Don’t describe it as a shopping center—or even worse, a mall.
Planners of City Center at Bishop Ranch see their project as the lively downtown that San Ramon has never really had. The closest thing to a downtown here has been the sprawling Bishop Ranch Business Park, which has served as the city’s economic engine the past four decades but is largely a static district.[contextly_sidebar id=”erEopyP5JmWV80Sj0FLcScdVy37UiUHE”]The City Center project, however, seeks to infuse the area with activity and energy throughout the day and into the evening as well as the weekend.
Late last year, the city approved the project’s latest design that calls for an animated civic space featuring 350,000 square feet of quality shops, restaurants and a multiscreen movie theater. At the heart of this development would be a one-acre piazza—open to the sky and lined with trees—for outdoor concerts, art exhibits and other public festivities.
Previously, the design focused more on just a retail center. But now, “it’s all about transforming Bishop Ranch into a place that is a seven-day-a-week living, working and shopping environment,” said Jeff Dodd, the senior vice president of retail for San Ramon-based Sunset Development Co., which created the business park in 1978 and is now developing City Center. “It will give the city that central downtown core where people can gather.”
Groundwork is expected to begin in late summer with the demolition of four existing office buildings, Dodd said. Most of the tenants from those offices would relocate to the business park. Paving and grading would then follow before the project goes vertical early next year. A grand opening is eyed for spring 2017.
The first phase of the two-part project involves the 350,000-square-foot retail component with the piazza and should be ready for the grand opening in two years. This phase would have about 70 retail tenants.
The second phase would come later and include 487 apartment units, a 169-room hotel and 70,000 square feet of additional retail space, according to Dodd, who declined to specify the total cost of the entire project.
International architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed City Center in collaboration with San Francisco-based BCV Architects. Renzo Piano is responsible for the design of such buildings as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, New York Times offices in Manhattan and Kansai International Airport main terminal in Japan.
The City Center’s design shows six pavilions surrounding the Italian-inspired open plaza and held up by a light-metal framework. The façades are totally transparent with full-height glass panels to enhance a sense of openness and foster an inviting walking experience.
City Center will create “a real vibrant environment for the community,” San Ramon’s Assistant City Manager Eric Figueroa said. “It will be a place of gathering not just transacting business.”
The City Center venture comes as other major projects are planned or under way in San Ramon—the new City Hall, renovations to the main library and upgrades to the business park.
All these efforts, together, could bring about a new regional destination option in the Bay Area. “It’s getting away from just San Francisco and Silicon Valley,” Figueroa said. “It’s creating a place in the East Bay for residents and businesses to thrive.”