South Shore storefronts to get a new look

South Shore storefronts to get a new look

Michele Ellson

Storefronts lining portions of Alameda South Shore Center could adopt a more varied, Main Street look under new design guidelines approved by the Planning Board on Monday.

The new guidelines are intended to make it easier for the shopping center’s owners, Jamestown Properties, to fill vacancies in the center’s interior, contract planner Kathleen Livermore told the Planning Board on Monday. Design review for the portions of the shopping center covered by the guidelines will be conducted by city staff, rather than the Planning Board.

“The point was to provide flexibility and certainty to new tenants,” Livermore said.

Alameda South Shore Center’s vacancy rate is at about 9 percent, Jamestown’s chief operating officer said during an interview, though the center’s managers are planning to bring locally owned restaurants into some of the spaces.

“We’re putting in a couple of restaurants to activate the area, make it more interesting,” Jamestown’s chief operating officer, Michael Phillips, said during an interview Monday afternoon. Phillips said he’s not yet ready to name the restaurants.

The shopping center has pulled in a half dozen new tenants over the past year, filling a space once occupied by defunct bookseller Borders with a ULTA Beauty store and Total Woman Gym & Day Spa. The center attracted an additional long-term tenant – Daiso Japan – through a pop-up program that allows retailers to “test the waters” before making a long-term commitment.

The guidelines call for “dramatic and theatrical” storefronts intended to create an “eclectic, dynamic” environment in the heart of the shopping center – within the parameters they set. Phillips said they’re intended to allow “a little more individualization of the storefronts” that could include more creative signage

“Tenants are encouraged to express their own unique design statement within the parameters of the design criteria as outlined in this manual,” the 42-page design guidelines say.

The new guidelines will offer retailers and restaurant owners who set up shop at the center more of an opportunity to express a unique identity than they have now, Phillips said. He said that in revamping the center, prior owner Harsch Investment Properties “contemplated space before there were tenants,” which led to a more uniform look.

Jamestown’s properties include Chelsea Market, The Newbury Line in Boston and a smattering of other urban retail and mixed-use centers, all of which offer similarly varied looks, and the guidelines point to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek and the Corte Madera Town Center – and Park Street – as examples of how they can work here.

In addition to changing façades, windows and building heights, the guidelines allow tenants to change common areas, adding furniture and play areas, seating, fire pits and bike racks.

Kiosks, food carts, children’s rides and other features could also become part of the landscape under the new guidelines.

Members of the Planning Board said they supported the changes, though they asked that any proposed changes to some major storefronts – including Old Navy – still come to the board for approval along with others that line the exterior of the shopping center.

“I think the center has done a great job of looking more attractive,” Planning Board president Lorre Zuppan said, recalling earlier days when the shopping center was a mass of stone and concrete.

Zuppan said retail vacancies in the Bay Area are dwindling and expressed hope the new guidelines and process would attract additional tenants to the shopping center.

“Our hope to attract and upgrade, and this would be an effort to attract those tenants,” she said.