One of Mountain View's most prominent shopping centers abutting U.S. Highway 101 is looking like a ghost town lately, with multiple large retailers closing down or relocating over the course of 2021.
It started with Bed Bath & Beyond, which shut down its location on East Charleston Road early in the year. Just months later, REI announced it was relocating its store to Sunnyvale, and soon after that Best Buy announced it was closing its store as of the end of October.
Local residents are lamenting the loss of retail, and worries are swirling over social media that the closures are a sign that the plaza may soon redevelop into offices or even housing. But city officials say the property is expected to remain a shopping center, and that the property owner is already on the hunt for new tenants.
In the case of Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond, both companies have announced this year that they are cutting down the number of store locations across the country. In February, Best Buy revealed it had laid off 5,000 workers and planned to close more "large format" stores like the one on Charleston Road. The company saw a surge in digital sales, and is revamping its workforce to better accommodate services like shipping and home delivery orders.
Bed Bath & Beyond announced in January that it was closing 200 locations by the end of the year, including a short list of 43 on the chopping block by the end of February. That short list included the Mountain View location.
For REI, the situation is different. The company put out a press release that it sought to relocate to an even larger location to "offer a wide assortment of quality gear and expertise for the South Bay's most popular outdoor activities." The new location is at 130 E. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, the former location of a Toys "R" Us that closed in 2018.
The large retail leases in the Charleston Plaza were expiring this year, according to Kimberly Thomas, assistant to the city manager. Real estate brokers representing the property owner told the city there was a "mutual interest" not to renew the leases, and that there is an effort to replace them.
"The property owner is interested in securing new tenants consistent with the existing zoning, and the property is being advertised and marketed for commercial or industrial uses consistent with the land uses allowed in the City's (industrial) district," Thomas said.
The existing zoning for the property is industrial and allows for limited manufacturing, research and development uses, but the general plan designation for the area is a hybrid of both industrial and "regional commercial" uses. The latter encompasses retail stores that are designed to provide specialty goods and a "wide range" of merchandise that requires a broad regional customer base, according to the city.