A Bay Area shopping destination is closing for good

After 51 years in business, a Bay Area shopping destination is closing for good to make way for a massive biotech campus and housing.

The 44-acre property where The Shops at Tanforan currently stands was recently acquired by Pasadena-based Alexandria Real Estate, which plans to develop 1 million square feet of office space and at least 1,000 homes on the site near from the San Bruno BART station on El Camino Real.

The company purchased the property in three separate transactions totaling $328 million, the Mercury News reported. $105.25 million was spent on the JCPenney store site in September 2021, while another $128 million secured anchor tenant Sears. The remaining $95.2 million covered the cost of the rest of the retail and restaurant complex in a final purchase that took place this week.

“The retail apocalypse,” exacerbated by the pandemic and a major shift to online shopping, has long had a negative impact on malls like Tanforan, said San Bruno City Manager Jovan Grogan. in a press release.


“Then the impact of shelter-at-home and other public health restrictions since March 2020 led to the closure of many Tanforan stores,” including Sears, Grogan added.

In response, San Bruno City Council adopted a Reinventing Tanforan Land Use Fact Sheet in July 2021 to encourage investors to assess the mall’s mixed-use development potential.

It is a historic site that dates back to the Tanforan Racecourse made famous by Seabiscuit. The runway was also sometimes used as an airfield and hosted the first successful landing of an aircraft on board, a feat accomplished by aviator Eugene Ely. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ director Frank Capra filmed scenes for two of his movies, ‘Broadway Bill’ and ‘Riding High’, here. The area was later used as a temporary detention center for Japanese Americans before they were sent to prison camps during World War II, as a plaque in a garden outside notes from the shopping center. It will be replaced with a new memorial later this spring.

It’s not immediately clear when the mall will close, but Grogan is optimistic about the change and said it’s “laying the groundwork for the City of San Bruno to initiate a public masterplan process that will crystallize the vision for this significant land in the heart of San Bruno and the peninsula’s thriving economic corridor.”

The Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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