By Janice Bitters – Silicon Valley Business Journal, September 28, 2017
Sand Hill Property Co. has been winding down operations at Vallco, its dying Cupertino shopping mall, for more than a year. But the company will put the sprawling — and nearly empty — building to a new, albeit temporary, use next summer.
The Fremont Union High School District’s Adult School will move into the mall’s 30,000-square-foot former food court as the school district begins building a new permanent facility at 589 W. Fremont Ave. in Sunnyvale.
Though the school district includes five high schools, the Adult School is its largest program, serving 16,000 students, the district’s superintendent Polly Bove said in a statement Tuesday.
Sand Hill won’t be charging the school rent, but is asking that it pay for utilities and operational costs.
“By utilizing the space available at Vallco, the district and taxpayers will save a total of more than $4 million in temporary rental fees and ensure our residents continue to experience the same high-quality courses currently offered,” Bove said.
The news comes after Sand Hill in May began erecting temporary barricade walls inside Vallco to stave off loiterers and would-be vandals from causing mayhem in the nearly abandoned mall.
Those walls came as an unwelcome surprise to some of the last holdouts still operating in the 1.2 million square foot shopping center. Some store owners worried the barricades would make it more difficult for customers to reach remaining businesses.
But Mike Rohde, general manager of Vallco, said in a statement earlier this year that the efforts were aimed at making the mall safer and said the company took time “to ensure all public safety issues have been property addressed and the needs of the few remaining tenants are met.”
“The Adult School is of tremendous value to our area, providing local adults skills needed to thrive at a time when jobs are very competitive and the cost of living is incredibly high,” said Peter Pau, principal and founder of Sand Hill. “We couldn’t bear to see this important need go unmet.”
The question of what will become of the mall in the long term is still riddled with question marks. Remaining businesses in the mall sit in limbo, holding active leases with an owner that last year said it would begin closing the center down.
That decision came after resident concerns halted Sand Hill’s plans to demolish part of the site and build a huge mixed-use community with 2 million square feet of office, 625,000 square feet of retail and 800 apartment units.
Once those plans were put on an indefinite hold last November, Sand Hill Managing Director Reed Moulds told the Silicon Valley Business Journal in an emailed statement that the company wouldn’t sell the property, but it wouldn’t keep investing in it, either.
“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,” Reed’s statement said. “Until Cupertino is ready for that approach, we have no choice but to stop.”
Since then, many of the old Vallco shops, including Capezio, Golden Vision and Howard’s Shoes for Children, have moved over to Sand Hill’s nearby 18.7-acre Main St. Cupertino mixed-use development at 19419 Stevens Creek Blvd.
The city of Cupertino this week is wrapping up the first part of a multi-phased effort to reignite conversations around redeveloping Vallco.
The last session of a city-sponsored educational speaker series will be held this week. The sessions have addressed the hottest topics directly related to redeveloping the old shopping center, including trends in mall revitalization, how to integrate housing into shopping districts and best practices to reduce congestion.