Housing at Mayfield mall site dumped for offices

Property's new owner will remodel former mall as office campus, dropping already approved 260-unit housing plan

After almost a decade of contentious planning and untold millions to design, the 27-acre housing community planned for the Mayfield Mall site has been ditched for a $90 million deal to re-use the existing buildings as an office campus.

Citing the demand from tech companies for an office campus near a Caltrain station, Rockwood Capital and Four Corners Properties have paid $90 million for the 500,000-square-foot building at 100 Mayfield Ave. that once housed the region's first indoor mall, built in 1966. It was set to be demolished this year but instead the property will undergo a renovation and be renamed "San Antonio Station."

It's news sure to grab Google's attention. Thanks to the company's growth, no other office campuses are available in Mountain View.

"It just shows how cyclical our area is," said council member Laura Macias. "it's either feast or famine with commercial or feast or famine with residential. I'm sure they saw in Mountain View that people are dying for commercial space."

Neighbors are happy that things will stay much the same after wrestling with the planning of the housing development for years, even though the final 260-unit iteration of the project, approved in December, was acceptable to most.

"It's fair to say that people are very happy," said Wouter Suverkropp, chair of the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association. "This is by far the most environmentally friendly way to deal with the site and will dramatically reduce the impact of years of construction in the neighborhood."

Suverkropp also noted that hundreds of old trees on the site would stay, "or at least it looks that way right now."

It won't be the first time the building was used this way. Hewlett Packard converted the building into office space in 1986, but it has lain vacant for much of a decade after the company consolidated elsewhere.

"We are seeing strong demand from companies who desire their own campus, but there are few, if any quality existing structures available and the majority of new construction is not designed for a true campus environment," said Bruce Burkard, principal at Four Corners Properties, in a press release. "San Antonio Station will also be ready for occupancy well in advance of new construction because we are simply renovating the existing property, which has incredible existing infrastructure."

The investment firms purchased the property from William Lyon Homes, which went into bankruptcy three months after the 260-unit housing project was approved in September. Suverkropp said he had predicted delays in the project after the bankruptcy news, but was surprised to hear from the new owners. They have been very communicative with the neighborhood association members, telling them it would only take a year to renovate the property, Suverkropp said.

It is relatively easy under the city's rules for the new owner to make such a major change in direction for the property, said Mountain View's planning director, Randy Tsuda.

"The re-occupancy of those office building was always permitted even under the new precise plan," Tsuda said, adding that City Council or city staff approval of the renovation would not be required unless architectural changes are made.

There are some drawbacks to the deal. A pedestrian tunnel required for the housing development would have gone under Central Expressway to the San Antonio train station, but is not required for the re-use of the buildings, Tsuda said. The tunnel was valued at $6 million, which William Lyon Homes had agreed to put into a developer agreement that goes with the title of the property. The requirement is only triggered if the approved housing project is built, though it could still be built if the new owners so desire, Tsuda said.

In a press release, the new owners cited the property's proximity to "The Village at San Antonio Center," now under construction. But it is on the other side of the expressway, which workers would also need to cross on foot to get to and from the train station if commuting by train.

Access to both is apparently a major selling point for the new owners, who note in a press release "the strong demand for a campus located near Caltrain, as the site is across the street from Mountain View's San Antonio Caltrain stop, a 50-minute train ride from San Francisco."

Suverkropp says neighbors don't view the tunnel as a necessity for themselves.

"In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's a top priority," Suverkropp said of neighborhood's desire for the tunnel. But Suverkropp said it was unfortunate to lose the three acres of public park space in the approved housing project plans.

"Traffic remains our number one concern," Suverkropp said of the neighborhood, which is bordered by San Antonio Road and Central Expressway, both well known for traffic jams. Suverkropp said there are mixed opinions about whether the offices would mean more traffic, but "the traffic generated by the office building is likely to be more predictable than traffic generated by housing."

"Revitalizing the former Mayfield Mall, which is proximate to transit, housing and retail, is one of the 'greenest' forms of investment our firm can make," said Rockwood partner Bob Gray. "We are confident that a high quality renovation of San Antonio Station, which will include the latest building technology, will be well received by Silicon Valley companies."


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Good, reuse rather than demolish.
sorry citizens but cant resist - Let me see if Janis Pepper of Los Altos (League of Women Voters) believes this. An industrial 'campus" built in 1966, can actually be economically reused. BUT NOT 48 MOUNTAIN-VIEW WHISMAN classrooms from the same era? ('50s-'60s) "Simply renovating the existing property" is what the high school district is doing to get art rooms into science rooms (at MVHS). That results in a 5X per square foot savings (talk to Joe White).
This type of "reuse" makes economic sense. As Council member Bryant and Mayor Kasperzak commented on for an 'economical' community center - it can make sense for public spending also. (MV Voice last issue)
-WHY NOT REUSE most of the 48 classrooms the architect wants for "demolition" in the MEASURE G Facilities Plan? (most of line items 22, 23, 5 in the SFIP Budget pg. 7). LET THEM TELL YOU EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO SPEND THE MONEY ON BEFORE YOU GIVE IT TO THEM. Advice I got from a different 'Nelson."

Posted by Martin Omander, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm

That's a surprise. The residential housing plans for Mayfield approved last fall looked really good. But I guess office space is also sorely needed. And it's good that the existing buildings won't have to be torn down. If the buildings worked for HP in 2002, they should work for new businesses now.

Finally, it's been a waste of resources to let the buildings sit empty for so long, when office space is tight. Good thing they'll be put back to good use.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Great news! I could give a crap if more people won't be able to call Mountain View their home. And the San Antonio complex will just be full of renters! Yeah!

Posted by Bruce Karney, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Wow, this is quite surprising.

It's hard for me to imagine that the 2000 to 3000 people who could work there would generate less traffic than the 400 to 800 driving age residents who would have lived in the planned housing.

Posted by Home Owner, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Bravo to office space vs. housing and all the traffic that would bring. What a lot of wasted time and money over this past decade trying to fight the housing development(s). Went to a lot meetings at City Hall to fight the developments and did not feel our council members did enough for the existing neighborhood. Am very grateful the existing structure will be reused and that our beautiful trees will remain. I hope traffic through our neighborhood will be kept to a minimum. The old Mall/HP campus is lovely when the trash is picked up and and the weeds are kept down.

Posted by Kman, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Our over crowded schools will be better off because this.

Posted by Mr Advice, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

BEWARE OF THE OLD INDIAN CURSE!!!! That land is a sacred Indian Burial Ground, no buildings on sacred grounds.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm

The school will most likely be expanded anyway. Most of what people consider the "park" is actually school property.

Posted by former neighbor, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on May 5, 2012 at 7:08 am

What is the impact on property taxes? While remodeling is greener, doesn't it also limit a property reassessed value?

Posted by Sabrina, a resident of The Crossings
on May 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

Good news!!

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

Yeh, this back and forth of developers is sort of strange. The last one that I tracked that did this was the high(er) density townhouse development now being built near the downtown station (Evelyn and Phyllis?). Saw the developer present to council, them approve, and then a few month's later want to build a 'close to transit' commercial complex. [zoning change not approved] So - now we (by accident) end up with two developments near transit - housing and commercial. I'm really glad seeing THIS REDEVELOPMENT - all paid by private dollars - none from property tax dollars diverted from education (or county general fund).
Both these area will be much better for the city (taxes) and us (near transit). It's also good for the transit systems to have users within walking distance!

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

to neighbor - resident of Monta Loma. Of all the general (and specific) criticisms I have of the school Bond Plans, the least is their impact on parks. This commercial reuse will probably impact the school (and lease to city parks) less than residential development. I talked with the parks manager directly responsible for the MANY school-park leases. The schools (Goldman) did a good job of limiting impact of expansion at most sites (( but geeze ! how can both Whisman AND Slater classrooms be 'surplus' !!!))

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 6, 2012 at 7:47 am

Suverkropp says neighbors don't view the tunnel as a necessity for themselves.

"In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's a top priority," Suverkropp said of neighborhood's desire for the tunnel. But Suverkropp said it was unfortunate to lose the three acres of public park space in the approved housing project plans.

Curious how city staff and some council members felt just the opposite. Most of the neighborhood pushed staff/council to extract more concessions from the developer. Now the neighborhood will get nothing in terms of public amenities like a park, etc.

Posted by ML mom, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

For the life of me I can't figure out why certain spokespeople in Monta Loma are determined to see this as good news. I would far rather have new families, new parks and a tunnel to connect to transit than yet another giant office complex with thousands of commuters clogging up Central Expressway even more during rush hour. This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever and I feel like dissent has been actively discouraged on the neighborhood message board. This is BAD news for Monta Loma, without a doubt.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I'm happy the site is going to be used, again. It was depressing in the middle of a economic downturn to see the buildings sitting empty for year after year.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm

@Steven Nelson: You seem to be up on Measure G, which I'm not. Have any details been given about what the classrooms need to be replaced?

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

ML mom, the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association has never necessarily represented the consensus or majority view of the neighborhood, although it is perceived as such. Personally, I would have been happy to see residential use of the property and I'm happy now to see it used for office use. I just wanted to see it used!

I stayed out of it because I live all the way on the other end of the neighborhood and because some of the most active anti-residential proponents are friends and neighbors of mine. Wish it were possible to calmly express a difference of opinion about local politics without it leading to hard feelings.

Posted by Monte Loman, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm


If you just wanted to see it used, then how could you claim to have an opinion either way? Is your difference of opinion that led to hard feeling just based on wanting to see it used? You should be a politician!

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

To Steven Nelson, if you reread my post, it was merely a comment on others' views, not necessarily a reflection of my own. If you have an opinion, you are free to extend it without assuming that someone else is against your own (which I am not - I was merely pointing out one aspect, not necessarily addressing the entire issue - if you actually lived in Monta Loma, you would realize why this point is important).

Posted by Tom Purcell, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I say ditch the townhouses planned for the corner of Middlefield and Alvin St. and bring back deedee's.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Would have guessed this, the office space is so badly needed in the SV, we keep adding jobs from one end to the other end, up and down 101. Where is everyone going to live, you have the people that have lived here for some many years, you got their kids, the grandkids, then people coming here to get jobs, then you got the ones that won't work in tech, but everyone else. Hope the ML won't be used as a fastway to somewhere.

Posted by Greg Perry, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm

We just lost a park, and added a few hundred thousand vehicle miles each day. Any time you add 3000 cubicles but no homes, you can expect 3000 more cars driving into the county.

And, yes, many of those vehicles will drive through the neighborhood. It will be faster than San Antonio, and you can't widen San Antonio because Palo Alto will block it.

Posted by Mike Laursen, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Sorry, Monte Loman, because I just wanted to see it used by somebody I was fine with the idea of it being used for high-density housing. Doesn't that count as an opinion?

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

The homes were of nice design, better then the 450 units that were planned before. I support more density but not at the cost to ovdercrowding a space, parks, greenways and more of mix, single family, row homes and flats with some rentals. When they remodel this building, are the residents going to get some green space, yes you get to keep the trees but they are in a parking lot. One good thing just think of the property tax bill, 90 million dollars for the MVWSD.

Posted by le Dude, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 8, 2012 at 11:20 am

Am I going to be able to get a free lunch here? That's all I want to know. I want what people at Google get everyday.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Oops The MVWSD gets percentage of the 90 million dollars property tax bill.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

So much time and so many meetings. I would like to know if anyone knows the status of the development at Alvin and Middlefield. I have watched
wildflowers bloom and be cut down about 5 times since this all came up.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Monta Loma School, like many, has a large land fraction leased (no cost) to the City for park use (goes back to the 60's as innovative 'dual use'). A residential development would have put more students into Monta Loma. So you would need some expansion [IF you don't reopen Whisman School] I don't think you need to totally demolish the 15 'Steve Jobs' era classrooms to do that. Replacement then costs at least $8 Million to rebuild those rooms + the expansion classrooms. [that's one of several reasons I think the BOND PLAN unwise)
- Mike's BIG GAIN - if property was really 'sold' $90 M, that is a lot of new property taxes for city and schools. IF there are SALES OFFICES, that additionally brings in sales taxes. Both help balance city and school operational budgets.

Posted by Vinnie, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:19 am

I grew up in Palo Alto, and have lived in Monta Loma for 30 years. I remember Mayfield Mall. I remember HP. This Mayfield Mall building is almost 500,000 square feet. How many people do you think will occupy a building this size after it's renovated? I currently work in an 80,000 sq. ft. office building that houses almost 400 people. Do the math. Fully occupied, this Mayfield office building will create much more traffic than the housing development would have. No new parks, new streets, new houses, or new families. However, it's great to know that the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association president and board finally got their way, and stopped the housing development. That's what they wanted all along. You don't like increased traffic? Get ready 'cause you 'aint seen nothin' yet!

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