In some good news for those who have been saying they'd like to see a Santana Row-style development in Mountain View, Santana Row's developer is set to buy most of Mountain View's largest shopping center.
Maryland-based Federal Realty is scheduled to close a deal by year's end for most of the San Antonio shopping center on El Camino Real and San Antonio Road. The 33-acre purchase includes nearly all of the shopping center that's still developed with single-story buildings: the sites of Trader Joe's, Walmart, Kohl's, 24-Hour Fitness, Fresh Choice and JoAnn fabrics. The price is $60 million, with two-thirds paid in cash, company officials said. Much of it was sold by the Buck family of Marin.
"Clearly Federal Realty is the developer of Santana Row and a capable property owner," said Mountain View's planning director, Randy Tsuda. "We look forward to having them own a significant parcel in Mountain View."
The fact that there were multiple owners of the site's land has often been cited as a challenge to a full redevelopment of the shopping center.
"It may well fast-track development over there from what might have been under the fractured ownership that existed," said council member Mike Kasperzak. "It kind of would be great if stuff happened more or less together so this thing isn't under this constant sense of redevelopment. They apparently know how to do it, having done Santana Row, and having done it right."
Though big plans are likely on the horizon, leases with Walmart and others may delay some redevelopment of the site, though Kasperzak said deals could be made to move those lease holders into new buildings as the center is redeveloped.
"Short-term we've got some a little bit of leasing to do at the property," said Jeffrey Berkes, chief of West Coast development for Federal Realty, in a call with business analysts in October. "There's a couple of vacancies. But we'll be working with the city of Mountain View to set the property up long-term to match what's going on in the rest of the neighborhood."
What's going on in the rest of the neighborhood is an enormous amount of development, including several large apartment projects at nearby El Camino Real and San Antonio Road, a 500,000-square-foot Google office building at the site of the old Mayfield Mall and the recent approval of a large project expected to break ground soon on an adjacent portion of the shopping center owned by Merlone Geier.
The Merlone Geier project includes a hotel, movie theater, retail space and 400,000 square feet of office buildings. That is in addition to the first phase of Merlone Geier's development at the shopping center that included a new Safeway, restaurants and retail stores, and 330 apartments.
"That whole node is just kind of the heart of Silicon Valley right now, if you will," Berkes said when mentioning the Merlone Geier development.
What exactly the whole San Antonio shopping center of the future might look like is uncertain, but the area Federal Realty is purchasing is zoned for six stories of housing above retail space, and up to eight stories if significant public benefits are proposed, said planning director Tsuda. It may be possible to achieve a density commonly seen in Paris -- 100 dwelling units per acre -- under the city's zoning for the shopping center, or as many as 3,300 homes.
Such intense development would require an an update to the environmental impact report, which studied the impact of only 1,200 homes for the San Antonio Precise Plan area.
Office space may not be possible for the site, as it would require a provisional use permit. The land isn't part of the area where council members said that they would allow 600,000 square feet of office space in the San Antonio Precise plan, which could accommodate as many as 3,000 jobs, when calculated at 200 square feet per employee.
"This deal appears to improve the chances of both revitalizing retail and developing housing above retail in the San Antonio Area," said newly elected council member Lenny Siegel, who has been organizing community members over the need to balance office growth with housing growth in Mountain View, particularly in the San Antonio shopping center area. "I am still concerned that the Precise Plan does not do enough to ensure that the area will end up with a much-needed school and park, or that a decent share of the housing will be below-market."
The timing for a development proposal for the site is unclear.
"Obviously, we have existing leases that we have to deal with," Berkes told analysts. "So the timing of all that is not clear and could be out there a ways. But as we've experienced in the rest of our portfolio, you never know when things like that will change. And if they do we'll be in a position to take advantage of it because it's just an outstanding location," he said, adding that it's "close to Caltrain, not far from Google's headquarters, it's right at the corner of where Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View meet. So location couldn't be better."