Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tesco to Locate Fresh & Easy Store in Palo Alto, California; it's First in the City and SF Bay Area Store Number 22 By Our Reporting

Pictured above in one of the large pedestrian plaza's in downtown Palo Alto. Nearly all of the stores and shops downtown have awnings and other attractive facade enhancements likes those pictured above, in part because Palo Alto has some of the strictest urban design regulations and laws in the United States. The Edgewood center development, to include the Fresh & Easy market, isn't downtown. However, Palo Alto's strict design regulations extend beyond the downtown core to the entire city.

Upcoming New Markets News: Northern California - San Francisco Bay Area

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will locate one of its small-format, convenience-oriented combination grocery and fresh foods markets in the Edgewood Plaza shopping center in Palo Alto, California, which is set be redeveloped by Sand Hill Property Company, a local commercial and residential real estate development firm.

Palo Alto, which is home to Stanford University and is in the center of Northern California's famed Silicon Valley, is located on the Bay Area's Peninsula about midway between San Francisco and San Jose. The city currently has a population of about 59,000.

Sand Hill Property Company announced the Fresh & Easy store would serve as the retail anchor of the to be revitalized center in a letter to neighborhood residents and others earlier this week.

The Fresh & Easy market, which will be about 14,000 square feet according to the letter from the developer (which means a little less than 13,000 square feet of retail selling space), will be joined in the center by a drug store (likely a Walgreens) and various smaller retail stores, shops and a cafe, according to the developer.

The developer also is planning to include 24 two-store single family homes as part of its revitalization of the older Edgewood shopping center, making it a commercial/residential mixed-use center.

When it comes to new or revitalized developments of any kind, the residents of Palo Alto and its various neighborhoods tend to be a very active group of citizens and community residents. The city has some of the strictest commercial and neighborhood planning regulations in the United States and is considered one of the leaders in the "new urbanism" planning movement which places an emphasis on designing cities and neighborhoods around the pedestrian, among other principles. It's all about scale.

For example, downtown Palo Alto is designed for pedestrians and bicyclists rather than automobiles, although Main Street (University Avenue) and the rest of downtown is packed daily with cars, both moving and parked on the streets and in downtown parking garages.

The city's Main Street is narrow and the sidewalks wide. Their are bicycle paths along both sides. Downtown businesses, and those outside of downtown, are required to follow a strict set of design guidlines including how the facade of the buildings their businesses are in look.

There are benches, plazas and planters throughout downtown, along with bus stops for the city's extensive public transporation system it operates in partnership with Stanford University. The city's Main Street in fact is called University Avenue and at one end it runs right into the Stanford campus.

Think of a ideal version of an urban village downtown and you are close to what downtown Palo Alto looks like.

According to a Palo Alto resident who is a regular reader of Fresh & Easy Buzz, the revitalization of the Edgewood shopping center has already drawn extensive interest from residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the development, including the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood. The project also has drawn considerable interest from historic preservationists and others in Palo Alto.

The Edgewood center is what is called an Eichler-design. Joseph Eichler was an architect who designed numerous houses and commercial buldings in Palo Alto and the surrounding area. His work is prized and considered of historic significance in the region.

Their are many Eichler-designed and even Eichler-inspired commercial bulldings and residences Palo Alto and the surroounding Peninsula area that have been restored to their original look. In fact, an Eichler-designed and restored house in Palo Alto can be sold for a substantial premium over the already high housing prices in the city. A million (non-Eichler-designed) home in Palo Alto is considered about average, for example.

Historic preservationists and others in Palo Alto have called for the San Hill Property Company, the Edgewood center's developer, to restore the center to its original Eichler-style design. A group of historic preservationists plan to appeal the current design scheme the development company has for remodeling the center. That design doesn't call for restoring the historic Eichler design.

Additionally, a group of neighborhood residents has filed a lawsuit against the developer, seeking to block Sand Hill Property Company from including the 24 two-story single family homes in its revitalization plan for Edgewood shopping center. The center currently is a commercial-only venuw. Sand Hill wants to turn it into a mixed use residential and commercial center.

The Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission will discuss the environmental review process for the project at its meeting tonight at 6pm in the Council Chambers at Palo Alto City Hall at 250 Hamilton Ave.

Additionally, Sand Hill Property Company says it will be presenting its preliminary plans for the Edewood center redevelopment, including the Fresh & Easy grocery store, to city and neighborhood residents at a city-moderated meeting on Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bayshore Ballroom at the Palo Alto Golf Course, 1875 Embarcadero Road.

Since Palo Alto has among the strictest design review and citizen appeal processes in the U.S., we expect that review process, along with the fact a lawsuit has been filed, to take a considerable amount of time. It also wouldn't be a surprise if the center, along with the Fresh & Easy grocery store and other retail stores, end up looking far different than the developer's current design plan indicates.

In California a development or redevelopment like the Edgewood center must first pass a city's planning commission with a majority vote. Changes can be made to the development throughout this process. In Palo Alto citizens can appeal a project's design at any stage along the process. They also can file lawsuits before (like the neighborhood group already has) and during the planning commission review process.

Once the planning commission approves a project it still must be approved by the city council. City residents also can appeal the development during this period.

'Green' city

Palo Alto is among the "greenest' or most environmentally proactive cities in California, the United States and globally.

This policy extends to retaile stores in the city.

For example, Palo Alto has passed a municiple law that will charge shoppers for every single-use plastic carrier bag they request at food and other retail stores in the city.

However, the city has held up enacting the law, which was to be implemented in late April of this year, because a group of grocers that operate supermarkets in Palo Alto, including Safeway Stores, Inc., met with city representatives earlier this year and requested they would like to see paper grocery sacks as well as plastic bags have the fee. The grocers said they support the city law but want paper added because those like Safeway and local chain Mollie Stone said the use of paper bags has soared in their stores in San Francisco since the city enacted its plastic bag ban law in the summer of 2007.

The city of Palo Alto says it plans to enact the bag fee law before the year is out, either including paper grocery sacks or leaving it just the way it is with consumers getting the paper bags for free at retail stroes but having to pay a fee for each single-use plastic bag they request.

Since Fresh & Easy stores offer only free single-use plastic bags and not the free paper option like every other supermarket in Palo Alto does, it should be interesting to see how the grocery chain handles doing business in the city if the bag fee law to be enacted soon by the city of Palo Alto doesn't include a fee on the paper bags along with the plastic, which we're told likely will be the case.

Fresh & Easy stores sell reusable grocery bags to consumers, including a plastic-like synthetic "Bag for life" for 20-cents each which the grocer says it will replace for free when it wears out, along with a more expensive canvas bag.

All supermarkets over a certain size in California are required to sell reusable shopping bags under legislation enacted in 2007.

Those supermarkets also are required under the same law to place recycling bins in the stores so customers can return single-use plastic bags to the stores to be recycled by the retailer.

California supermarkets aren't required by law to accept paper grocery sacks for recycling. However nearly all of the state's chains and major independents have policies which pay shoppers five -to- 10-cents per paper grocery bag for each bag they return to the store.

Most California cities have curbside recycling programs in which residents can dispose of the paper grocery bags to be recycled. Few if any of these cities curbside recycling programs except single-use plastic bags, which is one reason the state passed the law last year requiring supermarkets to except the bags and pay to have them recycled. The state's supermarket industry supported the law through the California Grocers Association trade group.

A bill was before the California Legislature this year that would have enacted a 25-cent per bag fee statewide at supermarkets on both plastic and paper bags.

The California Grocers Association supported that bill after the paper sacks were added to what was originally only a per-bag fee on plastic. However, because the state was so late in passing budget legislation this year (over three months late) that and numerous other bills were not coted on in this year's session of the legislature. Therefore no statewide bag fee law will be enacted this year of early next year in California.

First Fresh & Easy for Palo Alto

The Palo Alto location is the first for Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in that San Francisco Bay Area city.

The retailer has thus far confirmed it will open 18 Fresh & Easy markets in the Bay Area beginning next year.

Below are those 18 Tesco-confirmed Bay Area Fresh & Easy locations:

>Antioch: Somersville & Buchanan roads; Lone Tree & Golf Course
>Concord: Clayton & Ygnacio Valley roads
>Danville: Diablo Road & Interstate 680
>Fairfield: Beck Avenue & West Texas Street
>Hayward: Mission Boulevard & Rousseau Street; A Street & Hesperian Boulevard
>Mountain View: Middlefield Road & Rengstorff Avenue
>Napa: Jefferson Street & Imola Avenue
>Oakland: 73rd & Bancroft avenues
>Oakley: Laurel Road & Ohara Avenue
>San Francisco: Third Street & Carroll Avenue; Silver Avenue & Goettingen Street
>San Jose: Bird & Minnesota avenues; Almaden Road & Curtner Avenue
>Sunnyvale: Tasman Drive & Fair Oaks Avenue>Vallejo: Oakwood Avenue & Springs Road
>Walnut Creek: Ygnacio Valley Road & San Carlos Drive

Mountain View and Sunnyvale are located just a few miles from Palo Alto on the Peninsula.

Fresh & Easy Buzz has located three additional San Francisco Bay Area store locations in our reporting, for a total of 21 Fresh & Easy stores in the Northern California region thus far prior to Plao Alto. Those locations are: two in Vallejo and one in Pacifica. One of the grocery chain's 18 confirmed locations listed above is in Vallejo. But the two we've discovered and reported on are in addition to that Vallejo stoe. There are three thus far in the city.

Adding the Palo Alto store, we can now confirm 22 Fresh & Easy locations thus far for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tesco continues to look for additional Fresh & Easy store locations in the San Francisco bay Area.

We've also reported the retailer will open a store in Seaside, which is in Northern California's south coast region, in 2009. Seaside is next door to Monterey and about 60-70 miles south of San Jose.

Additionally, Fresh & Easy has confirmed it will open 19 stores in the Sacramento/Vacaville region of Northern California beginning next year. The region neighbors the Bay Area. For example, Sacramento is less than a 90 minute drive from the East Bay Area city of Berkeley. Vacaville is about an hour from Berkeley and about 30 minutes from Sacramento.

In addition to the 19 Fresh & Easy stores in the region confirmed by the company, Fresh & Easy Buzz has discovered two additional stores in its reporting: one in Suisun City and another in Farfield. One of the 19 stores confirmed by Fresh & Easy is in Fairfield. The one we reported on is a second store yet to be confirmed by the grocer.

Tesco is continuing to search for additional new Fresh & Easy store sites in the Sacramento/Vacaville market region.

Lastly, we've reported Fresh & Easy plans to open a store in Modesto in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. That store also is set to open next year. Modesto is about an hour from Sacramento and an hour from the the East Bay Area.

Tesco is locating its Northern California distribution center in Stockton, which is located about 35 miles from Modesto in the San Joaquin Valley. The grocer is looking for new store sites throughout that region, from Modesto to Stockton, including in the cities of Manteca and Tracy. Stockton is about 45 miles from Sacramento and about a 45 minute drive to the Easy Bay Area.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy knocked on Palo Alto's door

In this June 12, 2008 story in Fresh & Easy Buzz, "Upcoming New Markets Special Report: Upscale Palo Alto, California is Laying Out the Welcoming Mat to Grocers: Will Fresh & Easy Knock On the Door? we asked the question if Tesco's Fresh & Easy would answer the call from the city of Palo Alto for new grocers to come to down, as you can read in the piece at the headline link above.

In the story we suggested Tesco's Fresh & Easy would do just that, eventually locating a store in the city. The grocery chain now is doing that less than five months later with its plans to locate its first Fresh & Easy market in Palo Alto in the Egdewood center as the retail anchor in San Hill Property Company's redeveopment project.

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