WALNUT CREEK -- Broadway Plaza is about to undergo a serious makeover, its owners set to invest a quarter-billion dollars in the outdoor downtown mall.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a master plan for Broadway Plaza that will increase the size of the center by 300,000 square feet and redevelop and demolish another 200,000 square feet of buildings and parking garages. This will mean an expanded Macy's that is all in one building, space for a potential fourth anchor, new multilevel parking garages and completely redesigned shops and outdoor space.

Broadway Plaza is expected to generate anywhere from $1.3 to $3 million in yearly sales tax revenue for the city.

While the plan allows buildout to go as long as 20 years, Broadway Plaza owners Macerich expect all the work to be done by fall 2017.

"Walnut Creek is a regional leader in so many respects, but it is the place for shopping in the East Bay," said Mayor Kristina Lawson. "To me it's a no-brainier that we support an upgrade to a 50-year-old center in our downtown. We need that kind of reinvestment."

Benefits of the project include expansion of the city's creek walk, improvements to Newell Avenue and up to $5 million to the city from Macerich, which council members can spend anyway they want. As part of the deal, the city had to join the effort to transfer a creek culvert adjacent to the mall, and a 4-mile portion of Walnut Creek, from federal to local control. That literally took an act of Congress to accomplish.

While the project is a major addition for downtown, only three people public spoke at the Tuesday meeting, all of them basically in support. This was in stark contrast to four years ago, when Macerich went through a prolonged, high-profile fight with a rival mall company to get a 90,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus store built.

Macerich Vice President Garrett Newland championed the planned changes at the center, specifically the narrowing of Broadway Plaza Street to create wider sidewalks and the addition of a large plaza for events and gatherings.

"We really don't have a place to hold large events today," he said. "The event area will be a great amenity for our project and the community."

The timeline calls for the Nordstrom garage and all of the stores in between Nordstrom and Macy's to be demolished beginning early next year. The Nordstrom garage will reopen by late 2014. Macy's expansion would also start in 2014 and be completed, along with that parking garage, by 2016.

While the master plan is approved, individual stores must still go before the city's design review committee for approval on aesthetics and design. For example, Macy's may now expand by 57,000 square feet, but the department store giant still must go through its own city process for design and approval.

There was one wrinkle in the plan for Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons, who voted no on the design guidelines portion of the project. He said he is against the expansion of a vehicle bridge over the creek. It will add more traffic behind Macy's and be bad for creek habitat, he said.

Perhaps one of the largest headaches shoppers will soon experience will be parking during construction. When the Nordstrom garage is demolished, 500 parking spaces will be lost, as will 80,000 square feet of retail space.

A parking plan will offer free valet service for shoppers, and employees will be deterred from parking in the other garages, said Newland. Macerich will also offer employees shuttles from outer office parking lots to the center during the weekends, he said.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.

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