Competition spurs more changes for Stanford Shopping Center | April 6, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 6, 2012

Competition spurs more changes for Stanford Shopping Center

Proposal calls for demolition of Bloomingdale's, addition of five buildings

by Gennady Sheyner

Stanford Shopping Center would build five new retail buildings, including a "lifestyle" center and a smaller Bloomingdale's department store, under a new plan that aims to bring vibrancy to the Palo Alto mall without requiring any expansion.

The proposal would significantly transform the northeast portion of the shopping center, along El Camino Real and Quarry Road. It would entail the demolition of the current Bloomingdale's — one of the anchors of the upscale shopping center — and construction of a new, smaller, Bloomingdale's. It would also include a standalone building to house Fleming's, a steakhouse now adjacent to Bloomingdale's, along with what the applicants refer to as a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex."

The new proposal, unveiled at last month's Architectural Review Board meeting, is a radical departure from the shopping center's 2006-07 master plan, which was looking at a major expansion and a possible new hotel. The new plan, by contrast, is a "net zero" project, said Kathy Shields, vice president for development at Simon Property Group. Simon operates the 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center, which is owned by Stanford University. The five new buildings would total 246,118 square feet, the same area that would be demolished, she told the Architectural Review Board March 1.

The new configuration would eliminate 300 parking spots, according to Simon's application. But the development would continue to comply with the city's regulations regarding minimum parking spaces.

Shields said Simon and Stanford University are "singly focused on making sure that Stanford Shopping Center remains a premier world-class shopping and dining destination in the Bay Area."

"We're very aware that we have formidable competition for upscale shopping in San Francisco Centre and, south of us, the Valley Fair and the Santana Row complex," Shield said. "Retail does not stay still. We know the center needs to continue to evolve, and we're focused on taking it to the next level."

Opened in 1955, the mall once housed tenants such as Woolworth's and the coffee shop Sandy's Kitchen. Now, purveyors include jeweler Tiffany & Co. and Italian men's clothier Ermenegildo Zegna.

Construction would proceed in three phases, with the first phase involving the building of a new Fleming's restaurant in the front parking lot. The second phase would involve demolition of the existing Bloomingdale's and construction of the new one about half the size. The third phase, according to the application, would add a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex in the footprint of the former Bloomingdale's."

Bloomingdale's demolition and rebirth is part of a broader restructuring plan by its parent company, Macy's. The company announced in January its plan to close five Bloomingdale's stores throughout the country and to open five smaller Bloomingdale Outlet stores this year. The Palo Alto store, while not an Outlet, is "expected to emphasize merchandise categories such as women's and men's apparel, accessories, cosmetics, shoes and home," the company stated.

Pam Decharo, owner of Hair International and president of the Stanford Shopping Center Merchants Association, said that while details of the new plan have yet to emerge, Simon's track record gives her reasons to feel confident. The company took over management of the mall in 2003 and has overseen its transformation into what she called a "fantastic, world-class shopping center."

Decharo said shoppers' behavior has changed in recent years, with people becoming more conscious of their shopping experience.

"It's not just about value," said Decharo, whose salon has been a shopping center fixture for 22 years. "People want a little more of an experience. They want to feel like their time was well-spent."

At its first look at the plans, the Architectural Review Board generally supported Simon's plans for new retail and a smaller Bloomingdale's but expressed concern about the proposal to construct a new standalone structure for Fleming's. Board Member Lee Lippert said he was "very disappointed" and called the proposed site plan "somewhat disjointed." Board member Alex Lew noted that the proposed Fleming's location would isolate it from the rest of the mall and criticized the location for "not really responding to the things going around it.

"I think there's still something missing in this particular design," Lew said.

The board didn't vote on the proposal but directed the applicants to return with revisions to the site plan. Project architect Geno Yun said the team plans to come back later this year with more details about the proposed demolition of Bloomingdale's and construction of the new store. After that, the focus would shift to the new retail complex.

"Right now, we're looking at trying to establish a site plan that works for all three phases as well as moving forward with the Fleming's building design," Yun said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

I would like to see a better selection of restaurants, particularly somewhere that served a quick soup/salad/sandwich for a quick lunch.

Like this comment
Posted by jan
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2012 at 9:48 am

The mall is so beautiful and fun to walk around but many of the stores are way too expensive for the average person. We have lost our shopping experience downtown Palo Alto and Stanford Shopping Mall is our only choice in the immediate area. It is definitely an upscale mall, which is great, but I'm so glad that Macy's is still there to accommodate shoppers on a budget.

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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2012 at 10:49 am

Friendly note to the Palo Alto Weekly and to my fellow commenters:

Stanford Shopping Center is so upscale that for many, many years we have been forbidden to refer to it as a "mall."

Like this comment
Posted by Carol
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2012 at 10:55 am

I'd like to see more casual and quick restaurants. Also, there are too many small dress shops. I wear a size 12 and a gal in one dress shop told me they didn't have clothes big enough for me. I guess you have to be 5'2" and 98 pounds to fit into the clothes in some of the dress shops at the Stanford Shopping Center.

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

I love Stanford Shopping Center, but unfortunately I seldom visit
because parking is already such a challenge. Eliminating 300 spaces
will drive people away.
The city needs to review it's minimum parking regulations.
I say move forward with this plan, but only if a new parking garage or some underground parking is made mandatory.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

Usually, mall refers to an enclosed shopping center and sounds out of date.

This proposal talks about adding a "lifestyle" retail center, which is more trendy.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 6, 2012 at 11:11 am

I agree they need more choice of restaurants. I still miss Fresh Choice, the Bowdoin (sp) Bakery, and Bravo Fono. I'd love to see a non-chain coffee shop, but clearly that's too down market for them. And a Woolworth's would be heaven.

Eliminating so much parking is not a good idea.

Like this comment
Posted by GranmaKK
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

Since Simon took over, there has been a gradual polarization of the shopping experience. Bravo Fono and the independent coffee shop were wonderful. Corporate Starbucks probably has a non-compete lease, and the ugly, dreaded kiosks anchor the very low end. Except for the lack of a roof, it does feel like a midwest mall! I'll go to T&C for "lifestyle."

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Posted by Speak-Out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm

> Corporate Starbucks probably has a non-compete lease

This is a problem in most shopping centers. The center management wants to maximize their income, which means coming up with a mix of stores that generate the most income--not necessarily compete with each other for the lowest prices. Competition engenders business failures, which reduce income.

City governments really only have so much power to force store selection in shopping centers. On the other hand, shoppers have a lot of power. It couldn't hurt to get up a couple petitions (use on-line type) and see if there are enough people around who agree with you to put their "John Hancock" on the bottom line--and then press the point with Simon Properties.

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Referring to title of article: WHAT "competition" is this referring to?
Building a steakhouse is a stupid idea; red meat is a carcinogen! Why encourage people to eat unhealthy things?

Like this comment
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

People prefer Valley Fair because it has a mix of stores - they are not all high end. Stanford should follow this model.

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Posted by eno
a resident of Woodside
on Apr 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

what exactly is a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex."???

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Posted by ChuckB
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

If the Center wants more foot traffic and people to hang around longer to do more shopping, bring back a Fresh Choice style restaurant, or better yet bring back Fresh Choice. The Center needs more healthy lunch choices, not steak houses or candy stores.

Like this comment
Posted by baysider
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2012 at 7:24 pm

What do these phrases mean?
a) including a "lifestyle" center
b) along with what the applicants refer to as a "new lifestyle-oriented retail complex."

Gennady Sheyner should realize that most readers have no idea what that jargon means and should have pressed Ms. Shields to explain it.

The mix of stores is the same as everywhere else.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 7, 2012 at 12:42 am

In the 80s and some of the 90s, there was a wonderful deli (with a mideastern bent) on the north side of the Mall. That was really convenient for sandwiches. For the person asking for soup and salad, CPK has good salads and they have take-out. I love the hot-dog place there (is it still there?). I have to say that I love the restaurant selection at what I will still call "The Mall."

Like this comment
Posted by Janice
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2012 at 2:07 am

We stopped regularly patronizing Stanford Shopping Center years ago, when they kicked out the last game store in the mall. The move of Books, Inc. out to T&C took the last real store of interest away as far as our family is concerned. An occasional fancy (for us) dinner at Max's or PF Chang's, or a very-occasional kitchen purchase at Macy's, is about all we go there for now.

Like many of you, I would welcome a return of modestly-priced lunch places without having to resort to the junk-food level of McDonald's or hot dogs for lunch. I still miss the Happi House that was replaced many years ago by an upscale version of Una Mas, which itself is history now, if I remember correctly.

@jan: Many of us don't consider that Macy's actually accommodates shoppers "on a budget", except for occasional deep discounts on some clothes or housewares.

@Carol: You are not the "target demographic" for the clothing stores. Every time I go to Stanford Shopping Center, I am struck by the number of expensively-dressed Asian women I see there, who of course tend to wear smaller clothing sizes on average than those of us of most other ethnic groups. I think the mall draws both local and tourist affluent Asian shoppers.

I think the fact is that, in general, those of us locals who haven't made our wads via IPOs (yet, anyway; there's still hope) are not the "target demographic". In the meantime, I will continue to do my shopping in faraway exotic Mountain View and Redwood City.

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2012 at 6:36 am

Retail shopping complexes are designed with a focus on the median income of the consumers in the surrounding area. Of course Stanford Shopping Center, over the years, became more "upscale" in the stores contained within the complex. It will continue to become more exclusive, as it caters to the those with some of the top incomes in the country. Business is business.

Like this comment
Posted by paloaltotreewatch
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 7, 2012 at 7:37 am

note to the company that runs the mall
when you took out the Palo Alto Coffee Roasting company
and put in a bedding shop you lost my vote,
and any reason to casually shop
at your establishment.
As I would usually drive the family to shop and sit and have a cup of coffee while I wait.

It currently is nothing more than a rich persons place to be seen.
The assortment of shops is nothing special at all.

Like this comment
Posted by klingon
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm

there IS no future.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm

More places to eat would be nice...especially a Indian or Thai place.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Maybe a dog park? Since there are so many dogs at the mall anyway.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The flowers are beautiful at Stanford, but it would be nice to a range of choices in price. For women Ann Taylor LOFT- which also has a wide range of sizes, and The Limited would be welcome. ValleyFair is the closest place to find those stores, and it is chaotic.

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Posted by Shannen
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

They do need a better mix of stores/eating establishments but I think the most important thing for the "reimagined" Stanford Shopping Center to consider is to be more bike and PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY and advertise that it is walking distance from Caltrain/University Ave. This will help with parking. I grew up on the East Coast, and am used to walking everywhere, but although the Shopping Center is less than about 1/2 mile from Caltrain, it isn't a particularly pleasant or scenic walk, as one must cross through a deserted part of the Stanford University Park, and the walkways are not "human scale" or charming. (Not fun walking along El Camino). They could construct a pedestrian bridge over that part of El Camino and face some of the stores outward toward Caltrain in more welcoming manner.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

The Stanford Mall is very deliberately NOT mixing in lower or low ends stores, that is not their target market. I love the idea of making it more pedestrian friendly from downtown PA.

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Posted by ghost of stanford past
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2012 at 6:39 am

Everything on Stanford land screams out the same message: if you're not rich, go away.

Helped to create the mess we (non-rich)are in? Oh yes, very definitely.

At least it now looks like what it is.

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Posted by DH
a resident of Stanford
on May 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I really object the demolition of Bloomingdales since it is one of the original
buildings at Stanford Shopping Center. Building an isolated location for Fleming's
is also a terrible idea. The center should retain its niche by serving upper-middle class
clientele around the neighborhood. The way I see it, it'll become more like
South Coast Plaza in Orange County.

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Posted by Andrea
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2013 at 1:17 am

We live in San Mateo but have enjoyed coming down here for breakfast at the Palo Alto Creamery. On our last visit on Sunday, we found out that the restaurant would close 6/23, "due to the shopping center remodel". How sad to close such a pretty corner venue which serves some darn good food.
I suppose the new Fleming's will replace it. Bye, Stanford mall. We'll head over to Mayfield at the T&C in the future. Better parking too. The loss of 300 parking spaces will clinch my non-return after the 23rd.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 6:04 am

There's always the original Creamery on the corner of Hamilton and Emerson.

If you're worried about parking, there is a garage just two blocks away that you can access via High or Alma.

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Posted by vik
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I can't believe they will let this happen eliminating at least 300 parking spaces. What are shoppers supposed to do? park where? not sure who come with such ideas. Don't see any real improvement for the public, but pure business decision. It's start with this building and then will continue with others on the same line. Disappointing.

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Posted by Luz g.
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

The store to get rid of is Urban Outfitters. Their books are awful... and some of their clothing design is deplorable..... our youth are so targeted. Bring in stores that are useful and fit our budgets.... not all upper income..... I miss THE CREAMERY... a terrific restaurant! How about.... a 40's -style Woolworth's.... with a 40's lunch counter and wooden floors...and inexpensive items? That would be great. Perhaps even have a section selling EVENING IN PARIS, and TABU! and a section selling sewing items and laces and ribbons!!! Imagine the fun of this store! It would be a 'magnet'.... and I bet it would be popular. "Let's go to Woolworths.... and sit at the counter and order a chocolate milkshake, and a yummy hamburger"! LOVE IT! L. M.G. Mtn View

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Posted by Torquatus
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Whoever said Macy's was for shoppers on a budget???? Target is for shoppers on a budget, Walmart is for shoppers on a budget, Kohl's is for shoppers on a budget.....

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.