STANFORD CENTER
El Camino Real and Quarry Road
Palo Alto, California

The third mall-type retail venue in the Bay Area was developed by Stanford University and the Bay Area-based Emporium-Capwell Company. It was designed by Los Angeles-based Welton Becket & Associates.

STANFORD CENTER was built on a 52.6 acre site, located 27 miles southeast of San Francisco's Union Square, in the bedroom community of Palo Alto. The shopping facility occupied a portion of property bequeathed for the establishment of Stanford University in 1885.

Construction commenced in October 1954, with Roos Brothers apparel, the mall's first operational store, beginning business in September 1955. The 15 million dollar facility, dedicated February 23, 1956, encompassed 548,000 leasable square feet. It was a single-level venue with many of its forty-five stores having basements.

The original anchors at STANFORD CENTER were two San Francisco-based department stores; a 2-level (260,000 square foot) Emporium and 2-level (54,000 square foot) I. Magnin. Inline stores included Joseph Magnin, Livingston Brothers, Chandler's Shoes, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Purity Market grocery.

A 2-level (150,000 square foot) Macy's San Francisco opened for business October 12, 1961. This was followed by a 3-level (62,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue, which held its grand opening August 7, 1963.

The Saks store was not adjacent to the mall proper, but situated on a 15.4 acre plot southwest of the shopping center (across Arboretum Road). A 2-level (150,000 square foot), San Francisco-based Bullock's North was added to the Saks site and was dedicated in March 1972.

Shopping malls in the vicinity of STANFORD CENTER included HILLSDALE CENTER (1954) {9.3 miles northwest, in San Mateo}, VALLEY FAIR CENTER (1956) {14.4 miles southeast, in San Jose}, SAN ANTONIO CENTER (1957) and MAYFIELD MALL (1966) {4.1 miles southeast, in Mountain View}, FREMONT HUB (1961) {11.9 miles northeast, in Fremont} and NEWPARK MALL (1980) {10.8 miles northeast, in Newark}.

Conceived as a middle-market venue in the 1950s, STANFORD CENTER did not immediately adjust to the changing demographics of its surroundings. By the late 1960s, Palo Alto had evolved into a much more affluent area.

A new mall manager was brought in by the University to reposition their past-its-prime shopping venue. Rosemary McAndrews, taking charge in the early 1970s, began buying out leases of the center's less than toney tenants. Larger store spaces were subdivided and several retailers were relocated within the complex.

Macy's had a third level added to their store in the early '70s, enlarging it to 225,000 square feet. I. Magnin expanded with a 3-level addition, into a 96,000 square foot store. Bullock's completed a third level for their building in August 1977, expanding its area to 225,000 square feet.

In July 1976, a half million dollar renovation got underway. The existing buildings were given face lifts, taking on a "Tuscany Town", Olde European Village look. A two block section of new stores was built onto the south side of the complex.

A small addition was built onto Joseph Magnin, with the store also being and expanded into adjacent space. A parking garage was also constructed at the southwest corner of the mall site. The remodeled and repositioned STANFORD CENTER, rededicated in 1977, included the first Victoria's Secret store in the nation.

The first anchor nameplate change took place in November 1984, when the Bullock's building, vacated in 1983, re-opened as a Seattle-based Nordstrom. Dallas-based Neiman Marcus dedicated a newly-built, 3-level (120,000 square foot) store August 10, 1985.

Joseph Magnin, a charter tenant, had been shuttered in the fall of 1984. Its space was remodeled into a small "Inner Circle" galleria of sixteen stores, which opened in March 1986. By 1987, STANFORD CENTER had one hundred and fifty stores and services including a newly-opened Crate & Barrel. F.W. Woolworth, another charter tenant, closed their STANFORD store in 1991.

Saks announced the shuttering of their store in April 1994. The plan was to re-open it as a Clearance Center before pulling out of the mall entirely. A brouhaha erupted between Saks Holdings and mall management, who argued that opening an off-price operation at the now glamorous and glitzy STANFORD CENTER would be a lease violation. The store closed in early 1995, without re-opening as a Clearance Center..

I. Magnin shut its doors November 14, 1994 and re-opened as, a Macy's Men's store, in June 1995. The Emporium went dark in early 1996. Its space became the first Bloomingdale's west of the Rocky Mountains on November 9, 1996.

Sitting vacant for over 2 years, the Saks structure was eventually divided into two retail spaces. The first, a Berkeley-based Andronico's Market, opened July 16, 1997. The second, a (39,000 square foot) Crate & Barrel, began business October 29 of the same year.

The turn of the century brought the first physical expansion of the shopping center since 1987. A freestanding Wilkes Bashford apparel (built adjacent to Neiman Marcus) welcomed its first shoppers in February 2001. A new building block in the north parking area housed stores such as Coldwater Creek, Talbots, Pottery Barn and Abercrombie & Fitch. These began opening in November 2001.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, in the southeast parking area,made its debut on April 25, 2002. At around the same time, a second parking garage was built, which was southeast of Macy's and Bloomingdale's. These additions increased the GLA of STANFORD CENTER to 1,475,000 square feet, with a directory of over one hundred and forty stores and services.

By decree of Leland Stanford (benefactor of Stanford University), the land on which the shopping center stands can never be sold. However, the buildings comprising the retail hub were sold to the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group in July 2003. The University now leased the land and received a percentage of profits from the operation of the complex.

Simon announced a prospective expansion in August 2007. This was to entail the addition of 240,000 square feet of retail space, a 120 room luxury hotel and 5-level parking garage. The City of Palo Alto was slow in granting approval, so plans for the project (by then a year behind schedule) were shelved in April 2009.

In early 2012, a renovation -instead of expansion- of the center was formally announced. It would be conducted in four stages, with the first comprised of the construction of a new outparcel Fleming's Prime Steakhouse (the restaurant had been operating on the east side of the Bloomingdale's building). The newly-built bistro was dedicated September 20, 2013.

The second stage of the STANFORD CENTER renovation entailed the construction of a new Bloomingdale's, which relocated into a 3-level (120,000 square foot) store, built on the east side of the original building. It held its grand opening October 10, 2014.

With the new store in operation, the third stage of the renovation got underway. The old Emporium / Bloomingdale's was demolished. At the same time, common areas of the mall were given a face lift. This was done between the summer and winter of 2015.

The final stage of renovation involved the construction of 140,000 square feet of inline retail in four single-level structures; these built on the site of the old Bloomingdale's. In all, forty-five stores were added to the tenant roster, including All Saints, Lululemon Athletica, True Food Kitchen, Everything But Water, The North Face and Anthropologie. These opened for business between April and October of 2016.

Sources:

www.paloaltohistory.com / "The Stanford Shopping Center" / Matt Bowling
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
Comment Post by "HushPuppy 212"
www.simon.com
www.stanfordalumni.org
http://news.stanford.edu
www.bizjournals.com (article by Nathan Donato-Weinstein)