Anxious to breathe new life into an aging shopping center right at the heart of the city, the Cupertino City Council approved plans for two new buildings in the Cupertino Crossroads on Tuesday night, despite concerns over set backs and parking.
With the 40-year-old center already under major renovations for the , the council’s approval paves the way for , to be replaced by Northern California's first Islands Restaurant with outdoor seating closer to Stevens Creek Boulevard.
Next to the restaurant will be an outdoor patio with a fountain, fully visible to passing traffic, with the large heritage oak tree currently behind Marie Callender’s, as the patio’s focal point.
“The oak tree really is a magnificent specimen,” said architect Charles Kahn, of Kahn Design Associates. He said the new plan builds in added protections for the tree’s root system, which has been compromised over the years because parking was allowed on top.
The plan also includes a new retail pad in the parking lot near Pier 1 Imports, which will most likely be used as restaurant space, according to Kahn.
“We want what’s best for the city, what’s best for this location,” he said. “It’s a vitally important part of the community. This center has been in very poor shape for a very long time.”
The owner, Alex Byer of Byer Properties, was asking for an exception to Cupertino’s “Heart of the City” design plan that would allow the Islands Restaurant to be set back 26 feet from Stevens Creek Boulevard, instead of 35 feet.
Byer also was asking for slightly more restaurant space—15 percent of the center’s area, compared to 13.5 percent approved by the Planning Commission in August—even though that could impact parking availability.
Looming large over the council was exceptions granted in the past to owners of the Peet’s/Panera Bread building directly across the street, which Councilmember Barry Chang called a “mistake”, because of a lack of parking and narrow outdoor seating areas.
Despite those concerns, and after much debate and a little negotiation, the council agreed to a 30 foot set back and agreed to allowing 15 percent restaurant space.
Kahn said future plans for the center include one day replacing the Pizza Hut building with a new one that will complete the patio plaza.
Currently Pizza Hut parking includes spaces over the oak tree’s roots, which prompted Chang to ask if those spaces could be removed for the tree’s protection. Kahn said he supported the condition, but only if it does not violate Pizza Hut’s lease.
The council also stipulated that parking must be evaluated after a year, and if necessary valet parking could be required.
The renovation plans also call for removing 79 trees and replacing them with 90 trees throughout the shopping center. The current trees are in poor health, Community Development Director Aarti Shrivastava told council. They will be replaced with Flowering pear, Coast live oak, Crape myrtle, London plane, and Strawberry trees.