit
more dilligent and considerate of the consumer. Fresh Market
used to be more active in training their employees. They used
to be much more helpful and now they often just ignore shoppers.

Other than that it is usually quiet and easy place to shop with
friendly and helpful people there. I also found it was strange
that they had only one brand of Strawberry jam ... an expensive
one. I thought strawberry jam was a staple ... don't people eat
strawberry jam any more?

It would also be nice if they would prepare more than one kind
of sandwich. I'd grab a roast beef or turkey sandwich now and
again if they did not have so much mayonaisse on the RB or
put cranberry on the turkey. Somehow from Thanksgiving now
every time we see turkey anywhere someone wants to put
cranberries or turkey on it.

But, back to bagels ... I am looking forward to a bagel at
House of Bagels ... maybe today there is time!


1 person likes this
Posted by STEVE SAN JULE
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:56 pm

JOE EICHLER WOULD BE VERY PLEASED!!


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:57 pm

@CPA, the Fresh Market people make my turkey-on-rye exactly how I order it.
I guess I haven't even looked at sandwiches already made up in the deli case.
Fresh Market is my go-to place when I want to grab something to munch on
in the peaceful fresh air of the baylands. Wish the boardwalk was still accessible.


4 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Is Steve Stivala of the local Stivala family, who used to live in East Palo Alto, on a street settled by Maltese immigrants? Fascinating history.

It's great to see people relaxing and enjoying life at Edgewood, or bustling about getting their errands done. I hope that all the businesses thrive.


Like this comment
Posted by Jinxed It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

OK, Palo Alto Weekly, you jinxed it. Fresh Market is closing down. And while I agree with most of the positive sentiment here, the reality is that the only business showing any life at the center is Starbucks, and the gas station. I'm hoping for the best here, but losing the anchor tenant is a really bad sign.

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

One week after this article, Fresh Market pulls the plug? Oh well.


Like this comment
Posted by Jinxed It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Stores will be closed by March 31st according to the article:

Web Link

"The Fresh Market also said that it has decided to close its operations in California, which include stores in Palo Alto, Santa Barbara and Laguna Hills, in order to focus on higher growth opportunities. The decision is consistent with the company's previously announced strategy to concentrate its unit growth resources in the eastern half of the United States over the next three years.

The stores will be closed to customers by March 31, and the company expects store closure activities to be completed in fiscal 2015."


3 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Why don't we all get together and restart the Palo Alto Co-Op Supermarket?


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Actually I'm not surprised by this. The chain was struggling before opening the store - they had previously canceled a large investment into California while the Palo Alto store was getting built out. In fact, they canceled all of their West of the Mississippi expansion plans back then...not just California. When the announcement came out - I was surprised to read that they were still planning to open the Palo Alto store at that time.

This will be very interesting to follow - can the developer (Sand Hill) convince another store to take over the space? Obviously Trader Joe's would fit (physically) into the space - but I doubt that they would jump on this site given how close Edgewood is to T&C.

Maybe a local chain such as Roberts or Bianchini's. Who knows?


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Also - don't be surprised if a CVS or Walgreen's takes the space...


4 people like this
Posted by triple_L_family
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:26 pm

No CVS or Walgreens, please!!!
Would love a co-op or a Milk Pail or similar...


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:25 pm

I too hope they do not put a CVS, Walgreens or any store like that with mostly processed junk. That would be a waste. We need a market there. I just wonder if other markets are not banding together and lobbying the City to make it impossible for any other business to compete with them?

The Cityshould have let them tear that old building down and build a real good sized market, currently it is too small for a modern grocery store.

When Edgewood Center was hopping - it's original parking lot, which encircled the shopping center would get almost full. The parking in this center now is less than half of what it used to be, and they are putting housing in there as well. If Whole Foods was in there, there would not be enough parking - so what market that would want to go in there would accept being less successful and more limited than Whole Foods. Lack of PARKING is going to make the risk of moving a market in there so great that I don't know if any will?

Does our City saddle us with these useless Planned Community Centers on purpose? This was a perfectly good location for a shopping center, and now like Alma Center that used to be the same - they are both FUBARed in a way that will make it very unlikely, but hopefully not impossible, for a decent market to serve the commity to move in and be successful.

They barely changed anything in this center except to plop a bunch of housing into the parking lots and remove the parking. Is the City going and mess things up permanently like this all over the rest of town?


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2015 at 11:30 pm

>> Why don't we all get together and restart the Palo Alto Co-Op Supermarket?

That is a fantastic idea! ... Co-Op was a great place. They always had great food of all kind at reasonable prices, good service and a local feeling. They were on the forefront of natural and organic ... I think before there were even such things. Whatever brought about the demise of the 2 (was it?) Co-Ops in the area? I remember them in Midtown and San Antonio Shopping Center near Burger King.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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