Slightly Modified U-Mall Redevelopment Plan Will Head to EIR Scoping Meeting Soon

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Howard P

    We need a “Measure N” (for no!).  We need a public vote to affirm/deny ANY land use decision that involves residential or any commercial change in use.

    Whether peripheral to, or in, the City… once we enact that, we can implement an ordinance to regulate any building permit, no matter what type of permit is sought.

    An ideas whose time has come… strengthens Measure J/R!!!

    1. Ron

      Howard:  “Whether peripheral to, or in, the City… once we enact that, we can implement an ordinance to regulate any building permit, no matter what type of permit is sought.”

      All cities already have this, with the possible exception of Houston.  It’s called zoning and planning.  It’s part of living in a society.  You can’t just do whatever you want with a property.

      Seems like this one is already starting to morph into yet another megadorm  (apparently half will be more than 2 bedrooms, there’s plans to “rent-by-the-bed”, and there’s no Affordable housing planned, per the article).

      The city of Davis seems to function as a rubber-stamp for these things, regardless. So, you ought to be happy about that.

      Man, that intersection at Russell and Sycamore is already challenging. Guess that Trader Joe’s is essentially off-limits to everyone except students living in or near this thing.

      1. Jeff M

        Conditional use permits are the norm.  Exceptions are the norm.  Very few municipalities expect their zoning to become absolute.  There are always planning commissions and staff and city council and plenty of protocol to get public opinion.  But if a proposed project is good for the community, it should always be considered even if outside of zoning restrictions.  This is true with any plan that is meant to cover time-forward.  To be effective they should be considered only a roadmap, not a book of faith.

      2. Howard P

        The city of Davis seems to function as a rubber-stamp for these things, regardless. So, you ought to be happy about that.

        No edit?  Whatever…

        All posters and their posts are equal, but some are more equal than others…

        Not a criticism, but fact… it is what it is…

    2. Ron

      Per the article – up to 1,800 square feet in size for the apartment units, with an average size of 1,125 square feet!

      I guess no one needs to “downsize” to this development!

      One thing for sure – the retail mall will no longer be targeted toward existing Davis customers. This development is a self-contained city!

      Not seeing how many floors these buildings have. 7?

      “Shortage” of student housing my arse! At this point, UCD might be better-off paying the city a couple of million or so, to not build anything on campus.

      1. David Greenwald

        “the retail mall will no longer be targeted toward existing Davis customers”

        Interesting comment. Given that the big draws include Forever 21, Starbucks and the Graduate, who exactly are the existing customers that will be turned away?

        1. Ron

          Me, for one.  World Market and Trader’s Joe’s.  I already find it challenging to negotiate that intersection (Russell/Sycamore) and parking lot. Whether or not Trader Joe’s stays open during construction, I’ll probably totally abandon it now.

          The intersection will become more impacted for non-customers, as well. Russell is a major thoroughfare.

          Really, a public bike/pedestrian overpass is needed (from this property to UCD). Now that they’re redeveloping the entire site, perhaps this is the time to include it. Get rid of (change) that crazy traffic light, at Russell/Sycamore.

          1. David Greenwald

            Trader Joe’s won’t be touched and my guess is World Market will return to their spot.

        2. Ron

          Again, I’ll probably stay away, even if it remains open during construction. Afterward, as well.

          But, this reminds me of the argument regarding downtown redevelopment.  The argument is something along the lines of “not enough” customers to patronize existing businesess (despite a growing city).  So, let’s “add” more customers directly downtown, and make it a self-contained city.  Let’s not even try to have it serve the city at large, anymore.

          The purpose gets lost along the way.

          In any case, I hope they explore a public bike/pedestrian overpass, here.  They’ve got room for it, although the best spot is probably right where Trader Joe’s is.


          1. David Greenwald

            I think Trader Joe’s does pretty good business, but the rest of the mall is somewhat lacking. I’ve always seen it as under-utilized. A lot of businesses have come and gone.

        3. Ron

          That would speak to the demand for retail businesses, in general.

          I do think that it makes sense for this mall to be redeveloped, and to include housing (due to its proximity to UCD).  But, the city needs to ensure that it’s done correctly (something that’s been lacking, lately). It’s been nothing but megadorms, for the most part. And this seems to be morphing into another one (with no Affordable housing, at that).

          How’s that bicycle/pedestrian overpass coming along from Olive to downtown?  Or, the one at the Cannery?  🙂

          1. David Greenwald

            Cannery well under construction for the last few months. Olive Drive one has DA funds and city grant application submitted to SACOG a few months ago and awaiting decision

            Davis Live got community enhancement funds to help pay for a Russell Blvd corridor plan and have $500k towards same in the UCD MOU. Coupled with the Anderson Road corridor plan currently underway the city has lots of eyes and attention on the Sycamore/Russell/Anderson area.

        4. Ron

          Thanks.  Some of that does sound positive.

          Are there any links that you’re aware of, showing what the plan is for the Russell Blvd. corridor?

          (I was starting to think that perhaps no one would even notice, if future picnic day revelers block the street.) 🙂

  2. James R

    This is an exciting project and something I’m happy to support. It’s no surprise Davis needs more housing, and I love that they’re taking a mixed use concept with this. Anyone who shops at UMall knows the transportation network on the property is also a mess right now, so the inclusion of a garage and additional bike parking is commendable.

    Best of all, since it’s not eating up peripheral development, the traditional no-growthers shouldn’t have qualms with this. Densifying, increasing the tax basis for the city, providing housing…seems like a no-brainer to me.

    1. Ron

      Keith, the article itself is practically an advertisement!  😉

      “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.”

      Uh, huh.

      Decided to do another quick search, regarding the slowdown in the housing market.  Here’s an article from a couple years ago, noting that the “seeds had already been planted”:

      Here’s another one, from yesterday:’-housing-booms-at-risk-of-collapse/ar-BBOWVai?ocid=spartandhp

      1. David Greenwald

        “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.”

        They were explaining why this project was given priority by Brixmor.

      2. Ron

        Which, of course, might not be the primary rea$on. (Nothing particularly wrong with repeating what they told you, but it’s not any kind of analysis. However, repeating it does take on a tone of advocacy, and adds no useful information.) But, as they say, it’s your blog.

    1. David Greenwald

      “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.”

      1. Ron

        Thanks.  Any other modifications?

        One reason I brought up the slowdown in the housing market is because it can (honestly) impact “penciling out” of a proposal, as interest rates rise and rents soften.

        And, when that occurs, developers will seek ways to reduce costs (e.g., by not including Affordable housing, lobbying for a reduction in fees, higher-density and more stories, etc.).  And, the city can end up shouldering the impacts of a sub-par development.

        If you don’t mind, can you list all of the proposed rental developments (primarily aimed at the student market) in the city, and on campus?  Including the total number of new residents expected (that these developments will house), in the city, and on campus?

        At this point, how by how much does the planned, cumulative total of new beds exceed planned enrollment growth?

        Davis is going to be a very different city, in a few short years from now. Much more dense/impacted, and even more dominated by two population groups – students, and senior citizens. Neither of which spend much, in the city. And without much corresponding commercial development to speak of.

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t think anyone is viewing Davis through the eyes of a housing slowdown expectation. Davis has tended to weather ups and downs in the markets better than most, it has an internal demand generator, and pent up housing demand that will carry it through. Construction costs are very high right now, that’s what I understand to be the biggest factor in cost escalation along with demand.

        2. Ron

          Yes, Davis is not as impacted by either downturns, or upturns. (Compared to the roller-coaster market of other valley cities, at least.) One of the advantages of not letting developers and the fluctuations in market demand (totally) control planning decisions, as occurs elsewhere.

          Not sure if you saw this question:

          At this point, by how much does the planned, cumulative total of new beds (in the city, and on campus) exceed planned enrollment growth?

        3. Ron

          In other words, if you could list each proposed (or approved) development oriented toward the student rental market in Davis or on campus (including the number of beds in each – as you’ve done several times in the past), it would be helpful.

          And then, compare the cumulative total of planned beds to the planned enrollment growth (as you’ve also done in the past).

          This might provide help to provide some perspective, regarding what the city’s “needs” actually are, at this point.

        4. David Greenwald

          I can’t post that right now.  But what I would say is that a big factor in the housing crisis is that the status quo for housing is not a good situation.  The hope with the combination of 9050 beds (on campus) and currently about 4000 beds (off campus) is to meet the enrollment growth needs while also alleviating the current crunch.

        5. Ron

          O.K. – I assume you’re not in a position to access that information.

          Just wondering if the 4,000 beds includes all of the developments, including the latest proposals (e.g., Plaza 2555, University Mall, etc.).

          And, how all of this (including the planned 9,050 beds on campus) compares to the planned enrollment increases.

        6. Howard P

          With all the questions you want answered by others (routinely), to meet your desires (so you can poke holes to make your points)… you want fries with that?

        7. Ron

          Howard:  I am sorry that you’re not interested in such questions, but are somehow interested enough to make comments like that.

          Maybe you care less about the city, and more about attacking those who pose such questions.

          Seems to me that after years of the Vanguard discussing the housing shortage for students, a comparison regarding the amount of student-oriented housing approved or pending on campus and the city (compared to the amount of planned enrollment increases) is a good question to ask, at this point.

  3. Ron

    Regarding the lack of Affordable housing for this proposal (on an 8.25 acre infill site, with built-in shopping options), I seem to recall that another developer stated that there was “no place else” for some seniors on a waiting list to go – other than on a sprawling peripheral development.

    I must have been dreaming.

    1. Don Shor

      Regarding the lack of Affordable housing for this proposal (on an 8.25 acre infill site, with built-in shopping options), I seem to recall that another developer stated that there was “no place else” for some seniors on a waiting list to go – other than on a sprawling peripheral development.

      I must have been dreaming.

      You want affordable senior housing upstairs at the University Mall?

      1. Ron

        There is an invention called elevators.  Hell, hospitals (with completely immobile patients) have them.

        Mostly, just noting that there are other locations in Davis and the region, where 150 or so Affordable senior units might be located.  Including on an 8.25-acre site infill site, with built-in shopping options.

        Suggesting that sprawl is the only way to achieve this is rather disingenuous. In fact, developments for seniors might be more appropriate as infill, rather than on the edge of the city.

  4. Howard P

    Ron… respectfully suggest you attend the scoping meeting… ask all the questions you wish… if you don’t comment or ask questions during the scoping period, well…

    1. Ron

      That is a fine suggestion.  But, as you’ve noted yourself, the EIR is not necessarily a vehicle to consider all options (other than the identified ones).  Nor does it concern matters such as fiscal impacts, other needs (such as Affordable housing), how much student housing is actually needed, when compared to other housing or commercial options, etc.

      For example, how much additional student housing is “enough”, given the planned enrollment increases? Compared to “other” needs?

      Is 15,000 more beds (give or take) in the city, and on campus “enough”, at this point?

      1. Howard P

        I ignore your questions… because they aren’t… they mask the answers you have in the form of a question to others.  Why not just state your opinion/conclusions… would be more honest…

        1. Ron

          Seems to me that you don’t “ignore” them.

          However, there are times that I ask questions to which the answer seems self-evident.  Such as, is 15,000 more student beds (in the city and on-campus) “enough”, to handle planned enrollment increases?

  5. Todd Edelman

    No money for low-income housing but plenty for parking, and it’s apparently not unbundled? Consider all the retail parking that will be empty much of the time.
    I suggest the community demands a reasonable percentage of low-income housing for this site, and builds it instead of parking… i.e. for a similar price.
    Look at Davis Live done the street: Students are provided with very little parking. There’s no reason at all to do one space per unit here.
    Unbundle the remaining parking and make as much as possible dual-use, i.e for retail during the day and residential at night. Make all the parking convertible to other use.
    For the bike parking on multiple levels, it’s not clear if they want bikes to use the ramps — that seems like a bad idea.

  6. Richard C

    …and a total of 894 beds.
    The proposed project will create 693 parking spaces – 264 for residents and 429 for retail uses.

    It seems to me that there are not nearly enough parking spaces for the number of residents.  with 894 beds, there will clearly be more than 264 cars owned by the residents. There also needs to be some visitor parking for visiting friends and relatives of the residents. This will result in many of the residents needing to park their cars in the surrounding neighborhoods. We can anticipate that this the neighborhood residents demanding limiting on street parking.  Then where are all the U-Mall residents who don’t have a parking space going to park?

      1. Richard C

        …where are the shoppers who visit the mall going to park if the residents end up parking their cars in the 429 retail spots?

        You are correct that residents will be trying to use the retail spots. The retail spots will most likely have a time limit (probably 2 hours), so any residents or visitors who park in these spots will need to move their cars after 2 hours.

        I expect that it will be extremely difficult to find parking spaces, especially in the afternoon and evening hours when lots of people go shopping and go out to eat.

        I do expect that the lack of sufficient parking at U-Mall will result in many more people parking on-street in the surrounding neighborhoods.

        1. Richard C

          30% parking is the standard parking allotment that they are building these days.  That’s based on actual data

          Yes, I understand that is the “standard parking allotment”.  As far as the “actual data”, it seems to me from personal observation that the 30% figure is much too low for Davis. I see many apartment complexes around town where there are not enough on site parking spaces which results in many cars being parked on streets around the complex.

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t really agree with you that 30 percent is too low. I’ve noticed over the years we’ve had the court watch program that a far larger percentage of students do not have cars than did even ten years ago. Those with cars will simply need to live further from campus where the parking lots are larger.

        2. Richard C

          I don’t really agree with you that 30 percent is too low.

          I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.  As I said, from my personal observation of many of the apartment complexes around town, there are not enough parking spots provided for the residents and their visitors which results in many cars parking on-street in the surrounding areas.

    1. David Greenwald

      As with other projects, if you have a car, you’ll need to live elsewhere.  It does probably ensure that more students live there as they won’t need a car to go across the street to the university.

      1. Howard P

        Nah… that’s too logical… was a UCD student for 4.7 years… never had a car.  And I lived a mile + away from campus for a year.  Lived just north of U-Mall for a year, too… no car.

        1. Ron

          I’d like to see the methodology for that study.  Does it include those who live on campus, for example? Do they have visitors who have cars? Do they use Uber?

          And, isn’t this development supposed to be for non-students, as well?

          1. David Greenwald

            You’ve seen it many many times. They calculate car ridership by distance from campus and carownership as well.

            “And, isn’t this development supposed to be for non-students, as well?”

            They’ve designed it to have smaller apartments in half. Interestingly enough resolves the car issue as well. Because it’s one car per unit and therefore smaller apartments have a higher percentage of cars to rooms.

        2. Ron

          I have not seen the methodology for the study that you’re referring to.  Is it a self-reported survey?  What percentage responded?  Does it include students who live on campus?

          Also, do these students “use” parking in other ways (e.g., for their visitors, or for Zip cars, etc.)?

          1. David Greenwald

            Bloody hell Ron, look this s–t up. It’s been posted a million times here. I’m done.

  7. Ron

    Richard C. and Keith bring up good points, regarding parking.

    Minimum parking requirements aren’t necessarily for the benefit of the new residents.  They exist to ensure that surrounding neighborhoods aren’t unnecessarily impacted by new residents and their visitors.

    There is also an unsupported assumption by some that eliminating parking requirements also eliminates cars and driving. Eliminating parking requirements can also allow even more density (and more traffic and parking impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and the city, itself). (By the way, services such as “Uber” still counts as “driving”, and uses the same streets as everyone else.)

    Regarding parking for existing businesses, there is no plan that I’m aware of to ensure that parking for these businesses will not be taken by residents or their visitors.  However, as I noted earlier, it seems that the primary customers of the businesses in the redeveloped mall may no longer be those who live outside of the development (or the immediate surrounding area).  (I’ve already started avoiding the mall myself, due to difficulties in parking and traffic.  Even though I’d otherwise love to shop at Trader Joe’s and World Market, for example.) In some ways, this is very similar to the “plan” that some are pushing for downtown. (Including the lack of Affordable housing, as well.)

    1. Don Shor

      there is no plan that I’m aware of to ensure that parking for these businesses will not be taken by residents or their visitors.

      It’s a privately owned parking lot. Parking restrictions can be enforced by the property owner.

        1. Ron

          David: That has nothing to do with the example discussed (where existing residents and their visitors take spaces supposedly reserved for businesses). They wouldn’t be going to the ARC.

          In any case, I wonder if your example occurs now, regardless.  Do you think everyone gets caught?

          In either situation, what if they duck into a store for a couple of minutes first, for example?

          1. Don Shor

            With a retail component, the property owners are strongly incentivized to enforce parking restrictions if they wish to keep their retail tenants happy. Private property owners can readily enforce parking restrictions.

          2. David Greenwald

            You didn’t really understand my point Ron. My point was that the current parking lot enforces parking so that students don’t park at the retail and walk to the campus. Just as they in the future enforce it so that people don’t park at the retail and go to the apartment.

    2. Ron

      The “seven-story” buildings might set a precedent, as well.  That is, if Davis Live hasn’t already done so. Strange, how UCD couldn’t find a way to go that high for its planned student housing.

      1. Todd Edelman

        Parking is nice.
        Housing is nicer.
        I can’t believe people are – again – arguing for more parking in the same footprint where there will be no low-income housing.

        Let’s be honest, folks. Parking lots need to be paid, with revenues used by the City to compensate for the impacts of cars that get driven to them. It can be modest, and on top of a 90 minute or two hour limit, so it doesn’t drive people elsewhere.

        1. Ron

          I don’t agree that Affordable housing would necessarily be in the “same footprint” as parking.

          This is still (supposedly) including a retail mall.

          If I’m not mistaken, you recently noted an example in your neighborhood, in which students were having a party (and many attendees arrived in cars).  (I don’t recall the details of that post, but it seemed to me that you acknowledged the reality of what actually occurs, in that example.)

          The bottom line is that eliminating parking does not necessarily eliminate cars.  And, parking requirements are put in place to protect existing/surrounding residences and businesses.  It’s not for the convenience of the new residents, themselves.

          Parking minimums are a reflection of reality, vs. an unrealistic “goal”.  And unfortunately, they are being watered down by development interests and their allies, who don’t necessarily care one bit about the impact on existing residents or businesses.  In fact, this puts the costs and impacts on existing neighborhoods, rather than on the developers who create the problem. (And, it does not mean that the eliminated spots would be “replaced” with Affordable housing.) In fact, development interests would generally prefer to eliminate both (parking, and Affordable housing).

  8. Richard McCann

    When I heard this mall had been sold, I talked with Diane Parro about the Mall’s parking lot being the most underdeveloped valuable parcel in the City. This proposal is even more ambitious than I expected.

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