MOUNTAIN VIEW — A shopping center serving Mountain View and Palo Alto has lost three of its key anchor tenants in the past few months, but officials say fears it will be redeveloped into housing are unfounded.
Mountain View Mayor Lucas Ramirez says the owner isn’t looking to change anything about the Charleston Plaza, a shopping center nestled on the Mountain View-Palo Alto border along Highway 101 that once housed a Bed Bath & Beyond, REI and Best Buy.
All three of those retailers have left in the past year. Bed Bath & Beyond was the first big-box retailer to leave, shutting down its location at the start of 2021. Months later, REI Co-op announced it would move its store to a new, bigger location in Sunnyvale. And in October Best Buy said it would close its store at Charleston Plaza too.
The closures are a small taste for the Bay Area of what’s happening across the country, with shopping centers looking more like ghost towns as retailers continue to struggle to compete with the likes of retail giants like Amazon and Walmart. Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond have been systematically closing stores and laying off employees over the past several years.
Best Buy announced in February it would be laying off 5,000 workers and planned to close their store on Charleston Road. The company is attempting to focus its future operations on online sales and home deliveries.
Bed Bath & Beyond has gone through a similar downsizing, announcing in January 2021 that it would close 200 locations including the one at Charleston Plaza.
The retail exodus at the plaza has locals afire, with many fearing that the plaza will be redeveloped into offices or housing. Mayor Ramirez said he’s received inquiries from residents about the future of that area, but added that redeveloping the plaza isn’t a likely scenario.
“The property owner is seeking new tenancies consistent with the current zoning and general plan, so it will be similar types of stores,” Ramirez said. “That area wasn’t identified as a ‘change area’ in the general plan, so the council doesn’t have any existing plans to explore rezoning there to allow housing.”
Ramirez said the area would only change if the private property owners of the plaza were to submit an application and go through the city’s “gatekeeper process,” and that hasn’t happened yet. And even if the developer were to submit an application, the city council would have the final say.
However, Ramirez said the empty storefronts offer an opportunity for the community to benefit while the owner finds new tenants. He said he is speaking with the city and county to potentially use the location for interim or short-term uses like COVID-19 clinics or other community-centered services.
“I’ve gotten a couple of requests from folks in the community to increase COVID-19 testing capacity, and that’s something that would be difficult to make happen quickly,” Ramirez said. “But the city is working with the county and El Camino Health to provide testing. I think that’s exactly the kind of short-term use that would be consistent with the need the city has.”