JJ&F Market renovation on hold | March 29, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 29, 2013

JJ&F Market renovation on hold

Funding for College Terrace Centre redevelopment in jeopardy

by Sue Dremann

While residents are still absorbing the shock that Miki's Farm Fresh Market will close just six months after it opened at the renovated Alma Plaza, plans to revitalize another neighborhood grocery store and shopping area are also on hold, city officials and the project architect have revealed.

Funding for the block-wide College Terrace Centre project, which includes an updated space for the more than 60-year-old JJ&F Market, has not materialized, and the developer, Adventera Inc., has received a one-year extension for its planning-entitlement permit, city Planning Director Curtis Williams said on Monday, March 25.

College Terrace Centre, located at the corner of College Avenue and El Camino Real, would include 40,000 square feet of office space, 5,580 square feet of other retail and eight units of affordable housing. The plan won City Council approval in December 2009 after months of public scrutiny, with residents rallying to keep the beloved market while opposing dense development.

Adventera requested the extension late last year, Williams said. If plans for a building permit are not submitted by December, another year-long extension would be at the discretion of the Planning and Transportation Commission and City Council, Williams said.

The developer has communicated "in fits and starts" over financing regarding the project, at times saying the funding was close to being settled, Williams said, but a building permit hasn't been requested.

Adventera President Patrick Smailey did not respond to requests for comment.

But project architect Tony Carrasco of Carrasco and Associates Architects said on Monday that developers are "still trying to get it financed."

The economic downturn caused the council in November 2009 to pass an ordinance that allows projects to extend an additional two years with approval from the planning director. Projects with a planned community or PC designation can receive a one-year extension from the planning director, but the following year would be at the discretion of the planning commission and council, Williams said.

Developers of planned-community projects must offer public benefits in exchange for taller or denser development, and the council might want to change the public benefits should the project take years to be built, he said.

The only other project that has asked for an extension is Ming's Hotel, east of U.S. Highway 101, Williams said. That project just received a recommendation for a one-year extension from planning commissioners and will be on the council's consent calendar for approval on April 8.

JJ&F owner Joe Khoury said the store is not making any money and the delay is affecting business.

"We don't know what is going on. We can't do much. We were promised the new place. I have called, but ... I don't get any answers," he said.

Khoury said there is garbage around the abandoned adjacent property and the roof leaks. The business is not getting customers to make money, he said.

"If it stays like that, we'll have to leave. We're wasting our time here," he said on Thursday, adding that when it comes to the redevelopment, "I don't think it's happening."

College Terrace neighborhood resident Doria Summa, who is a liaison for the neighborhood association with the city, said there are real concerns regarding the viability of JJ&F considering the shuttering of Miki's.

"If that grocery store failed, I don't know what grocery store wouldn't," she said.

Even years ago, under the ownership of the Garcia family, JJ&F appeared as though it would go out of business without the College Terrace Centre redevelopment, she said. The community's desire to maintain the grocery store there was the basis for allowing the oversized redevelopment, she said.

"If you have a project based on a private business, it would behoove the city to look into the viability of the business" before approving a plan, she said.

"With the recent information about Miki's and the planning commission and council saying they are really concerned about public benefits, I think this should be a warning sign," she said.

Summa said at the time when the projects were being considered some residents had asked the council to specify a second use if a grocery store proved not viable, but the council locked in the grocery-store use at Alma and College Terrace.

"In the case of Miki's and JJ&F, that could have been an important thing to do," she said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.