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Revamp at Red Hill Angers Some

Shopping center moves forward with construction, despite concerns about businesses leaving.

With , concerns about businesses leaving the shopping center have reached a frenzy in the community.

But those concerns are unfounded and the center will be better than ever after the renovation, said DeeDee Iacopi, property manager for the Arntz family. Gene Arntz built the shopping center in 1967 and the family still owns it today.

“It’s a couple of months of construction for years of success,” said Iacopi, noting that a number of the remaining businesses will be doing their own renovations and “reaping the rewards.”

Construction at the center began earlier this summer and, when finished, the several million dollar upgrade will include enhanced public spaces, walkways, benches, a firepit and plaza, and a new entrance.

Read about the start of the project back in June.

“This place has been the same forever,” said Iacopi.

Plans are continuing as initially proposed – see the rendering at right – and most major work should be done by the holidays.

“In the next three weeks, you’ll see everything coming together,” said Iacopi.

Work will be stopped and all the fencing and construction equipment removed for holiday shopping, so as not to interfere with businesses’ busiest time. Any last work that has to be finished, such as the entrance sign or firepit, will be picked back up in January.

While the plans remain the same though, there have been changes at the center.

Last year, the Arntz family brought on Main Street Property Services to do lease management and development consulting.

Historically, the Arntz family has always managed their own property and been understanding about late rent or business owner concerns, said Iacopi. With the new lease management company and the changes at the center, a number of business owners became concerned about higher rents, forced renovations, and a different attitude.

In the last year a number of businesses have left Red Hill, citing increased rents, changes at the center, or just new locations that drew them: , , , , and, most recently, . is the only business at the center right now that is .

That was all the Arntz family needed to know to end the contract with Main Street Management.

“It was not a good fit,” said Iacopi. Though not all the blame for businesses leaving can be put on the management company, she said, “the proof is in the pudding.”

Critics of the upgrade at the shopping center have argued that rent increases are driving out shops and that the remodel is being forced on small business owners.

“We wanted to stay,” said Mark Perryman, president of the company that owned the closed Round Table and 11 others. . Perryman said he first learned the shopping center would not be renewing his lease, which was set to end in January 2012, when he read it in .

When the construction started, he said, it hurt business so much that there was no point in waiting until January – especially when he was having a hard time getting management to talk to him or let him know what was going on.

“There wasn’t any clarity or any notification [about construction],” said Perryman.

Round Table was even willing to bring the location up to new design standards, he said, because they wanted to stay.

Part of the upgrade at the shopping center, which is being paid for out of private money by the owners, said Iacopi, includes renovations and upgrades internally at the different stores.

Though the owners aren’t forcing anyone to do renovations, said Iacopi, management is working with the owners to encourage them to do upgrades, so that when they do a grand opening the shopping center will attract excited visitors.

Rents are increasing as well, she said, but they weren’t at market value before and many leases were decades old.

And, there are businesses that are more than happy to fill the empty spaces.

"We’re absolutely thrilled to be here,” said Jeff Shine, owner of . The yogurt shop, the most recent addition to the shopping center, was supposed to open back in April, but the whole store ended up having to be rebuilt.

The construction hasn’t been great for business, he said, especially since they’re at the very end of a long, blocked-off walkway, but “people come; they work to get in.” He’s optimistic that when all the construction happening right outside his front door is over it’ll be a great location.

“It’ll be worth us hanging tough,” he said.

Swirl isn’t the only business on board with the revamp. will be doing a complete renovation. will have an upgrade. will revamp at the beginning of the year. will be going all green with new machines.

And, there’s a whole list of tenants interested in moving in, said Iacopi, but she didn’t want to talk about any of them until things were finalized.

“Yes, we’re going through some changes, but in the long run it’ll be a better place,” she said. “We really, really appreciate everybody’s patience.”

Do you think the shopping center will be better with the upgrades? What stores do you want to see come in? Which ones will you miss that are gone? Have you been shopping there during the construction?

John Ferguson October 12, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Man - how many yogurt shops can one town support? Who knew that yogurt was that popular? Hey, what's in that yogurt anyway?..
Wijsen October 12, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I hope Round Table comes back as I plan to go to Red Hill more now that it will have a much nicer atmosphere.
Colleen Proppe October 12, 2011 at 02:10 PM
With the nicer atmosphere, it would be great to see at least one new restaurant. I like La Boulange and Toast in the newer Novato center. California Pizza Kitchen still seems very popular in Corte Madera. Chocolatier Blue would be great. A flower shop would be nice. A really unique toy shop- too bad Felice couldn't find a place at Red Hill. An art supply and unique gift shop. We have so many stores in San Anselmo and Fairfax- they are just so spread out. I never can get everything in one place.
Tim Chatard October 12, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Red Hill is an outdated mall, badly in need of a major overhaul. I wish the owners would go further. It's the ugliest mall in Marin county (northern California perhaps). How about enforcing consistent signage? How about more attractive landscaping? Safeway is an anachronism. Why not remodel the anchor space too, ask Safeway to contribute capital or look for a better tenant?
juanita October 12, 2011 at 06:55 PM
losing round table was a big mistake. the holidays at red hill will be terrible because there are no stores left to shop.
Carol X October 13, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Nah. I never went to Round Table in 13 years -- why would you, when we have Ghiringhelli's? I don't know what I want to see at Red Hill, but I know what I DON'T want -- no more baby/children/breeder stores!
juanita October 13, 2011 at 03:18 AM
i am by no means a kid person--don't have any, don't want any, but "breeder" is sort of rude. round table was a good pizza place to have in red hill for the kids that play little league at the park nearby and for the drake students to have lunch. and while you never went to round table, there are plenty of people who did, and who like their pizza. there is a reason we have different versions of the same businesses--not everyone like the same thing.
ukemike November 05, 2011 at 05:52 AM
I wish the renovations had been done faster. I rarely saw more than a few workers there, and I was shocked at some of the things I saw. One time there was a worker in a hole with the mini-backhoe digging right next to him. He could have been crushed to death! For months they have been at it at a snails pace and it has had a real impact on the incomes of the employees and owners of the stores. It didn't have to be that way, it took so long because the owners are cheap and chose to do it that way. Part of me hopes that the owners have lost lots of rental income, but the rest of me hopes that the businesses that did survive, can thrive now that the noisy, slow motion, dustbowl will soon be gone.
R Darcy February 29, 2012 at 05:59 AM
update: Feb 28, 2012 still not finished
John Ferguson February 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Dress it up however you like, it's still a strip mall. Not really to my taste, but what can you do? The suburban dream of easy parking next to many stores lives on, and I guess we can accommodate that view as well in our little corner of heaven.

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