HILLSDALE CENTER
South El Camino Real and Hillsdale Boulevard
San Mateo, California

Promoted as "The Heart of the Peninsula", HILLSDALE CENTER was the second post-war shopping complex built in San Francisco's West Bay suburbs. The venue was situated on a 50 acre site, located 21.9 miles south of San Francisco's Union Square, in the satellite city of San Mateo.

The land, once part of the Burleigh H. Murray Ranch, had been acquired by developer David D. Bohannon in 1939. By 1941, an eighty-four unit subdivision, with neighborhoods known as Hillsdale and Park Western, was completed. Five other housing plats would follow.

A freestanding grocery store was the first structure built on a prospective shopping center site. The (15,800 square foot) Andrew Williams Store opened for business January 30, 1942. It was rebranded as a Mayfair Market in 1951. A 3-level (67,500 square foot) Sears began business March 22, 1951.

By December 1953, an open-air mall was under construction. Designed by Los Angeles-based Welton Becket & Associates, it would be anchored by a 3-level (155,000 square foot) Macy's; the first suburban shopping center branch of the Macy's California division. This store held its grand opening November 19, 1954.

The 488,000 square foot mall, also dedicated November 19, 1954, housed fifty-three stores and services. These included Harris & Frank apparel, Baker's Shoes, Moar's Cafeteria and a J.J. Newberry 5 & 10. A kiddie ride amusement area had been set up in the northwest parking lot.

On the far north end of the complex (across 31st Avenue) was the twenty-two-department Farmer's Market. This featured an early version of an international food court, along with a grocery, produce section, salad bar, hickory smoke barbeque and butcher shop.

A 4-level (206,000 square foot), Bay Area-based Emporium opened September 12, 1962. Adjacent to the Farmer's Market, it was the chain's fourth suburban branch. In 1964, Macy's was expanded with a fourth level. This enlarged the store to 220,000 square feet.

Later in the 1960s, two multilevel parking garages were built. One was connected to the Emporium store, the second was built west of the mall. At around the same time, Sears was remodeled and expanded. The (209,200 square foot) store held its grand re-opening in August 1966.

The single-screen General Cinema Corporation Hillsdale Cinema showed its first feature December 23, 1966. It was a peripheral structure, located across El Camino Real from the Emporium. The venue was twinned in November 1971, quaded in the late 1970s, and shuttered in 1998.

Shopping malls in the HILLSDALE trade area included STANFORD CENTER (1956) {9.3 miles southeast, in Palo Alto} and TANFORAN PARK CENTER (1971) {9 miles northwest, in San Bruno}.

The next major addition to HILLSDALE CENTER was something of a keeping-up with the malls measure. In the late 1970s, Ernest W. Hahn, Incorporated was planning its SAN MATEO FASHION ISLAND {1.6 miles northeast, in San Mateo}. In November 1980, a major expansion of HILLSDALE CENTER was approved by the local government.

This entailed enclosing the existing mall and building an upper level of retail. Moreover, a 3-level (150,000 square foot) Nordstrom and 2-level, (80,000 square foot) Mervyn's would be added. A new Restaurant Court would be installed in the Farmer's Market structure. Lastly, a third parking garage would be built east of the mall.

Phase 1 of the renovation was completed in November 1981, with the remainder of the project dedicated during 1982. The shopping hub now housed over one hundred and twenty stores and services. It was now officially known as HILLSDALE MALL.

Sears demoted its store to a Furniture & Appliance Clearance Center in 1991. In February 1996, The Emporium was shuttered. Sears took this opportunity to open a new full-line store in the vacant building. A grand opening was held November 2, 1996.

Soon after, the old Sears was demolished and replaced with a strip plaza known as HILLSDALE SOUTH. Tenants included Barnes & Noble, Romano's Macaroni Grill and a CompUSA-The Good Guys-Tower Records Megastore. These opened for business during 1998. By the dawn of the 21st century, the shopping complex would, once again, be known as HILLSDALE CENTER.

Mervyn's was shuttered December 27, 2008. After sitting vacant for over 2 years, the store was renovated and retenanted. The first of three new tenants, a 1- level (9,000 square foot) Cheesecake Factory, opened September 19, 2011. This was followed by a 1-level (19,000 square foot) H & M, on September 27. A 2-level (52,000 square foot) Forever 21, which relocated from a smaller location in the mall, opened in November.

The HILLSDALE SOUTH strip center was also remodeled, with Trader Joe's and Old Navy (another relocated tenant) taking up the bulk of the old CompUSA space. These stores began business in the summer of 2011.

In early 2013, a prospective renovation of the north store block was announced. Cost Plus World Market and the existing Food Court would be replaced by a state-of-the-art, 9-screen megaplex. Sears would vacate the mall. Its store would be gutted and rebuilt as a 3-level (174,000 square foot) Target.  Moreover, an open-air Food Court would be installed on the Upper Level of the mall.

In December 2013, it was announced that the north store block renovation was being indefinitely postponed. A revised plan came to light in early 2015. It was decided that installing another large anchor store, such as Target, would not be in the mall's best interest. Instead, an open-air Lifestyle Plaza was proposed.

This facility would be surrounded by trendy restaurants and boutiques, a bowling center and upscale Cineopolis Luxury Cinemas megaplex. A fitness center would be included on a lower level, with the existing Food Court relocated to an upper level. This would span 31st Avenue and connect with the mall proper.

Sears shuttered their HILLSDALE store April 10, 2016. Demolition commenced in May of the same year. Construction of the 290,000 square foot Lifestyle Plaza was soon underway. The new Dining Terrace opened for business in late 2018, with the cinema and bowling center up and running by late 2019. With their completion, HILLSDALE CENTER encompassed approximately 1,354,800 leasable square feet.

Sources:

The (San Mateo) Times
The San Mateo Daily Journal
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
Scott P., aka "BigMallRat"
"Shopping Can Be Fun" video / Photographed and produced by George H. Kelley / 1957
www.shophillsdale.com
http://hillsdale.com
www.sfgate.com
www.burlingameproperties.com
www.ipernity.com
http://news.theregistrysf.com (The Registry: Bay Area Real Estate)