Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hamilton Marketplace is now (partly) open

I dropped by Hamilton Marketplace this afternoon and had a quick look at Marin's newest Safeway. The supermarket is the only part of the Marketplace that is open so far. It sits by itself at the southern end of the car park, alongside a Safeway gas station. The specialty shops and restaurants are located at the morthern side of the car park and are still being fitted out. Wells Fargo bank has its own building and looks ready to open. Peets Coffee & Tea is also nearly finished, and is scheduled to open tomorrow. The other units look like they need more work, and aren't likely to be open before the end of the month. These include a couple of eateries: Toast, La Boulange and Latina Grill, a phone shop and Pet Food Express.
The center is built in the popular mock-Tuscan style that you also see at Strawberry Village and the Town Center at Corte Madera. There's some nice attention to detail, such as the awnings, beams and cast iron streetlamps, but it's the architecture of the roofline, including the orange tiles and false turrets that really gives the center its character. But of course this is a retail center, which means that the architecture of the roofline is only there to show off the retailer's name. Contrast the Safeway storefront with the unfinished (and as-yet un-labeled) building opposite. A nice mess has been made of the front of the Safeway, with some rather ugly logos for US Bank and Safeway's pharmacy and cafe. As if this wasn't enough to bring the visual impact of the store down to the level of some of its neighbors, the Safeway store manager has also piled high several crates of sodas and watermellons at the front entrance.
Inside, the Safeway is big (55,000 sq.ft), with wide aisles and a large selection. It's Safeway's "Lifestyle" concept store, which has the wooden flors in the produce section, a full flower kiosk, pharmacy and the usual deli, bakery and meat & fish counters. The row of checkouts is book-ended by Starbucks and Jamba Juice kiosks, which get great exposure by being close to the entrance/exits. There's a cafe area near the entrance, which has sofa seating as well as tables and chairs.
The good news for safeway is that the store was buzzing, with plenty of local shoppers chcking out the new strore, and checking out with fully-loaded shopping carts. One strong advantage the store has is the gas station: today's customer special = 20c discount per gallon.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hamilton Marketplace nears completion

Grosvenor's 95,000 sq.ft Hamilton Marketplace is signing up more tenants as it nears completion. The neighborhood center will be anchored by a 55,000 sq.ft Safeway and supported by a range of local and chain retailers, including Peets Coffee, Jamba Juice and Wells Fargo. According to the IJ, three eateries have also signed up: Toast Cafe, La Boulange and Sonoma Latin Grill.

Meanwhile, across Highway 101, Pacheco Plaza is set to commence its redevelopment. The center's owners have received full planning permits to revive the tired mall, which is losing its anchor Safeway to the Hamilton development. No news yet on whether a replacement has been signed up, although the Pacheco Playhouse has been warned that it may be evicted in order to make way for a drugstore.

Northgate renovation underway

Anyone who has been to Northgate will have noticed a lot of the main mall is now boarded-off as the renovation work gets going. For those of you who haven't yet shared the vision, here's what to expect:
This re­imagined shopping destination will offer simple yet dramatic, light­filled spaces, an indoor-outdoor design to take advantage of the region's spectacular days, and a new connection with this one­of­a­kind local landscape. The result will feel like creative reuse of a reclaimed warehouse or a rediscovered industrial building ­­ think "Marin loft" ­ but rethought as a vibrant new shopping environment.

One new problem (or opportunity) for the developer to deal with is the uncertain future of Mervyn's, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month. If Mervyn's were to go, who would we want to replace them?

Corte Madera considers major expansion at The Village

As reported in the Marin IJ, the Town of Corte Madera is considering a major expansion at The Village, including an additional 185,000 sq.ft of retail space and 300 new homes. The expansion is one of the options being offered in the town's draft General Plan. The 2008 environmental impact report was recently published on the town's website.

Village, said the company has no immediate plans for expansion, "but it's important for us to have that flexibility in knowing what we could do down the road."

Macerich, owners of The Village, are known to be looking at expansion options, including an expansion of Nordstrom.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Costco expansion nears completion

The 30,000 sq.ft expansion of Vintage Oak's Costco is scheduled to be completed in August. According to the Novato Advance, the City is very excited to get its hands on the additional sales tax revenue that the expansion will bring. They estimate that this will amount to $150,000 each year; based on a sales tax rate of 0.75%, that means they expect the 30,000 sq.ft expansion to make $20m in annual sales, or $670 per square foot. I bet it does a lot better than that.
“The Costco project in its entirety will most likely be done by the end of August or early September, so that’s looking pretty promising,” said Kathy DeOchoa, general manager of Vintage Oaks. “We’re really excited to have it close to completed. It’s going to give people a great reason to come and stay, and shop in Novato, as well as in the shopping center, so we’re really excited to see them expand.”

The City will need every cent, given the current slowdown in consumer spending and the rocketing foreclosure rate in Novato.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Larkspur downtown

Larkspur is located on the eastern side of Mt Tamalpais and contains an historic retail and commercial downtown area centered on Magnolia Avenue.

The city is currently celebrating its 100th year and a series of improvements are planned for the downtown area. As the photos below show, there's a diverse mix of buildings in the town, reflecting both its early history as a small working town and more recent past as the center of an afluent neighborhood.

There's 50+ retail stores in the downtown area. Cafes & eateries are the most prominent category; home furnishings and womenswear boutiques are also well-represented, with the rest being a mix of local services.

Starting at the south end of the town, the Lark Creek Shops is a small strip of stores located beside the beautiful Lark Creek Inn and the redwoods of the Madrone Canyon. The buildings are in poor condition but there are some popular local businesses here, including the Lingerie Shoppe and Yankee Pier.

Next there's one of the city's newer additions: the very popular Picco restaurant and wine bar.
At the intersection of King and Magnolia is the historic City Hall building, north of which starts the main part of the downtown shopping strip.
Emporio Rulli is the cafe with the awesome pastries and cakes. There's also a wine bar and one of the few places with outside tables. Fabrizio is a highly-rated Italian restaurant. Left Bank is also always busy with its french-influenced menu. The town's watering hole is The Silver Peso, complete with shuffleboard.There are more eateries at the northern end of the town, including Burritoville, the Ward Street Cafe, sushi at the King of The Roll and Fukusuke and pizza at Cafe Lucano.The town has several signature boutiques, including Nicolette, Gala and Canvas
And Swing is a great kids clothing store. A few stores focus on home furnishings, ranging from the pricey custom-made furniture to everyday gifts/furnishings. Stores to note include Coquelicot, Susana, L'Ambiente and Country Gift Shop.
The Northern end of downtown is a mess, with poor quality developments arranged around surface parking lots. The Lucky supermarket is a second rate grocery store, just about good enough for essentials.
But the whole area could do with a serious makeover.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gene Hiller does it again

Everyone knows that Marin's most stylish men get themselves outfitted at Gene Hiller in Sausalito. The purveyor of Italian fashion has picked up another marketing bonus by being named in Forbes magazine's top ten best clothing stores for men.

But guys, before you all rush out to get measured up for the latest Brioni or Pal Zileri, be warned that not everyone can carry off this kinda look.

Robert Redford coming to Marin

Yea, the first Sundance store outside of Colorado is set to open at the Village at Corte Madera. Based on the movie star's catalog business, the store will offer apparel, jewelry and home-decor.

For a visual clue, here's a shot of RR's Sundance store in Lone Tree, CO:
If Sundance doesn't satisfy the insatiable Marin appetite for throw rugs, do not fear, more will be available when Shabby Chic opens in the adjacent unit.

Shabby Chic founder, Rachel Ashwell, provides this insight about what to expect:
"For me, the secret to living well is to surround myself with beautiful things that are practical and deliciously comfortable. My designs are inspired by flea market finds and the appeal of sensible living. Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic is the marriage of my English heritage with the fresh and eclectic qualities of my California lifestyle."
Ladies and Gentlemen, get your wallets out.

New mixed-use project planned for downtown Novato

Caitlin Properties is proposing the redevelopment of a vacant bank building in downtown Novato to include 10,000 sq.ft of retail space and either office or residential condos above.

The development would be another great step in the revitalization of the downtown area, and might include outside dining areas.

According to the North Bay Business Journal, a City Design Review Board public workshop on the proposal could come as soon as next month.

Read the full story here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Waiting for Whole Foods...

The IJ reports on the long long wait for Whole Foods to open their new store at the Alto Center in Mill Valley. WF claim they are simply going through the required permitting phase, but you can't help but wonder whether they are deliberately dragging their feet.
The delay has fueled rumors that Whole Foods leased the space to keep Trader Joe's out of Mill Valley. An existing Whole Foods outlet does a bustling business about two miles away at 414 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley. Kathy Severson, executive officer for the city's Chamber of Commerce, said she couldn't comment on such speculation, but "I do know that the Miller Avenue Whole Foods is considered a very high-volume store for its size."

Enough said.

The return of Crate and Barrel

Everybody cheer: Crate and Barrel is coming to the Town Center at Corte Madera. A year after closing it's store at the Village, the popular homeware retailer is taking over 8,000 sq.ft at the TC, with Z Gallerie shifting into the ex-Bombay space at the center.

A C&B spokesperson gushes:
"The customers have a sense of taste, style and trends, which is what Crate
& Barrel is all about," Everhart said. "Our furnishings, tabletop and
accessories reflect the lifestyle that is associated with Marin residents."

Read the full story in the IJ here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Woodlands Market to open in Tiburon

The Belvedere Land Company has stirred sleepy Tiburon into life by announcing that the Woodlands Market will take the place of the Boardwalk Market when the grocer's lease runs out in 2011. According to the Martin IJ:
Jeanne Fitzgerald, who has operated the Boardwalk at 1550 Tiburon Blvd. since 1985, said Jim Allen, president of the Belvedere Land Co., phoned her in February to tell her of the decision. "They didn't negotiate with me at all," Fitzgerald said. "I asked them why not, and he said he wasn't talking to anyone but Woodlands."

Also heading out is the Bayside Garden Center, while other tenants are being told that leases will not be renewed beyond 2010. All of which suggests a major overhaul of the center is on the cards.

Read the full story here, including some biting remarks in the comments section.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fourth Street, San Rafael

Downtown San Rafael has the honor of being the largest main street retail location in Marin County. Fourth Street is the commercial and retail heart of the city and contains an eclectic mix of retail stores, eateries and services, together with civic, cultural and entertainment uses. The retail profile of the downtown area is diverse and constantly changing. Fourth Street provides the start-up retailer with a decent amount of pedestrian traffic at rents that are reasonable by Marin standards. Some retailers get the right recipe and survive, while others fail. The downside to Fourth Street is that it can be a bit sleazy, mostly at the eastern end near the freeway and the bus station. Fast food restaurants and Hispanic convenience stores cluster around this end of the street. Think seedy bars, tattoo artists and “massage” parlors, clustered along Fourth and the adjacent side streets and on the upper levels above the stores. There is plenty of (metered) car parking, both on-street and in a couple of garage structures on the south side.
At "A" street is Courthouse Square, where two large office buildings are set back from the road behind a grassy square. Next to the square is San Rafael Town Center, which includes a 5-storey apartment and office development that was built around two years ago. It also has restaurants on the street level set around an outdoor area called the City Plaza. This area seems to be the busiest part of the strip, although there are still a few vacant stores on either side of the street. Further west the vibe changes. There are restaurants, some with outside seating, a few boutiques, antiques and home furnishing stores. It’s almost genteel. Many shoppers on Fourth Street are local residents and workers. Others visitors come from elsewhere in Marin to shop at specific well-known stores, such as Scandinavian Designs or the Bike Shop. I’m guessing that there are quite a few browsers as well. If you haven’t been there for a while, I would recommend a visit. There are many independent stores that you won’t find elsewhere in Marin. I didn’t have enough time on my visit to go in all the stores, so I’ll be heading back soon. This time I’ll schedule my visit around lunchtime to sample a meal at one of the restaurants.