By Paul Bendix
BBC -- Big Break Coming...for DowntownUploaded: Feb 12, 2014
It's good news for downtown Menlo Park and great news for the region...a landmark establishment that has long 'anchored' our retail district is on the way back. The British Bankers Club has had a checkered history, but its potential was always clear. Now, with an experienced restauranteur at the helm, and planning permission complete, our downtown has a chance to regroup...and rebuild.
And why should anyone cheer for one particular retail business? After all, enterprises don't need our help to succeed...do they?
Well, yes and no. This is our community. There's a reason why we have a Planning Commission. There's a reason why we have planning. The question, of course, is what are we planning for? How can our downtown work best for everyone...businesses, shoppers, citizens?
Each of us has a different answer. And that answer keeps evolving. But a revitalized BBC plays to downtown Menlo Park's current strengths. And what are they?
By a mixture of accident and design, Menlo Park has a center. Key retail streets and major suburban thoroughfares road and rail converge at one spot. An inviting outdoor café, a famous bookstore and the distinctive BBC are all right there. There is a potential for great synergy.
There may be potential for even more. The renovated BBC's rooftop deck particularly intrigues me. After all, with property values constantly rising, property uses have to head in the same direction. Downtown Menlo Park does have other rooftops, after all.
Finally, a friend who is a retail planning consultant sees two important lessons from the 25-year-old Menlo Center which adjoins the BBC. Both lessons involve setbacks. In one case, opening up the space for a café has worked beautifully. In the other, setting the retail frontage well back from El Camino Real, has not worked at all. The opportunities for windowshopping and general curb appeal get lost, according to my friend. Retail development needs a certain density to excite shoppers, it seems. More on this soon.