The developer in contract to buy 16 acres of the San Antonio shopping center released conceptual plans on Tuesday that promise a major urban redevelopment.
Merlone Geier Partners of San Diego plans to buy the corner property from the Thoits family and demolish Rite Aid, Burger King, Sports Authority and Sears to make way for construction that will double the density of a portion of the shopping center at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road.
Once built, the new shopping center, approached from the east along El Camino Real, will no longer present a vast parking lot and aging 1950s buildings. Instead, the area City Council members have called a "gateway" to the city will be transformed into a modern urban shopping center built out to the sidewalk, with a parking garage hidden behind the shops in the first of two floors.
"We would like to put the buildings up to the street and make it a more pedestrian-friendly area," said Mike Grehl, director of Merlone Geier Partners. "What we're proposing is to bring in a really modernized retail shopping center."
A second floor courtyard would run between two rows of buildings on the rectangular lot, and a bridge would cross over a driveway -- paved over the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct right of way -- and connect to another second floor courtyard in a similar set of buildings to the north.
Grehl said he had no idea whether authorities at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which controls the Hetch Hetchy right of way, will let Merlone Geier Partners build the bridge. "But that's what we would like to do."
As for the new stores, he said, space will be made for a mix of small boutique shops and large retailers at the site.
"There will probably be a grocery store, some service retail, boutique shops," he said. There will be "actual restaurants" along with some smaller food retail, like Quiznos or Starbucks. But he noted that so far, "We don't have tenants lined up."
A mix of materials will be used in the architecture, including stucco, glass, metal and wood.
Grehl said he is working with neighboring property owners who may also redevelop their portions of the 56-acre shopping center. Another major owner, San Antonio LLC, whose parcels include Trader Joe's, Kohl's (which replaced the bankrupted Mervyns) and Walmart, has asked the city to revise its precise plan for the center.
The city is also discussing the future of the shopping center as part of hearings to update the city's General Plan, a set of plans and policies to guide all future development in Mountain View.
Challenges for redeveloping the site include the fact that Walmart has a lease for over 50 years, and the fact that there are 16 property owners at San Antonio with staggered leases for each space.
"Working with the neighboring property owners and the city has been a pleasant process up to this point," Grehl said.
Home Depot was slated to take over the Sears property in 2007, but the City Council rejected that idea while expressing hopes that the shopping center would be redeveloped.
Numerous public hearings lay ahead for the project, which is only a concept at this point.