Senior housing, but no Sharks on Staples Ranch
A groundbreaking celebration is scheduled Oct. 24 for Stoneridge Creek, an 800-unit retirement community on Staples Ranch at the southwest corner of I-580 and El Charro Road in Pleasanton's far eastern corner. But after that, the 124-acre Staples Ranch will look pretty much the same as it always has, a mostly undeveloped field sandwiched between Pleasanton neighborhoods and the new bustling business centers in Livermore and Dublin.
A new Target Superstore opens today across 580 in Dublin, Target's second store there although a few years ago it had considered Staples Ranch or even more central sites in Pleasanton. Along with the Stoneridge Creek retirement community, construction also is under way across El Charro in Livermore, where Paragon Outlet Mall plans to open 120-160 upscale retail stores by Thanksgiving 2012.
Except for Stoneridge Creek, however, Staples Ranch remains desolate with only some grading under way to extend Stoneridge Drive to El Charro. Gone is the 37-acre auto mall that was going to turn Pleasanton's eastern border into a prosperous center for luxury car sales, along with the high-end sales taxes that would go with them. Gone, too, is a 7-acre retail center to serve the grocery store and service business needs of those living nearby. Now also gone, apparently, are plans for a multi-million-dollar, four-rink ice center that a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks planned to build on Staples. Don Gralnek, a vice president and general counsel of Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment LLC, who represented San Jose Arena Management (SJAM), a Sharks subsidiary, is gone, along with his legal sidekick and fellow ice rink promoter Pat Kernan, who moved out of town after his term of office as a Pleasanton school board member expired.
Despite many hours of speeches, presentations, public hearings and slide shows to city and civic organizations, Gralnek's enthusiasm for the 7-acre, two-story ice rink was not shared by everyone. As some on the City Council and City Manager Nelson Fialho pressed harder for financial information, Gralnek became harder to find. The city could never quite get the Sharks to the table in committing to a ground lease that would also require long-term operating guarantees and money up-front for the rest of the 17-acre sports and public park the Sharks had agreed to build.
Certainly the economy put brakes on expansion plans by the Sharks' SJAM, which continues to operate public ice arenas in San Jose, Fremont and Oakland. But an even greater concern was that the ice arena could become a white elephant if SJAM ever encountered financial difficulties, which it now has. It's to the city's (and taxpayers') good fortune that officials were cautious before the first shovelful of dirt was lifted on Staples. The 7-acre site is still earmarked for the ice arena, but with no movement by the Sharks, it will likely be consolidated into the full 17 acres of sports fields and parkland as was originally planned.
The rests of Staples is still master planned for an auto mall and retail center. Target's no longer an option but there are other large retail stores that could fit there, conveniently located at the new El Charro and Isabel Road interchanges at I-580. One interested retailer might be Home Depot, which lost an earlier bid to build a second, larger, upscale store on the still-empty property at Bernal Avenue and Stanley Boulevard. Or, a Wal-Mart Superstore?