Final phase of Stanford Shopping Center rebuild to bring major changes | October 11, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 11, 2013

Final phase of Stanford Shopping Center rebuild to bring major changes

Reshuffling of Bloomingdale's, Fleming's makes room for four new buildings

by Eric Van Susteren

A larger entrance with a circular fountain, a driveway lined with towering Italian cypress trees, and four new buildings that will stand in place of the massive Bloomingdale's department store await Stanford Shopping Center after it gains City of Palo Alto approval for the final phase of its redevelopment.

The initial phases of the upscale shopping center's transformation included constructing a new building in the parking lot along El Camino Real for Fleming's restaurant and the upcoming move of Bloomingdale's to a new, scaled-down, three-story building located at the former Fleming's site.

But the third phase, which the Palo Alto Architectural Review Board considered last week, would include some of the most dramatic changes the center has seen in its three-year remodeling effort.

Most notable would be the construction of three retail buildings and one mixed-use building on the former site of Bloomingdale's, which at 133,600 square feet currently dominates the center's northeast corner, facing El Camino. Each building will house multiple small shops, though Simon Properties Co., the company that manages the center, stated in an email to the Weekly that it couldn't comment on which stores might occupy the new space.

There will be two, 1-story buildings and two, 2-story buildings, one of which will house office space on the second floor. The four buildings, which tenants would customize with their company's "look," would be visible from El Camino and Quarry Road.

The final phase of the renovation also includes plans that would impact the feel of the entire shopping center, which was founded in 1955 and has been renovated several times. To modernize and create a more cohesive appearance, the lighting, pavement and signage throughout the site would be updated to differentiate between the center's streets and pedestrian paths.

The central walkway, running parallel to Quarry, would become the center's new "main street," with each of the remaining interior streets designed with distinguishing characteristics.

Though a detailed landscaping plan hasn't yet been unveiled, renovation would also update the shopping center's popular landscaping, featuring a simplified at-grade scheme with different themes for four distinct areas — outdoor rooms, the main avenue, luxury shopping and areas for families and kids.

The southeast entrance to the center, next to Neiman Marcus, would be redesigned to accommodate events such as concerts and gatherings and would include a circular water feature with a pedestrian bridge.

Rows of Italian cypress trees along the primary entrance of the center at El Camino would be planted. In all, the shopping center is proposing to plant 78 trees and remove 38 throughout the site. They would include valley oak, southern live oak, callery pear and gingko trees.

Stanford Shopping Center currently has 5,826 parking spaces, but the proposed project would eliminate 260 spaces, leaving the center with more than the required number of 5,284 spaces.

Online Editor Eric Van Susteren can be emailed at


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I hope they improve their lunchtime restaurant offerings. It is difficult to get a simple salad, soup or sandwich with emphasis on healthy fare.

Posted by Woodside Resident, a resident of Woodside
on Oct 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I hope they improve all restaurant offerings. Flemings is excellent, Yucca and Max's leave a lot to be desired. Bring back the Stanford Barn restauarant center (including the candy store)!

Posted by shopper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Now we know why they never cleaned the front of the Bloomingdale's building and especially the overhang at the entrance facing El Camino which was really filthy the last five years or so - they were planning on tearing down
the building!

The new plans sound nice but so far Simon has been a big disappointment in what they have done at Stanford. Removing the Bravo Fono with its beautiful glass wall, one of the nicest architectural features in the center, replacing it with a Children's Place and plastering a Nike sign along that formerly beautiful corridor for example. The local Palo Alto Coffee Roasting was replaced by a Starbucks. Many of the buildings and awnings look
dirty especially on the north side of the center. The top of the Macy's Building seen from a distance is filthy. The center has become a mishmash
of architectural styles and sometimes incompatible colors. Fortunately
Stanford did many beautiful upgrades before the center was sold to Simon
in 2003.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

It wasn’t that long ago that the City of Palo Alto was putting up all sorts of road blocks to a Stanford Shopping Center expansion, as these articles from the Weekly’s archive remind us-

100 Room Hotel at Stanford Shopping Center:
Web Link
Stanford Pullback From Shopping Center Expansion:
Web Link
Withdrawing plans for a major expansion of Stanford Shopping Center is a final decision, according to Stanford University spokesperson Jean McCown.
Stanford University withdrew its application to the City of Palo Alto Tuesday to expand the Stanford Shopping Center by 240,000 square feet and add a 120-room hotel, saying the city has created "confusion and distraction" by lumping together the mall and the Stanford University Medical Center expansions.
But Stanford officials Thursday indicated the university came to the decision after careful long-term evaluation of how the university overall will expand in the future
Palo Alto/Stanford—Best of Frenemies:
Web Link
Planning commissioners argued that the added traffic from the Stanford project would overwhelm Palo Alto's already crowded roads, and Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto called for a policy that would guarantee no additional traffic as a result of the hospitals' expansions. Then-Mayor Peter Drekmeier said the university should build at least some housing for the hospitals' 2,242 new employees.
Stanford responded by scrapping its concurrent plan to expand the Stanford Shopping Center and build a hotel, a project component that Palo Alto officials had hoped would bolster the city's dwindling revenues. In a letter explaining the withdrawal of the mall expansion, Stanford stated that the shopping-center project distracted the community and the council from the critical priority of rebuilding the hospitals, which under state law have to be seismically retrofitted by 2013.

The people promoting this expansion had been very open at that time, proving a lot of information to the City/Council about their intentions. Elected officials, like the two cited in the last link, went to great ends to help stop/kill the proposed expansion. It was clear from the public presentations that the Shopping Center was a major economic assets to both Stanford, Palo Alto, and the region. The Management Company was adamant that the Center needed to be upgraded with more modern facilities, so that it could compete with other regional shopping centers.

So, it would seem that the Management Company has decided to move forward, but without as much pomp and circumstance. It will be interesting to see if the same complaints/road blocks are raised by the City of Palo Alto—which is a huge beneficiary of sales tax revenue from this particular shopping center. If memory serves, various sources have suggested that the Stanford Shopping Center provides about 30% of the total revenue derived from city-wide sales tax collections. Presumably the revamped shopping center will generate increased sales, which will increase the City’s “take”.

I really don’t understand why this project is going before the ARB? There are no residential impacts to consider, and it’s hard to believe that any of the ARB members can offer any real insights into how to design/build shopping centers. Even though the ARB membership is comprised of architects, is there any real proof that these people are better at their job than the architects employed by the Management Company?

It would be nice to get some sense of increased traffic, but given all of the massive commercial construct that the City has approved for the downtown area—how are a few thousand “new” trips to/from the shopping center going to be noticed?

Hopefully, this long overdue work can commence with the least about of interference from the City Staff, and the Council.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2013 at 11:24 am

"Stanford Shopping Center currently has 5,826 parking spaces, but the proposed project would eliminate 260 spaces, leaving the center with more than the required number of 5,284 spaces."
Yikes! Less parking than before? Bad idea.

Posted by moo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Video surveillance? Are they installing any cameras when they do all this other stuff?
Stanford Shopping Center has become easy pickings, especially the parking areas.

Posted by registered user, Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Thank you Wayne Martin for summarizing the history of the Stanford Shopping Center expansion. Does existing zoning allow office space in a shopping center? If not, turn it down. More office space and less parking? This is the recipe for disaster that is causing so much havoc in Palo Alto today.