Editorial: Northgate planners continue commitment to listening

Mar 30 , 2022 Bay Area

By Marin IJ Editorial Board, Marin Independent Journal

Link to original article

The proposed transformation of Northgate mall in Terra Linda into housing and a retail complex got feedback from its neighbors. And the property’s owner, Merlone Geier Partners, is listening.

It has come back with revisions that include adding townhomes for sale and the addition of a “town square” – a little larger than an acre – that could host community gatherings and outdoor concerts and movies.

There is also room allotted for a fenced dog park, a children’s playground and other amenities.

The mall, a landmark in the valley for almost 60 years, has already been through several overhauls. But the latest is a reflection of sweeping changes in retail.

The shuttering of the large Sears store was a harbinger of the need to rethink the long-held concept of shopping malls and how brick-and-mortar retail fits into today’s shopping and customers’ turning to online shopping.

Responding to the local need for housing is also a big benefit of this opportunity.

Merlone Geier Partners’ challenge will be building a complex that not only responds to the needs of the 1,320 residences it hopes to eventually build on the 45-acre site, but also continues Northgate’s role as a community and retail center.

Its proximity to transit, the freeway, shopping and jobs is a plus when it comes to being a good site for housing.

The latest multi-phased plans may not be the ones that are finally approved by the city. Over the nearly two decades during which the developer plans to build those phases, there likely will be additional revisions dictated by changes that time brings.

It is one of the largest development proposals the city has considered and, even though it amounts to a phased-in redevelopment of the property – a prominent one at that –  there likely is a lot of public interest in the site’s future.

More immediately, there are concerns regarding traffic and parking that will likely be part of the public dialogue that leads to the eventual design.

The developer should also remain open to community feedback regarding the size and scope of the “town square” and other community amenities as its plans advance toward city approval.

The local need for housing – especially affordable workforce housing and apartments for seniors – is clear. It is a big potential benefit of the Northgate plan.

When Merlone Geier first unveiled its plan, its representatives said they were interested in hearing what the community had to say. Its latest revision is a promising sign that the developer is paying attention to what they are hearing.