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New San Ramon City Center design debuts

Developers, architect give detailed presentation to City Council

Dozens filed in to a Dougherty Valley High School theater Tuesday night for the unveiling of the new San Ramon City Center design, gazing at a display of architectural graphics in the lobby and a slideshow image projected on the screen.

The current vision for the city center is to have two separate squares or "piazzas" that face each other in Bishop Ranch. One area would be the "social hub" containing retail, restaurants and a movie theater while the other side would consist of the residential, hotel and office space components.

"We want this to be a place where multiple generations can walk through and find their place," said Antonio Belvedere, partner with Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the architectural firm that created the design.

Belvedere presented the new design to the San Ramon City Council and the public during a meeting at Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening.

The retail side includes rooftop parking and facades extended from the second level that could be used to project advertisements and general civic information. It also contains an outdoor theater for concerts, civic events and potential transformation into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

The city center project will remain in the planning stages for four to five months, according to Sunset Development Company, but crews could break ground on the retail portion by early 2015 and open by the end of 2016. The retail plaza is expected to house about 70 tenants upon opening.

The residential side, or "Phase 2" of the city center is a future project and does not yet have an expected timeline for completion.

Alexander Mehran Jr., president and chief operating officer of Sunset Development, addressed the fact that although the city center design has changed significantly from the plan created in 2007, the land-uses remain the same. The retail, residential, office and hospitality components are still in place as presented several years ago.

The structure has been reduced from occupying approximately 2 million square feet to about 1.8 million square feet. A part of the downsize is attributed to the removal of two major department stores and 50,000 square feet of office space from the original plan, according to the developers.

During his presentation to the council, Belvedere showed photos of various buildings RPBW previously designed. He described the firm's expertise in creating buildings that become places of social and cultural value to the cities they are built in, which is the same effect they plan for city center to have on San Ramon.

Many community members expressed excitement for the project and new design during the public forum; however, some concerns were expressed such as the location of service entrances for trucks to unload cargo, a suggestion to place solar panels over the parking area, a request to make sure the entrance into the parking area is convenient and the need to create a transit system that connects community members from all areas of town to the city center.

In response to some of the concerns, council members and Sunset Development reps said the city center would accommodate bicyclists and there is a shuttle system included in the plan to benefit community members and the retail employees. Traffic analyses will also be further considered during the four to five month planning period, they said.

When the decision was made to remove two major department stores from the original plaza design, developers were prompted to "take a fresh look and create an iconic design" that is unlike other malls and shopping centers, according to Mehran. "With this new design it's less oriented around shopping and more around a social, downtown area that feels real and authentic," he said.

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