Saranap Village Plans Updated;
2017 Completion Date Targeted
APRIL 24—Revised plans for Saranap Village submitted to the county by the developer in February include a substantial reduction in the number of residential units since the project was unveiled last April and the addition of 18,000 square feet of “nonresidential” space since October. Three-quarters of the new space would be devoted to a “boutique” fitness center with an outdoor lap pool that wasn’t part of the original plan.
Current plans differ in a number of ways from plans outlined by the developer a year ago – new features have been added and existing features altered. Such changes are typical in developments of this type, which tend to evolve right up until the time of construction. The revised plans reflect the work of the new architectural firm hired last summer, MBH Architects of Alameda.
The developer, Hall Equities Group (HEG) of Walnut Creek, has signed a letter of intent with a Bay Area specialty coffee company to operate the café, and negotiations are in various stages with prospective tenants of the fitness center, grocery store (formerly “market hall”), restaurant, and a new “micro-bank.”
HEG hopes to break ground on the project around the end of the first quarter of 2015 and complete construction during the third quarter of 2017.
(In the weeks to come we’ll be publishing articles that look at each of the four sites that make up Saranap Village in more detail.)
When it was announced last spring, the project included 325 residential units, of which 24 were to have been for sale. The remaining 301 units were to be rental apartments. The new plan calls for 235 units, 143 of which would be rentals and 92 for sale. HEG has also reduced the height of the building on the north side of Boulevard Way by two floors and the main building on the south side by one floor. Other notable changes:
New building. A fourth building has been added to the development. It would be located on the south side of Boulevard Way, about where the Boulevard Terrace Condominiums visitor parking lot is today. It would include retail shops on the ground floor and six “cottage-style” residences above.
Specialty grocer. A “specialty grocer” has replaced the “market hall” concept originally proposed. This space has been expanded by about 2,200 square feet, to about 15,500 square feet – roughly the size of Diablo Foods in Lafayette. HEG president and CEO Mark Hall says the change is the result of “strong interest from several qualified operators we’re in discussions with.”
Fitness center. Rather than have a separate fitness center for the residents of each of the four buildings, HEG consolidated all of them into an expanded location at the northeast corner of the Boulevard Way–Saranap Avenue intersection, in the building where the grocer and bank would be. The 14,000-square-foot facility would be on three floors located above street level. It would be available to Saranap Village residents and to the public on a membership basis. An outdoor pool and spa for club members and residents would be situated on the second of these floors.
“Micro-bank.” A 625-square-foot bank has been added to the building where the grocer and fitness club would be. It would have an ATM, a teller, and a loan officer. Hall said that HEG is in negotiations with a “well-known local community bank” to lease the space.
Retail suite. A small “retail suite” has also been added along the eastern edge of the project, near the three-story office building at 1280 Boulevard Way.
Restaurant. Originally the restaurant was to have been in the building on the south side of Boulevard Way at the intersection, in the area of the Boulevard Terrace condos visitor parking lot, and there was to have been retail shop space, including the café, in the building at the east end of the development, where the Sufism Reoriented building and parking lot are today. In the revised plan, the two have traded places.
Floor space devoted to the restaurant has decreased from about 5,800 to 5,500 square feet, while retail shop space has grown from about 5,500 to 7,300 square feet. Hall said that a “well-known local restaurant operator” has been selected and is currently designing the space, although he was reluctant to name the firm since negotiations are still taking place.
Café. At an April 3 meeting with members of the SCA board of directors, Hall confirmed rumors that his company has signed a letter of intent with Philz Coffee to operate the café. A final lease is under negotiation. This would be the high-end coffee company’s first location east of the Caldecott Tunnel. The San Francisco-based family business has outlets in Marin, San Francisco, the South Bay, and Berkeley.
Parking. Parking for the complex has been significantly expanded. In the initial plan, visitors would have parked in street-level spaces along Boulevard Way. In the new plan, there are enough parking stalls in the parking structures in the buildings to accommodate shoppers and diners. There are actually more stalls in the buildings than the county requires, Hall notes. In addition, there will be 53 metered spaces along Boulevard Way.
Nightclub? One addition mentioned in a county overview of the project was a business referred to variously as a nightclub, bar, and lounge. However, at the meeting with SCA board members, Hall stated, “A nightclub is not something we see fitting into this project.” The long, narrow space where the nightclub would be is not suitable for this kind of use, he said. That space doesn’t appear on site plans included in materials provided by the county in connection with the April 7 scoping meeting on the project.
In a follow-up e-mail, Hall explained, “We’re using that sort of use in the county application from an occupancy-load standpoint, to plan for parking needs.” The space in questions is only about 16½ feet wide and would more likely be used as a “boutique retail suite,” he said, although “It is possible that uses such as a wine bar with a retail wine sales store could be a prospective tenant.” At this point the company is still evaluating the design and the feasibility of incorporating this “non-standard type suite” into the property in a way that would be “both unique and unusual.”
"'Town Square'" Neighborhood
Despite some changes, the overall plan for Saranap Village remains essentially the same. It includes four buildings on four sites on 3.5 acres straddling Boulevard Way where it intersects with Saranap Avenue. Each of the sites would reflect a distinctly different architectural style, including Arts and Crafts, New England cottages, and contemporary architecture with large facades of glass and oversized decks.
“We want a more eclectic design palette that will appeal to a variety of different end-user residents and contribute to a more interesting ‘town square’ neighborhood that will not appear master-planned or monolithic in nature,” Hall wrote in an e-mail, noting that the project would be “mostly neighborhood-oriented” rather than a “regional retail” destination.
About 28,700 square feet would be devoted to street-level retail and restaurant uses. In addition to the grocer, restaurant, café, bank, and fitness club, there would be two other retail stores near Philz. The 235 residential units would range from studios to three-bedroom condos.
Hall said his company expects to complete schematic designs for the project in May and that the draft environmental impact report will be finished a month later. The planning commission hearing would take place in late summer, followed by a board of supervisors hearing in October. That’s when the EIR would be certified.
Construction on three of the sites is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2015 and be completed during the third quarter of 2016. Work on the remaining site – the one where the old La Rossa’s market stands – would start the following quarter and be finished by the third quarter of 2017.
The SCA thanks Mark Hall of Hall Equities Group for his assistance with this article.