Vallco Shopping Mall
Interior view of Vallco Shopping Mall, then called Cupertino Square. This section of the mall was demolished in late 2019.
|Location||Cupertino, California, United States|
|Address||10123 N Wolfe Road|
|Opening date||September 1, 1976|
|Developer||Vallco Fashion Park Venture (Phillip Lyon, Gordon & Co. and Vallco Park Ltd.)|
|Owner||Sand Hill Property Co.|
|No. of stores and services||140 (1976) 190 (1988)|
|No. of anchor tenants||0|
|Total retail floor area||1,200,000 sq ft (110,000 m2)|
Macy's 179,962 sq ft (16,719.0 m2)
Sears 257,548 sq ft (23,927.0 m2)
J. C. Penney 548,856 sq ft (50,990.4 m2)
|No. of floors||2 (formerly 3 in AMC Theatres)|
Vallco Shopping Mall (formerly called Cupertino Square and Vallco Fashion Park) is a dead mall located in Cupertino, California, United States. Originally built with three levels, it was anchored by Macy's, Sears, and J.C. Penney. As of April 2019[update], the mall is owned by Sand Hill Property Co. and is almost entirely vacant, with Cupertino Ice Center (formerly the Ice Capades Chalet), Bowlmor Lanes, Benihana, and Fremont Union High School (FUHSD) Adult School as the only remaining tenants.
A plan by Sand Hill to rebuild Vallco as a mixed-use development with retail, housing, and office space topped by a green roof park was cancelled after Cupertino voters rejected Measure D on the November 2016 ballot. After obtaining community input in the planning phase, the project ran into significant push-back from citizens who wanted to freeze the site as retail-only, citing concerns about traffic and schools.
In 2018, Sand Hill proposed a revised development plan under the auspices of SB35, which has been approved by Cupertino, containing 2,402 apartments, half of them affordable, with no government subsidies, which would quintuple Cupertino's affordable housing stock. : : : 
Major stores and activities
Vallco was formerly anchored by the following department stores:
AMC Theatres also left the mall on March 22, 2018. Currently, the primary attractions are Bowlmor Lanes and Cupertino Ice Center. Benihana remains active at the mall in its original location, and the Fremont Union High School District operates an adult school in the mall's former food court. All of the current occupants have exterior entrances; the interior hallways of the mall have been closed to public access since late 2018.
Vallco also formerly hosted the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market in the parking lot behind J. C. Penney. The market's last day at Vallco was December 30, 2016, after which it relocated to nearby Creekside Park.
Origins and expansion
In the early 1970s, the Cupertino City Council held public hearings on the possible locations of a regional shopping center in the city. After it decided the city could only support one center, the Vallco group found itself competing with another group led by orchard owner Paul Mariani, Jr. In 1973, the city council decided it wanted the regional shopping center on the edge of the city and gave the proper zoning to Vallco.
Vallco Fashion Park held its grand opening at 6:00pm on September 1, 1976. In its first several years, the mall's main walkway was punctuated by several parks showcasing aspects of local history, ranging from apricots to Klystron tubes. Vallco was one of the largest shopping centers in Silicon Valley and soon drew customers from all over the region.
One of the early features of the mall was the ice skating rink attached to the shopping center. The Ice Capades Chalet, open for almost ten years, began to encounter trouble in 1986, when proposals to close it and replace it with movie theatres emerged (not to be confused with the more recent AMC Theatres, which was instead built on a new third level over the central portion of the mall). By June 3, 1988, the rink faced imminent closure, until the Cupertino city council stepped in and kept the rink open when faced with vocal protest. At the time, the ice rink was one of two year-round skating rinks nearby – the other being the identical Ice Capades Chalet at San Mateo Fashion Island.
It was also the first place that sold San Jose Sharks merchandise, before the SAP Center (formerly called the San Jose Arena and the HP Pavilion) was built.
Beginning in 1986, increased competition from other regional malls such as Stanford Shopping Center and in particular Valley Fair (renovated into an indoor shopping mall that year) began to cause Vallco trouble. Foot traffic began to rapidly decline, and tenants began to move to these competing malls. In July 1988, an $20 million expansion for Vallco was announced, which added a lower level and 50 stores, increasing the total store count from 140 to 190. Ultimately, this expansion was completed in August, 1988, adding a total of 60 stores.
On the weekend of August 11, 1990, Tilt Family Entertainment Center opened on the lower level (where the original food court used to be).
Deterioration and renovation
Occupancy began to decline in the 1990s, and the emptying of the mall continued into the present day. One reason for this decline was that the selection of mid-range stores didn't reflect the affluence of the surrounding populace.
Alan Wong, Emily Chen, and John Nguyen bought Vallco and began renovation of the mostly empty mall in 2005. By 2006, Vallco had the lowest occupancy rate of any mall in the area, at just 24 percent. One of the changes made to Vallco as part of these new renovations was to completely close the first of the mall's two levels in 2005 (with a handful of exceptions including Cupertino Ice Center, Strike! Bowling (later Bowlmor Lanes), and Dynasty Seafood Restaurant), leaving the focus on the second floor. From there, new tenants were pulled in over the next few years.
In 2006, Cupertino voters prevented re-zoning of part of the Vallco property for condominiums by overturning a re-zoning ordinance that was passed by the city council. The loss of the revenue that was expected from this sale contributed to the financial problems of the owners. The contractor for the movie theater, DPR, filed a mechanic's lien against the owners for approximately US$10 million in July 2007, which was settled the following September when Orbit Resources acquired the mall.
Vallco Fashion Park's name was changed to Cupertino Square in 2007. Later that year, the owners sold three parcels of land to Evershine Property Management and sold a controlling stake of the mall to Orbit Resources, which switched managing agents from Landmark Property Management to Jones Lang LaSalle.
On May 4, 2007, a new 16-screen AMC movie theater opened in the center of the mall, coinciding with the theatrical release of Spider-Man 3. The grand opening of this highly anticipated film and the theater was heavily marketed towards the students of nearby Cupertino High School. During construction, on February 27, 2006, strong winds toppled a 30-ton crane onto the mall, puncturing a substantial hole in the roof and resulting in water damage to several stores.
Renovation of the mall that began in 2005 continued. By 2009, two new parking structures, the movie theater, a food court, and Strike Bowling (at the former location of Tilt Family Entertainment Center; now Bowlmor Lanes) had been added to the complex. Future plans included shops facing the street at the corner of Wolfe Road and Vallco Parkway and a seismic upgrade of the parking garage west of the theaters as well as the main mall structure, two new hotels and a Hofbrau beer hall adjacent the theaters. The bankruptcy filing in 2008 derailed all the future plans (hotel retail and the beer hall).
In September 2008, the two owners of the complex filed for bankruptcy to prevent the primary financier, Gramercy Capital, from foreclosing on their property. According to Gramercy, the assets of the company fell well below the debt owed, though the consortium disputed this.
In September 2009, Vietnamese food processing company Son Son Co. purchased Cupertino Square for US$64 million in an all-cash transaction. The new owners restored the name Vallco Shopping Mall.
In October 2014, Sand Hill Property Co. purchased the Macy's, J. C. Penney, and Sears sites for approximately US$200 million. In November 2014, Sand Hill completed purchase of the entire mall for a total of US$320 million, the first time the entire mall including the anchor stores had been under the same ownership.
In January 2015, J. C. Penney and Macy's announced plans to close their Vallco locations; Sears also announced that its store would close in October 2015. These left Vallco without any anchor tenants.
In August 2015, Sand Hill announced a plan to demolish the mall structures and make it into The Hills at Vallco, a retail, office, and residential development based on a street grid. It was to be covered with the world's largest green roof, to be occupied by a city park. Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN Landscape Architects were selected as chief designers of the project.
In November 2016, voters rejected two ballot initiatives related to Vallco: Measure C, which would have attempted to freeze Vallco as a retail center without offices or housing, in addition to imposing additional restrictions on development options throughout the city, and Measure D, which would have approved the proposed Hills at Vallco project, bypassing standard city approval processes. In the wake of the votes, Sand Hill announced it would stop investing in the mall. Managing Director Reed Moulds said the company "will not sell the land nor make investments into the current failed asset. In order for us to invest in Vallco we have to be certain it will be a worthwhile investment and not just the Band-Aid approaches that have failed Vallco for decades. Until Cupertino is ready for that approach, we have no choice but to stop". In a follow-up statement, he said current tenants' leases would be honored so long as they remained at the mall; AMC Theatres, Bowlmor Lanes, Ice Center Cupertino, and Benihana all indicated their intention to stay. However, all vacant areas of the mall would be closed for security reasons, and remaining tenants without lease terms are to be evicted.
In May 2017, Sand Hill began implementing the closure of vacant areas, with seven new interior walls erected and a fenced-off section in front of the former Macy's. On March 7, 2018, Sand Hill and AMC Theatres announced that the movie theater would close on March 22, 2018 – making the 16-screen megaplex's lifespan less than 11 years.
In March 2018, Sand Hill proposed a revised mixed-use development plan with an increase from 800 to 2,402 residential units, and still including a roof-top park. The company submitted an application under SB 35, a 2017 California law that seeks to mitigate the state's housing crisis by eliminating the requirement for local approval of certain kinds of developments that include housing. This proposal has been approved by the city. : Advisory plans being developed by members of the community through a charrette would include 2,400 residential units and more retail space than Sand Hill's plan.
On December 1, 2018, Dynasty Seafood Restaurant closed for the last time. Bay Club closed its doors in July 2019, leaving the entirety of the mall west of Wolfe Road vacant; all the remaining tenants occupy the smaller eastern portion of the mall.
On October 11, 2018, Sand Hill initiated demolition of one parking garage of the mall, followed by demolition of the mall itself in six to nine months' time. In August 2019 (ten months after the start of demolition), Sand Hill demolished the other parking garage under the scope of the original permit (adjacent to the site of the first parking garage), and after receiving a new permit, began demolition of the majority of the mall west of Wolfe Road on August 12.
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