By Kathy Chouteau
Prologis, the new owner of the former Hilltop Mall property, recently donated 150 backpacks for Highland Elementary School students and Hilltop Community Church children and also provided an update on both short and longer term plans for the site.
The backpacks were delivered at the Sept. 23 Fairmede Hilltop Neighborhood Council meeting. Arto Rinteela, president of the Neighborhood Council, reportedly approached Prologis, the council’s soon-to-be neighbor, about the backpack donation. Eric Zell, a Richmond consultant for the company, said Prologis didn’t hesitate to rise to the occasion.
Samidha Thakral, vice president, investment officer at Prologis, said the company is “very committed to education,” noting that as a mother of two young children herself, she knows all too well the many challenges of just getting them to school in the morning and that “having a backpack should definitely not be one of them.”
“As a member of the community, we welcome this opportunity to support Richmond kids with the supplies they need to succeed in the classroom,” Thakral said in a statement to the Standard.
On the topic of the future, Thakral shared some of Prologis’ short-term plans for the property’s exterior, which include hosting a pumpkin patch and Christmas tree area in the former Hilltop Mall’s parking lot.
Thakral said Prologis will reach out to the community “hopefully in a month or two” regarding design workshops. The workshops will welcome community input that will be shared with Prologis’ architects so that they “can come back with some options,” she said.
Prologis’ plan is to “create a mixed-use development” where it will be a combination of “creating jobs, creating public spaces so it’s an active place” again, said Thakral. Zell added separately that housing would also be part of their plan.
Per Thakral, Prologis has selected an architect and that they will be “connecting with the City of Richmond,” noting that it is creating a specific plan for that area as well.
Prologis has plans to talk to several grocery store companies to consider that possibility at the site, said Thakral, adding that the company is exploring flea market operators who might be interested in having a presence there.
Asked whether Prologis is still in conversations with the Building & Construction Trades Council to ensure the construction of the site utilizes union labor, Thakral said conversations are ongoing and emphasized Prologis is “very big supporters” of unions and utilizes them in its projects across the Bay Area.
Prologis plans to level the mall completely but will likely install an art feature using some “memorable pieces” from the old structure to honor its history that people cherish, according to Thakral. She added that “the only thing that stays is Walmart,” which has a long-term lease and for which they may or may not build a new structure for the store as part of the project.
Thakral said that the estimated timeframe for Prologis to break ground on the project will be two to three years, highlighting that “there’s a process with the City Council” that needs to occur.
People should “think of it as a blank slate,” where there’s going to be an opportunity to create something “much more livable over there” where the property can be used in ways beyond just a big parking lot, Zell said. “There’s gonna be public spaces, there’s gonna be parks, there’s gonna be residential and there’s gonna be retail and then there’s going to be office uses potentially…,” he said.
He added that Prologis is also “trying to attract medical uses” at the site as well, noting that this might not translate into a hospital, but that they’re doing everything they can to “get the highest level of health care up here that we can possibly get.”
Local journalist Don Gosney has posted video of the Sept. 23 meeting. Watch it by clicking here.