Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cupertino Square on Life Support

It's not looking so good for Cupertino Square mall.

The mall is now neck-in-neck for title of "most drama" in the South Bay retail market (Sunnyvale Town Center current holds the title).

Cupertino Square currently is under control of the lenders, Gramercy Capital and United Commercial Bank. When the old owners, Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC, stopped making debt payments, the lenders moved to foreclose on the property. However, Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC filed bankruptcy to keep the mall from going back into the hands of the lenders. Yet, last month, the mall went back into the hands of the lenders anyway. Now Gramercy Capital and United Commercial Bank are working with Jones Lang LaSalle to get the mall back on track.

My visit the other day showed the mall is declining quickly. A few more stores have closed since last month, but more concerning, new eateries in the freshly revamped food court have already closed! Not to mention, the "coming soon" signs for new eateries STILL say coming soon. I don't think anyone is coming soon anymore.

All this is such a shame... the mall has been trying, but has it made some wrong decisions?

Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC sought to reposition this mall as an Asian-inspired destination (east Asian). However, my informal racial profiling of shoppers showed that a majority of shoppers fell into the Caucasian and Indian segments. Did repositioning the mall alienate these groups?

What about capital improvement? The mall built a fancy new parking garage for the hordes of shoppers it expected, but the old pink and turquoise "Vallco Fashion Park" sign still adorns Interstate 280. The fourth picture shows the entrance to the food court... As you can see, no signs. I would have figured investing in improvments to guide shoppers to your mall would take priority over potential parking problems.

Some fresh photos for your perusal. The first is the quiet food court at noon. CNN blares on the LCD TVs... a good reason to leave when trying to enjoy your lunch over the pictures of death, dismemberment, and unrest.
Second photo... the deserted parking lot on the backside of the mall.
Third photo... the unusual architecture of JC Penney.
Fourth photo... food court entrance.


Read my guide to Cupertino Square

See the aerial view.


Jonah Norason (Pseudo3D) said...

I hate Burger King and McDonald's now for blaring TVs while you attempt to enjoy a nice meal. The food court does look cool, though. Maybe switch CNN to a silent closed circuit channel showing ads?

Also, do you have any old Vallco mall directories? Just wonderin'.

tupac chopra said...

Cupertino has a pretty strict regulation on retail square footage to parking space ratio. Any proposed expansion on retail space has to be met with a similar expansion of parking, whether or not it gets used at all. Add to that the proposals to develop the outlying parking lot areas with restaurants, a hotel, and a condo project, additional parking was seen as a prerequisite to get those approved (the condo project was overturned by the voters,though).

Street level retail is supposed to go in the lower level of the new structure on the south side of JC Penney along Vallco Parkway, but now it just looks unfinished.

Few locals yet refer to the mall as Cupertino Square outside of the city council meetings. It will remain Vallco for most of us at least until that highway sign gets changed out.

Hushpuppy212 said...

This has been a troubled mall for decades. A freestanding Sears opened in 1970. Bullock's opened in 1975, followed by the mall itself and I. Magnin in 1976, IIRC. Penney's opened along with a mall expansion a few years later. Bullock's pulled out of Northern California in 1983 and The Emporium took over their space. The mall did okay until Valley Fair (less than 5 miles away) remodeled and added a Nordstrom. The Emporium folded in 1996 and their Vallco store sat empty for years. This was the pivotal anchor, located in the middle of the L-shaped mall, and having it empty really hurt. There was rumors that Dillard's wanted the space, but Macy's (having bought the Emporium chain) controlled the space. Macy's finally opened a store there, which IMHO is completely unnecessary, since they have over 700,000 square feet at Valley Fair and another 150,000 sf in nearby Sunnyvale. Even at Christmas time, Macy's Vallco is eerily quiet.

IMHO the mall needs to dump Macy's and put in an anchor with middle-income drawing power in order to maximize the appeal of JCP and Sears. One candidate, Target, already has a store on Stevens Creek however, and Ikea is in East Palo Alto, so I really don't know who they could get to generate some excitement.

tupac chopra said...

The city actually sued Macy's, not only for leaving the space idle after closing the Emporium, but also for initially reopening the space as a Macy's Clearance Center. The adjacent I.Magnin space was divided up: the lower level housing a Ross briefly before becoming the extant Dynasty restaurant; the upper was a Limited Express superstore (with connected Structure/Express Men and scented bath products store that I forget the name of), vacated very recently.

tupac chopra said...

As of when I saw it last Friday, Sept 11 2009, there is a banner hung on the awning in the picture, indicating there is a food court inside. It's not much but it's an improvement.

Unfortunately, one of the big attractions to that side of the mall, the weekly farmers market, is moving to the lot outside of Sears next week. Good for the farmers market, soon to be visible from Stevens Creek Blvd, but not much help to the food court.

Tupac Chopra said...

On my way to the Farmers' Market Friday, Dec. 4 2009, I passed a curious directional monument sign just south of the TGI Friday's. Unlike the other Cupertino Square signs in red, beige, and brown, this one was blue and white, and in the small box on the top where the other directional signs say "Cupertino Square", this one appeared to have plexiglas with the Vallco logo inserted backwards.

I haven't heard anything in the local press about it (and not much else goes on in Cupertino worth reporting on*) but can it be that the mall is reverting back to its original name?

*Seriously, the local weekly Cupertino Courier has to really stretch to find anything more than fluff to report on. Business reporting is usually focused on retail, and a good half of that is about the mall.

BIGMallrat said...

The Silicon Valley Business Times reported that the new owners want to change the name back to Vallco. However, they weren't specific. Would it be Vallco Fashion Park again? Who wants a fashion park anymore? Maybe just Vallco Mall. I went yesterday and saw nothing to give me any ideas.

Tupac Chopra said...

I made a closer examination of the new sign today. This is the one on the west side of Wolfe Road, on the triangular median of the entry/exit ramp between TGI Friday's and Macy's. It's an internally illuminated monument (others around the mall are externally lit). The translucent white square on top does indeed say "Vallco Shopping Mall", but since those panels are inserted backwards, that fact is obscured.

So, at least it's not going back all the way to a "Fashion Park".
I have photos if you'd like.