Sand Hill Property Co. unveiled a plan on Wednesday to transform Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino into The Hills at Vallco. The project calls for a mix of retail, office, residential and entertainment. Sand Hill plans to integrate a 30-care community park and nature preserve into the site. Rendering courtesy Sand Hill Property Co.
Sand Hill Property Co. unveiled a plan on Wednesday to transform Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino into The Hills at Vallco. The project calls for a mix of retail, office, residential and entertainment. Sand Hill plans to integrate a 30-care community park and nature preserve into the site. Rendering courtesy Sand Hill Property Co. ( Matthew Wilson )
A 30-acre community park that Sand Hill officials are touting as the “largest green roof in the world” would be built above and around the mall’s buildings.
“There will be nothing like it when we are done,” Reed Moulds, Sand Hill managing director who is leading the redevelopment effort, told this newspaper. “We believe its community focus will make this a remarkable place to live, work, dine, play, learn and recreate.”
The Hills at Vallco will be anchored at ground level by two town squares within a street grid. Sand Hill pledges to attract a mix of retail that will cater to residents with “active lifestyles” as well as to on-site office workers and residents of the proposed housing units.
Included would be about 625,000 square feet of entertainment space and retail, plus 2 million square feet of office space.
In addition, Sand Hill would build 680 market-rate apartments, 80 affordable apartments and 40 apartments for seniors.
“The housing reflects our community — market rate for tech workers and young families, affordable housing for our teachers and firefighters, and quality housing reserved for our seniors,” Moulds said.
Sand Hill said it hopes to create a family-friendly atmosphere within an entertainment district.
Popular Vallco attractions would be retained, such as the AMC movie theater, ice rink, bowling alley and fitness club. Among additions the developer is contemplating could be a market hall in the mold of the San Francisco Ferry Building’s marketplace and a town square for farmers markets and movie nights.
The estimated $300 million green roof would be the Hills of Vallco’s focal point. The idea sprung from Sand Hill’s outreach into the Cupertino community this spring when it repeatedly heard that the eastern end of town lacked open space and recreation opportunities.
Entertainment options like the current AMC movie theater will be retained at the new Vallco project. Sand Hill Property Co. plans to also keep the bowling, fitness, ice skating and banquet venues as part of project. Rendering courtesy Sand Hill Property Co.
Entertainment options like the current AMC movie theater will be retained at the new Vallco project. Sand Hill Property Co. plans to also keep the bowling, fitness, ice skating and banquet venues as part of project. Rendering courtesy Sand Hill Property Co. ( Matthew Wilson )
The park would begin at street level before slowly rising and eventually spreading across small bridges to be constructed above Wolfe Road and onto the new buildings. The space would be open to all and feature a 3.8-mile trail network. There are plans to include vineyards, orchards and gardens that harken back to Cupertino’s agricultural past.
An amphitheater and children’s playground could also be added to the space. The man-made topography would also double as a privacy buffer to the adjacent residential neighborhoods
Sand Hill is aiming for LEED Platinum, the highest certification possible in environmental design. The developer plans to partner with local water agencies and providers to extend recycled water to the site for irrigation, heating, and cooling systems. The green space would feature native and drought tolerant plants.
Sand Hill has chosen Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN Landscape Architects to head up the project.
Before selecting project architects, Sand Hill spent the spring hosting 20 community meetings and speaking with more than 1,050 residents and business owners. More than 3,800 project suggestions were submitted by residents.
“The community engagement process was critical and continues to be,” Moulds said. “We believe that every element of our plan not only responds to what we heard from the community, but goes well beyond expectations and requirements.”
Sand Hill found that residents wanted many of the amenities that are now proposed, but some worried that a few project components — namely housing — could negatively impact traffic and Cupertino’s schools. So company officials met with school representatives to find ways to mitigate those impacts.
As a result, Sand Hill announced it will contribute $40 million worth of amenities and funding to the Cupertino Union School District and Fremont Union High School District.
If the project is approved by the city, Sand Hill would spend more than $20 million for construction of a 700-student elementary school at the former Nan Allen School site near the Portal neighborhood. The company also would replace all portable classrooms at Collins Elementary School with permanent ones, improve and expand athletic fields at the Collins and Nan Allen sites, and create a $1 million endowment for the 8th grade Yosemite Science Program.
“Our decision is a result of what we know about the community, the needs we have discovered in talking to school officials, and our long-standing desire to invest in (the) schools in this community,” Moulds said.
For the high school district, Sand Hill plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot “innovation center” at The Hills of Vallco that would give students a place to work on projects, do district-based learning assignments, display art projects and host robotics competitions.
In all, the high school district would receive the equivalent of more than $20 million between the innovation center and additional developer fees.
To handle the likelihood of more traffic in the future, Sand Hill also is planning to privately fund a community shuttle service that would bring residents to The Hills of Vallco and possibly other nearby areas. It also plans to assist with widening and rebuilding the Wolfe Road and Interstate 280 interchange between the shopping center and the Apple Campus 2 that is under construction. A transit center also might be built at the shopping center.
Parking would be primarily underground, with some above ground structures and surface parking.
Sand Hill and its principal and founder, Peter Pau, have poured a lot of money into Cupertino over the years. The group has done the Cupertino Village revitalization, the Hilton Hotel project, the Whole Foods Market site, and the under-construction Main Street Cupertino mixed-use development near Vallco that is bounded by Stevens Creek Boulevard, Tantau Avenue, and Vallco Parkway. It is expected that Main Street and The Hills at Vallco will seamlessly mesh upon completion.
Sand Hill wouldn’t reveal much about how The Hills at Vallco project is being funded other than to say there is a “multi-generational investor” on board — the same investor that partnered for the Main Street Cupertino project.
This is the first time Vallco has been under a single ownership in its nearly 40 year history. With Sears set to close in October, the 1.2-million-square-foot mall has a tenant occupancy just below 50 percent. The previous ownership structure handcuffed each mall owner from pursuing improvements as just about every redevelopment decision required the unanimous consent of the anchor stores.
All four Vallco parcels were bought by Sand Hill in pieces for approximately $316,000,000 late last year. The purchases included $32,600,000 for the Macy’s site, $65,300,000 for the J.C. Penney site, $102,500,000 for the Sears site, and $116,000,000 for the interior mall, Moulds told this newspaper in March.
Sand Hill officials say the combination of that ownership structure and competition from other high-end malls such as Stanford Shopping Center and Westfield Valley Fair and the old ownership structure made it difficult for the mall to change with the times.
Sand Hill has begun environmental review for the project. Development plans will be submitted to the city in a few weeks. The project could go before the city planning commission and city council for review in the summer or fall of 2016.
For more information, visit thehillsatvallco.com and vallcovision.com