Town Center Overview:
The City’s Role
Contrary to prevailing thought, the redevelopment of the old Town Center Mall is not a City-owned project. Most of the property that was once the Town Center Mall is now owned by Wells Fargo Bank, with the exception of Macy’s and Target which are individually owned by those companies. Because the City does not own the property, it has little say in how or when development will occur. While the City has provided tax incentives to the property owner to proceed expeditiously, multiple factors outside the City’s control affect the property owner’s business decisions. The City does have a role in determining who the property owner might select to develop the property. But the City must base any concern it has on specific grounds (such as insufficient financing on the part of the developer to complete the job). The City cannot simply refuse to allow a certain developer to be involved, or require a City-preferred developer be used. The City does also review and approve related building permits and ensure compliance with City building codes, but this is no different than the City’s role regarding any other private development project.
Wells Fargo’s Role
Wells Fargo is not in the business of developing shopping centers. The only reason it owns the property is because it was the major lender to the previous owners of the Town Center Mall (RREEF and Sand Hill Properties/Peter Pau). When the previous owners defaulted on a loan from Wells Fargo, the bank took possession of the property and, working with a Court-appointed receiver responsible for managing the asset, put more than $100 million of its own money into project enhancements such as upgrading streets, completing the façade on housing units, and building parking structures. Like the City, Wells Fargo, would like to move forward as swiftly as possible with redevelopment of the downtown shopping center. It is unable to do so at this time, however, due to a stream of lawsuits filed by Sand Hill Properties/Peter Pau.
Sand Hill Properties
Sand Hill Properties believes it is legally entitled to play a continuing role in the development of the property, and has filed several lawsuits against Wells Fargo and RREEF in an effort to reclaim some control over the project. This litigation has been unsuccessful to date, but has resulted in stalling the project for years, and tying the hands of Wells Fargo Bank with regard to future progress.
The former Town Center Mall is only a portion of Sunnyvale’s downtown area. Despite the legal challenges mentioned above, the City’s downtown continues to thrive because of major private and public investments completed after the developer defaulted on the bank loan for the former mall. Below is a summary of public and private improvements that have been completed and/or started with the sole purpose of making Sunnyvale’s downtown the entertainment center of the community, complemented by employment, housing and transit opportunities.
In January 2009, Target began renovation of their store on Iowa Avenue. This project saw the construction of a new 173,000 square-foot store which opened on schedule on November 15, 2009. As part of the Target store renovation, the bank invested about $8 million to finish roadways, curbs and gutters, and install lighting and landscaping along McKinley and Taaffe Avenues. These improvements allowed the City to reopen downtown streets that were closed off for more than 30 years. These streets – McKinley Avenue, Taaffe Street and a portion of Murphy Avenue – provide access to Macy’s, the new Target, and a new parking garage. They also serve shoppers and diners visiting Historic Murphy Avenue.
In July of 2009, the City invested about $4.2 million dollars to improve Murphy Avenue. The project included street and sidewalk improvements, and upgrading the street lights on Murphy Avenue between Washington and Evelyn Avenues. The improved Murphy Avenue offers a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to its visitors and allows the restaurants to use the sidewalk for outdoor dining. This project was completed with a grand opening event on May 27, 2010.
In early 2010, a possible tenant for the office building located at the corner of Washington and Mathilda Avenue was identified. Part of the building shell had been completed, but in order to finalize the building for a tenant, improvements to the interior and to Aries Avenue were needed. Wells Fargo completed that work through its receiver, and leased the building to Nokia who took possession in December 2010. Nokia now has over 400 employees at this site.
In March of 2010, the City began reconstruction of the Mathilda Avenue overpass, a $26.1 million dollar capital project designed to upgrade travel lanes, ramps and signal lights to improve both vehicular and pedestrian bridge access and safety. This project was completed in March 2012.
In January 2012, the City began major improvements on Sunnyvale Avenue between Iowa and Evelyn Avenues. The City invested nearly $2 million dollars widening sidewalks, upgrading street lights and street furniture, adding trees, and installing new curbs and gutters. This project was completed in October 2012.
In January 2012, BRE Properties, Inc. began construction of its “Solstice” project on part of the old Town & Country site, just north of the former Town Center mall. Solstice has completed the residential aspect, which includes 280 apartments. The retail sites are currently working on tenant improvements and are tentatively scheduled to be complete in December 2014.
In April, 2012, Apple, Inc. indicated its interest in leasing office space next to the Nokia office. The bank’s receiver once again made interior and exterior building improvements; Apple moved into the new 156,000 square-foot building at the corner of Mathilda and McKinley Avenues in August 2012 and today has about 400 employees working at the site.
During the fall of 2012, Carmel Partners began constructing the Carmel Lofts project on the remainder of the old Town & Country site. This project is adjacent to Plaza Del Sol and will consist of 133 apartments and approximately 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail. This project is tentatively scheduled to be complete in 2014.
These projects continue to add to the vibrancy of Downtown Sunnyvale with new retail, service and housing options for residents and employees who in turn support our businesses and boost our local economy.
Town Center Updates:
October 7, 2014 Update:
The Downtown Sunnyvale Residential, LLC., et al. v Wells Fargo Bank
(Court of Appeal No. H039332) case continues on appeal with the Sixth District Appellate Court. It was fully briefed as of April 2014, and was placed on the court’s conference list on September 3, 2014. This means that the case has been assigned to a panel for consideration, but has not been set for oral argument; there is no way of knowing when it will be set. You can get information about the case by searching on the court number.
October 18, 2013 Update:
On October 17, 2013, the Sixth District Court of Appeal issued an opinion in the case of Downtown Sunnyvale Residential v Wachovia Bank National Association, which arose out of the lawsuit referenced below in the May 24, 2012 Update. The Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court decision, finding no merit to Pau's cross-complaint.
Both Wells Fargo and Pau have appealed from Judge Kirwan's ruling in the case discussed in the January 15, 2013 Update. That matter is pending, and will not likely be heard until 2014 once the court schedules a date for an oral argument hearing.
Read the court decision
January 15, 2013 Update
On December 31, 2012, Judge Kirwan issued his ruling in the Downtown Sunnyvale Residential, LLC vs Wells Fargo Bank case related to Wells Fargo's motion to strike an amended complaint by Peter Pau. The court ruled in part in Wells Fargo's favor and dismissed the first four causes of action (to set aside the foreclosure, to cancel the deed of trust, slander of title, and accounting errors). The court denied the motion with respect to the 5th cause of action, for breach of the deed of trust, which is the sole remaining cause of action in the matter. Further updates will be provided as more information regarding this last cause of action becomes available.
November 14, 2012 Update:
Read the news release
Read the court decision
The Town Center project is still being delayed by lawsuits filed by Peter Pau, a representative of the former developer, against Wells Fargo, the bank that now owns the property.
In May 2012, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled against Pau's challenges to Wells Fargo's continued progress and investments in the project. Pau is appealing that decision; the case is now fully briefed and the parties are waiting for the appellate court to assign a date for oral argument before a 3-judge panel who may determine the outcome of the dispute.
Meanwhile, Pau has filed additional lawsuits which seem to mirror his earlier unsuccessful attempts. The Superior Court is expected to issue a ruling any day now on those claims, as well.
May 24, 2012 Update:
The Sunnyvale Town Center project has been tied up by delaying lawsuits from a former developer. On May 23, the Santa Clara County Superior Court issued a seven-page decision against the former developer.
Other Downtown Development Projects Continue
There are several active projects as well as upcoming projects. This includes activity from private property owners to street improvement projects by the City of Sunnyvale. Here are a few of the current or pending projects.
Other Downtown Construction Updates
Carmel Lofts is a mixed use development that will be adjacent to Plaza del Sol off of Frances Avenue and Olson Way. It will consist of two buildings comprised of up to four stories of residential with 133 apartment units and 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.
Building shell and façade work continues along with street and sidewalks surrounding the project. Project is tentatively scheduled to be completed in October 2014 with tenant improvements for retail sites complete in December 2014.
For additional information, contact Carmel Partners at (408) 481-9195.
Solstice Project Complete
BRE Properties, Inc., and Essex Company, completed construction on Solstice, which is a mixed use project with 280 residential units and approximately 34,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The project is surrounded by Aries Way; West Washington Ave; Frances Ave and Olson Way (see map).
For questions regarding housing units, visit BRE Properties, Inc.'s website.
For questions regarding retail space, contact SRS Real Estate Partners’ Randol Mackley at (408) 216-2316 or Bruce Frazer at (408) 216-2315.
Downtown Sunnyvale - New Businesses Coming Soon
New businesses coming to Downtown Sunnyvale to be located within the Carmel Lofts and Solstice project areas. Businesses are scheduled to open during 2014/2015 winter.
Prolific Oven Bakery and Café
Flywheel Spin Studio
Kabul Afghan Cuisine (relocating from El Camino site)
Beach Hut Deli
City Place Wine Bar
Town Center ARDDOPA Adopted by City Council
City Council approved an Amended and Restated Disposition, Development, and Owner Participation Agreement (ARDDOPA) for the Town Center redevelopment project at their May 11, 2010 meeting. The ARDDOPA is the agreement between the City and the redevelopment site developer. The ARDDOPA was between the City and Jerry Hunt of the Quattro Realty Group, the court-appointed receiver for the project. The meeting is available to view online at Webcast.inSunnyvale.com. The ARDDOPA is available at ARDDOPA.inSunnyvale.com.
Downtown Parking Map
There are no public meetings scheduled at this time.
For information on Downtown Sunnyvale projects, call the 24-hour message hotline at (408) 737-4900 or email us.