High above El Camino Real, a garden of flowers, grasses and sedges blooms atop the newly constructed College Terrace Centre, which features a living roof and other environmentally friendly amenities.
On a recent afternoon, stacks of pavers awaited placement on an elevated rooftop floor, and construction workers put the finishing touches on the exterior of an elevator. The view, facing the Santa Cruz Mountains on the opposite side of the three-story building, was stunning.
This rooftop garden, with nine species of plants in a state-of-the-art gardening system, uses recycled water cached from rainwater in a 50,000-gallon underground cistern. It is transported through a piping system up to the living roof and can also be used to flush toilets.
The 4,100-square foot garden, which includes Achillea flowers, will host butterflies and other nectar-loving insects. Its reflective pavers will keep the building 25 degrees cooler, Tony Mirenda, project executive for Blach Construction, said.
The garden and other environmental features are designed to make the building cooler and brighter and more energy efficient through an array of amenities that include a rooftop solar farm, an ambient-air-cooling system and a basement-level bamboo courtyard that will grow 20 to 30 feet high to reduce the heat-island effect surrounding the building,
The new 57,900-square-foot mixed-use, transit-oriented development at 2180 El Camino Real includes 38,980 square feet of offices, 8,000 square feet for grocery, 5,580 square feet for retail, eight affordable housing units 216 office parking spaces with an additional 11 for residential parking. It is scheduled to open at the end of 2016 or early 2017, Charles Peters, vice president of development for property owner Greystone Property Development, said during a recent tour.
While the public won't have access to the rooftop garden -- it is reserved for office employees -- they can take full advantage of a landscaped, tree-surrounded courtyard behind the building, with tables and chairs for reading and relaxing.
But the project's greatest public benefit, which Peters said he expects to be around for many years, is the long-awaited roughly 8,000-square-foot market, a replacement for the beloved JJ&F Market.
The new market will have features that Peters said should make it more successful than other small groceries at renovated shopping centers in the city, he said.
Palo Alto's recent history with small, neighborhood grocery stores has been dubious. Miki's Farm Fresh Market at Alma Village failed after less than six months; The Fresh Market also closed after a six-month stint at Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center. But unlike the other stores, the College Terrace Centre market will have outdoor seating and a fresh open market right at the sidewalk to appeal to passersby. Retractable canopies will also protect the area during inclement weather or hot summer days, Peters said.
To also help keep the small market viable, the lease conditions are highly favorable to the market tenant, he added, without disclosing the terms.
"The way the lease is designed, the grocer will be here a long time. We worked to assemble a deal that is affordable and the economic structure benefits the grocer," said Peters, who believes the open-air produce market will be a cornerstone of the neighborhood.
The market will have the look and feel of a neighborhood market, with wine, cheese and fresh produce, a delicatessen, an array of wines and a coffee shop with a barista, Peters said.
College Terrace Centre also seems to have an ally in Peters, who appreciates the value of a neighborhood grocer.
"In my neighborhood in San Francisco, I love going to my corner grocery store. Three brothers own it and I walk in and it's a family environment," he said.
At College Terrace Centre, Miki Werness, former owner of Miki's Farm Fresh, will run the market.
"We have an operator that knows the community and is visible to the community," Peters said.
As to the rest of the center, the entire office portion of the development has been leased by an undisclosed "large credit company," Peters said. The retail tenants have not yet been signed, but he expects there could be up to three shops in addition to the market. Palo Alto Housing will manage the below-market-rate units, which are in a separate building behind the commercial building.
Greystone, which is based in New York, owns the center and is the managing partner. Its core business is in low-income housing lending and a large portion is in senior living. The company is involved in much mixed-use and multifamily properties, Peters said.