City officials push developer for retail

Illlustration shows University Circle, a development that replaced Whiskey Gulch at Woodland Avenue, University Avenue and Highway 101 in East Palo Alto. Illustration by the project's owner, Columbia Property Trust.

Daily Post Staff Writer

East Palo Alto Planning Commissioners told representatives of the University Circle complex Monday (April 22) that if they want to add another office building to the development at Highway 101 and University Avenue, they should also add some stores.

In fact, two of the commissioners, Kyra Brown and Javanni Brown, said the new retail area should commemorate the Whiskey Gulch neighborhood that the development replaced.

The possibility of adding some retail or a community center is being floated by University Circle owner’s Columbia Property Trust LLC, who wants to build a fourth six-story office building.

Some of the commissioners asked retail space that would attract East Palo Alto residents.

Commissioner Ofelia Bello gave Columbia representative Mark English some ideas for retail space, such as a co-working space or a business incubator. She also suggested that University Circle subsidize a business for five years in order for it to become successful.

Resident William Webster recommended that the Columbia Property Trust include a space for the city’s historical society, which does not have a dedicated space.

Aside from the restaurant at the hotel, there is one other restaurant in University Circle, San Francisco Soup Company. The other business there, a deli, closed, according to English.
English said with some 1,100 employees at the complex from 8 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., the ability to keep retail going in University Circle is difficult.

Bello added that most people in East Palo Alto don’t feel comfortable going to University Circle, which in turn limits the potential of retail there.

‘The fortress’

Javanni Brown, who lives near University Circle, commented that many people call it “the fortress” and said with a new building at the corner of University and Woodland, it will become even more fortress-like.
Brown also said that traffic that paralyzes the area during commute time.

Planning Director Guido Periscone said the city is working with Palo Alto and Menlo Park to improve the stoplight timing at University and Woodland, which can cause traffic to back up to Middlefield Road in Palo Alto.

English added that University Circle is trying to get people out of cars and take Caltrain by providing a shuttle to and from the train station. But said the shuttle was underutilized because many of the bankers and lawyers who work there are “car people.”

The East Palo Alto City Council will also hold a study session on the project.


  1. Retail? That’s not going to work at that location because of too little foot traffic. They should be pushing for housing, which fits in with the neighborhood. We have enough offices already.

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