The Vanguard on Thursday met with representatives from Brixmor Property Group, the company that has owned the property since 2004. The development team made it clear their plans were to develop and redevelop this site, not develop and flip it.
They told the Vanguard that they have a significant pipeline of dollars committed to redeveloping centers – 470 properties in all, but they consider the University Mall their top property in the country for this type of redevelopment.
They explained that the CEO loves Davis, loves the university scene and proximity to the university, and they see this as an opportunity to do something special.
Right now they are preparing for their EIR Scoping Meeting, which they expect to take place before the end of the year. The EIR then could be ready by next summer to go forward to the Planning Commission and then could go to the council – if all goes as planned as soon as late next summer.
They see this as an opportunity “to enhance existing retail uses and add residential units to create a vibrant mixed-use development. The purpose of the project is to provide a shopping and residential environment that meets the needs of the local Davis community.”
The site currently is an 8.25 acre parcel with 103,696 square feet of commercial uses, including retail and restaurants. Tenants include Trader Joe’s market, Forever 21, Cost Plus World Market, The Davis Graduate restaurant and sports bar, and smaller shops and services. Professional offices are located on a partial second floor.
The developers made it clear once again that Trader Joe’s market, which is on a stand-alone pad, will stay and remain open throughout the redevelopment.
University Mall was constructed and opened in 1966.
In 1970, 20,000 square feet were added to the mall for Lawrence’s, a department store.
In the 1970s, The Graduate restaurant and sports bar was built and became the anchor restaurant for the center.
In 1984, the west portion of the mall building was added to house Safeway, and in 1999 the mall was renovated and some tenants relocated within the site.
Trader Joe’s was built in 2010. Over the years, many tenants have occupied spaces in the mall, including Pay n’ Save, Payless, Rite Aid, Gottschalk’s department store, Harvest Market, The Wherehouse, and several restaurants.
The redevelopment project will involve the “demolition of approximately 90,653 square feet of the existing mall to create a mixed-use development.” The project would result in 264 multi-family residential units and 136,800 square feet of new retail uses.
“The addition of 136,800 square feet of retail uses would accommodate shops, restaurants and other uses,” they write in their proposal. “The proposed improvements and uses would revitalize the center and expand shopping and dining options for local residents. At buildout, the project would include approximately 808,500 square feet.
“The existing building that houses the mall retail uses would be demolished and rebuilt to include four levels of residential units over three levels of parking and four levels of residential units over retail uses,” they write. The overall proposed building height would be seven stories or approximately 80 feet.
Brixmor’s goal is to design the project to “a LEED Gold equivalency with contemporary architectural elements. The design of the building will use energy efficient lighting and HV AC systems.”
A big new feature will be a lot more usable space outside. The current design has very limited outdoor space, reflecting the way buildings used to be designed. But that will change with the new design. “The redeveloped site landscaping will include outdoor seating and congregating areas, bicycle parking, plazas, and pedestrian connections among buildings,” they write.
On the residential site, one of the modifications they have made at the request of the city is more one- and two-bedroom apartments. While they continue to believe that students will want to live here, given the proximity to the university, the city wanted more smaller units to give the project flexibility.
“It will be open to everyone to rent,” the developers told the Vanguard. The plan is now for half the units to be one or two bedrooms. The size will range from 700 to 1800 square feet, with an average size of 1125 and a total of 894 beds.
The proposed project will create 693 parking spaces – 264 for residents and 429 for retail uses.
They write: “The 429 spaces for retail uses are planned for the first, second and third floors of the parking structure (229 spaces) and surface parking (200 spaces). The 429 spaces meet the shopping center community parking requirement of 3.5 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.”
The project will provide one parking space per residential unit. Bike parking is planned on the first level of the residential building and each floor of the garage. One bike parking space will be provided per bed. In addition, 124 garage and surface-level bicycle parking spaces are planned to serve the retail uses.
The current project design will support up to 30 individual retailers, depending on their individual space needs – similar to the mall’s current configuration.
Trader Joe’s will remain open during construction, but the expectation is that the current retailers will close their stores “shortly before the start of construction, which is tentatively set to start in the first quarter of 2020.”
The developers also explained that they plan to build the “outparcel builders first” which could allow “some retailers to relocate prior to the demolition of the mall.
“We value all of our existing tenants and their contributions to the community. All of our existing retailers will have the opportunity to be a part of this exciting new project,” they explained.
In terms of the residential units, they still expect, “Due to the project’s immediate proximity to the University of California, Davis campus, the residential element is primarily focused on student use.”
However, they explained they “will also welcome and include many options for non-students as well.” As mentioned, part of the plan will be to have half of the apartment units as one or two bedrooms. Furthermore, “We are currently considering offering leases both by unit and by the bed.”
As vertical mixed use, they will not be required to provide affordable housing. As they explain, “Because of the inordinately high cost of mixed-use construction, affordable units are not financially feasible. However, the project will include housing available by the bed.”
If all goes as well, “we anticipate opening the retail and residential portions of the project in the second quarter of 2022.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting