SAN RAMON -- The developers of the Bishop Ranch business park unveiled on Tuesday a fresh approach to creating a new downtown for San Ramon, saying it will be a complex that features restaurants, a plaza, retail and entertainment in an open setting that goes beyond a shopping mall.
The revamped effort is aimed at creating an urban heart for San Ramon as well as the adjacent Bishop Ranch business park, said Alex Mehran Jr., president and chief operating officer of Sunset Development, the principal developer of the office park and the new downtown for Bishop Ranch.
"We changed the focus from just a shopping mall to creating an enduring and iconic city center for San Ramon," Mehran Jr. said. "It will be visually transparent on all sides and will invite people in. This retail center is going away from the original department store model with anchor tenants. We will be moving towards more dining, more lifestyle retail, and a movie theater."
The 350,000-square-foot retail complex will be the launching point for the new San Ramon downtown. The two-story project will include a movie theater, restaurants, shops and a large open plaza.
"This kind of retail center should do very well," said Danielle Bromstead, a vice president who specializes in retail properties with Cornish & Carey Commercial, a realty firm. "There is an audience for this, demand for this."
Construction of the retail center should begin in 2015 and should be complete by 2016, Mehran estimated. When it opens, it should have about 70 tenants.
The new center is likely to face stiff competition from established retail centers such as Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek and Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, said Deborah Perry, a senior vice president with a speciality in retail property at realty firm Colliers International.
"They can be successful if they pick the right retail niche," Perry said.
Famed architect Renzo Piano will undertake the design of the retail center, which is being called the Plaza District. Piano was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2006.
"The project is entirely conceived around a generous piazza surrounded by six pavilions of varying sizes," Piano said in a prepared release. "All of the pavilions have a direct relationship to the piazza and each of them contributes to animate it."
Piano's firm, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, has designed the California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the New York Times building in Manhattan and The Shard office tower in London,
"A good presence of restaurants, cafe terraces and shopping opportunities, together with culture, music and nature, will create a true, authentic vitalized City Center for San Ramon," said Antonio Belvedere, a partner with Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Sunset Development was scheduled to present the newly re-designed plans for downtown San Ramon at a city meeting Tuesday night.
Later phases of the project will include a 169-room hotel, four office buildings totaling 800,000 square feet and 479 residential units.
"This will be a home and a gathering place for San Ramon and the entire Tri-Valley," Mehran said. "It's going to be an exciting place and will be constantly changing. It will be a destination."
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.