• Watch Weekly journalists discuss the purchase of College Terrace Centre on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."
The new owner of the College Terrace Centre development at 2100 El Camino Real is about to face a dilemma that has bedeviled its predecessors: find a supermarket or face a daily fine.
Blox Ventures, a Palo Alto-based company that specializes in commercial real estate, has recently acquired the 57,900-square-foot property that once housed the popular JJ&F Market and, more recently, the College Terrace Market.
Blox Ventures paid $78.5 million for the mixed-used building, according to The Registry, a San Francisco-based commercial real estate website.
Blox CEO Jason Oberman told the Weekly that he is well familiar with the site because of his long history of going to JJ&F. His wife grew up in the area, he said, and frequently shopped at the market.
He said he's been closely keeping an eye on the development because of it's "great location" on El Camino Real, a few blocks north of Page Mill Road.
Now, his top goal is finding a grocery tenant who would be "something long the lines of JJ&F," he said.
"It's really something that is a draw to the communtiy all around and would be that special place that JJ&F was," Oberman said.
Blox, which also owns a commercial building at 530 Lytton Ave., now lists 2100 El Camino as one of its "current projects" on its website. The largest tenant of the College Terrace building is First Republic Bank. The development also includes eight below-market-rate units and a grocery store, which was considered the project's main "public benefit" when the City Council approved the project in 2009.
Now, with that benefit gone, the property is in violation of its "planned community" zone and, as such, is subject to daily fines of more than $2,000 per day until a new grocery begins its operation. The "planned community" ordinance allows the city to start assessing fines if the market has been vacant for six months.
Jonathan Lait, the city's interim planning director, said the fines are set to begin on July 10, six months after College Terrace's closure. The fine will be $2,240 per day, which includes the base penalty and an adjustment based on the consumer price index increase embedded in the ordinance.
The challenge of finding a grocer has befuddled the building's prior owners. Several months after JJ&F officially shuttered in 2013, the project's developer Patrick Smailey proposed having his son, who had no prior experience in the grocery business, operate the new market -- a proposal that the council unanimously rejected. The supermarket then sat empty until last summer, when Miki Werness opened College Terrace Market.
Now, Blox will have to grapple with the same challenges in finding a grocer that had confronted the building's prior owner, Greystone Property Development. In the past, residents had neighborhood leaders had been concerned about the market's viability given sparse pedestrian traffic, insufficient clear signage, lack of street parking in front of the store and competition from First Republic's cafeteria.
Despite these challenges, Oberman said he is confident that he can find a great tenant that would appeal to the community.
"With the quality of this location, we should be able to get a great market to be able to do well here," Oberman said. "JJ&F did do well in this location when they were here, so the proof is in the pudding from that time.
"Really, the population has grown here (since then), there is more housing and more offices. It should really be able to support a quality market."
Lait said he received notice on Thursday about Oberman's acquisition of the property.
"We are sending out the letter today to Mr. Oberman and letting him know about the penalties, which I understand he is fully aware of."