Korean restaurant set to take over old Apple Store in Palo Alto

Maum wins praise -- though not approval -- from Palo Alto's architecture board

A Korean restaurant with a rooftop terrace is setting its sights on the former Apple Store in the heart of downtown Palo Alto.

Maum, as the new restaurant is called, would occupy 451 University Ave., on the corner of Kipling Street. The city's Architectural Review Board held its first review of the project Thursday morning and while it didn't formally approve the application, most members were enthusiastic about the project and the changes proposed by Maum. These include new exit doors along Kipling Street and modifications to the second floor to provide access to the roof. A new "pedestal-type wood deck surface" would be included on the roof and the roof structure would be raised, increasing the building's overall height by 4 feet 6 inches, according to a letter from BCV Architects, the project architect.

Along University Avenue, the plan is to relocate the entry door and install glass sliding panels and brick pavers and add a new entry canopy all along the storefront.

Board Chair Randy Popp called it an "exciting project" and said it would fit in perfectly on University Avenue. He called the design "terrific" and said he was particularly enthusiastic about the rooftop terrace.

Vice Chair Robert Gooyer said he was concerned about the placement of the stairs and, based on that, said "he can't support the project as it stands now."

Board member Kyu Kim was more enthusiastic and said he likes the idea of "bringing new life" into a space that has been vacant since Apple moved its operations to the other side of University Avenue.

"I can definitely see a lot of people coming here and re-activating the site on University Avenue," he said.

But Kim also shared some of the concerns expressed by residents about the project's impacts on the neighborhood. The board had recently approved a four-story development on University and Kipling, across the street from 451 University., and SAP is now preparing to open Hanahaus, a cafe aimed at high-tech professionals at the Varsity Theatre. The context, Kim said, makes the project a bit more complicated than it otherwise would be.

"I do worry a little bit about some of the surrounding conditions," Kim said.

Some things, he said, "would need to be massaged." Yet he also praised the project for having a "lot of heart," a nod to the restaurant's Korean name.

The board continued its review to a later date and requested that the Planning and Transportation Commission also weigh in on the proposal, which would result in an overall increase in square footage because of the roof modifications. One question that remains unresolved is the impacts that these adjustments should have on the building's parking requirements.

These reservations did little, however, to diminish the board's appetite for the new restaurant.

"We do have this clear message to preserve the vitality of downtown," Popp said. "Frankly, what can be better than a restaurant on University Avenue?"

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