With the city's redeveloped Castro Street, the priming of for a facelift and talk about a , there's just one major challenge remaining—San Antonio Center.
In its , the shopping center was the place to buy attractive wares and helped fill city coffers. Over time, tenants and their tax dollars have drifted to nearby cities.
As part of Mountain View's General Plan update, the city is exploring ways to refresh the complex with housing and shops that face streets. The General Plan visioning report describes the new experience more as it would a downtown than a typical strip-shopping mall.
As the city developed concepts for a renewed San Antonio Center, a developer came forward with plans to redevelop a 16-acre slice of the 50-plus-acre site.
At first glance, the new project seems fresh and innovative. There's a main street design that bisects the project with a new greenway bordered by a mix of shops and housing. The architecture is characterized by earth-toned building materials populated with different textures and small-scale details.
However, when you look a little closer, the design doesn't look so great. First, the project frontage along El Camino Real will be inactive and dead. The storefronts are planned to face the interior parking lot, which directs all foot traffic away from El Camino Real.
While directing foot traffic away from El Camino Real may seem like a good idea today, the multi-city Grand Boulevard Initiative aims to transform El Camino Real into an active, walkable street. This type of transformation will not happen with strip-mall-style development proposed in this project.
Second, this project is located a quarter of a mile from VTA's future Bus Rapid Transit stop on El Camino Real and Showers Drive. With buses running every 10 minutes in dedicated lanes, this site is the perfect opportunity to create a place that encourages transit use and walkable access to El Camino Real.
Unfortunately, proposed single-story strip development fronts the major pedestrian links along El Camino Real to the new Bus Rapid Transit stop, rather than transit-supportive multi-use buildings.
Finally, this design will set a precedent for the redevelopment of the entire center.
Over the years, the center has grown in a fragmented fashion, because of its multiple property owners and lack of cohesive planning. If this project is built as designed, the developers, not Mountain View citizens, will define the accepted planning principles for future redevelopment.
If you're concerned about the current design, make your voice heard at the Environmental Planning Commission hearing for the project at City Hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m.