Fashion Island, San Mateo/Foster City

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TheStranger
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Fashion Island, San Mateo/Foster City

Post by TheStranger »

When I was younger, I would go to the skating rink once in a while at Fashion Island, but in the several years I went there, I noticed a continuing death of stores (i.e. Whole Earth Access, the KB toy store, etc.) until eventually, by the mid-90s, the site was razed for a big box power center, lacking the "canvas tent" architecture of the original mall.

Anyone know why the mall failed? I'd think it was just that Hillsdale outcompeted it. The street leading to the current power center is still named Fashion Island Boulevard, however.

And was this connected to the Southern California mall of the same name?
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Post by justin karimzad »

I don't know all of the specifics, but I agree that Hillsdale had a lot to do with the mall's demise. It seemed like a winner upon completion in 1981. But in a way, the mall was a ticking time bomb to begin with. Bad freeway access was a start. It also had an unfortunate anchor mix that coincided with corporate decisions at the time. Bullock's department store (the one with the teflon-tent roof) supposedly closed just two years after it opened, when its parent company (Federated Department Stores) unloaded its northern california stores. Liberty House was added in 1983, but closed only one year later, when Liberty House ceased all California operations and focused on their Hawaii homeland. With those stores gone, virtually every potential replacement department store was already operating at Hillsdale. The Bullock's became a sporting goods store and the Liberty House became the Whole Earth Access that was mentioned. At the same time, JC Penney closed around 1992 and was not replaced with anything. Evidently poor substitutes for true department stores, the sporting goods store only lasted a year, and the Whole Earth closed not long after the JC Penney. The mall's death was gradual, but I'd say the hand of death hit in 1992, when virtually all of the secondary stores and eateries in the mall vanished. This left Montgomery Ward, the movie theater, the ice rink, and the arcade, all of which continued to operate almost up to the mall's demolition in 1996 or 1997. The only vestige of the old mall is the ice rink, which was completely renovated. Here are some interesting articles about the mall's failure and redevelopment;
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 005&sc=823
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 01&sc=1000
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 003&sc=951
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Alloy
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Post by Alloy »

Hello--new member here--
I was interested in whether Fashion Island Boulevard had kept the name. I had not been down 101 for a while, and tonight I noticed that the exit signs did indeed say, "Fashion Island Boulevard." But I am sure that they changed the name after the demise of the mall--I remember noting that they had gotten rid of all traces of it, including the street name.

Did they just change it back to Fashion Island Boulevard in the last three months or so?

I am also curious as to whether there was a connection to the Southern California mall of the same name. Unlike chain stores, I don't think that mall names/concepts are franchised.
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TheStranger
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Post by TheStranger »

Alloy wrote:Hello--new member here--
I was interested in whether Fashion Island Boulevard had kept the name. I had not been down 101 for a while, and tonight I noticed that the exit signs did indeed say, "Fashion Island Boulevard." But I am sure that they changed the name after the demise of the mall--I remember noting that they had gotten rid of all traces of it, including the street name.

Did they just change it back to Fashion Island Boulevard in the last three months or so?
I actually don't remember the street name ever being changed, and in any case, the freeway signs never did change as far as I recall (unlike, for comparison, Army/Cesar Chavez or Candlestick Park/3Com Park/Monster Park in SF).
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Post by justin karimzad »

The only part of Fashion Island Blvd that changed its name to Bridgepointe Parkway is the part east of the highway 92 freeway onramp, or the part that goes through the shopping center property. There was an ordeal about this sometime back as the developer complained that he had spent such and such dollars on this project, and didn't want to loose any business with the confusion. I can't remember the city's reasons for not changing the entire street to the new name.
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Post by Groceteria »

Interestingly enough, Target's store loactor site lists its store there as the "Fashion Island Target", with an address on Bridgepoint Parkway.
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Post by Alloy »

Thanks for the replies. I am pretty sure that the freeway sign on 101 coming from San Francisco was changed to read, "Mariner's Island Boulevard," after the mall went under. Fashion Island Boulevard is indeed still there on the map, and it is the street that leads to Mariner's Island Boulevard.

There is another Mariner's Island Boulevard exit on East 92, leading toward the San Mateo bridge. I'm not confusing that one with the exit that comes off of 101.

I hope this is not going too far off topic. I need to contact Caltrans about some road repairs, and maybe I can find out if that "Fashion Island Boulevard" sign is a recent addition.

Anyone know of a link to the Southern Cal mall of the same name?
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Post by justin karimzad »

storeliker
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Street sign

Post by storeliker »

As far as I know it has always been that name during my last eight years here, I'm not sure why they would keep it. What confused me was the Marineworld blvd exit a few exits down that moved years ago (eighties I think). It was only until recently that it was changed to a new exit name. I can just imagine how many people through the eighties and nighties took that exit to realize that it was moved to Vallejo once they realized no Marineworld was there.
Was Fashion Island on an actual island?
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Re: Street sign

Post by TheStranger »

storeliker wrote:As far as I know it has always been that name during my last eight years here, I'm not sure why they would keep it. What confused me was the Marineworld blvd exit a few exits down that moved years ago (eighties I think). It was only until recently that it was changed to a new exit name. I can just imagine how many people through the eighties and nighties took that exit to realize that it was moved to Vallejo once they realized no Marineworld was there.
I think it officially became "Marine Parkway" in the 80s, when the old Marine World area was sold off and turned into Oracle property...but the signs for that exit did not change for a long time, as you mentioned.
storeliker wrote:

Was Fashion Island on an actual island?
The San Mateo/Foster City one wasn't. It was notable for its "white tent" architecture (the Safeway in Foster City has that look as well, I wonder how close it is to the old mall):

http://remis.smugmug.com/gallery/5918/6/185375
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Post by TheQuestioner »

I have heard bits and pieces about Fashion Island for years, living in the bay area. Since I didn't know too many people who lived on the Peninsula, most people I talked to knew no more than I about this mall, other than this it had closed. It seemed strange that a mall in such an easily accessible and well-off suburban area would just die like that.

I guess this mall was not very well loved, even by "retail historians" since I hardly ever see it mentioned on any of the sites or blogs such as Deadmalls.com or Labelscar. The only photo of the mall I have been able to find is at the link below, it's a photo of the Bullock's store that was an anchor and had an odd tent roof.

http://www.denardis.com/specialimage/bullocks2.html

BTW: I believe the highway signs on 101 still refer to both Fashion Island Blvd. and Marine World Parkway, though I am not 100% sure, since it's been a couple of years since I drove around there regularly, but they were both still up as of 2003 or so, long after both destinations had vanished. If it weren't for those exit signs, I never would have known Fashion Island had existed since no one I knew ever mentioned it, unlike Emporium or the Broadway or City of Paris. Of course, a flagship location of a dept. store is more memorable than a short-lived 80's mall, I suppose, depending on who is doing the recollecting. To me, 70's-80's malls are solid gold nostalgia.
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Post by Alloy »

Thanks for posting the picture, Questioner. I never saw the building up close; only the top of the tenting that showed from the freeway.

I used your link above, Justin, and I'm sure that the Irvine company did indeed build both Fashion Island malls. Irvine has land holdings here in the Bay area. I can't find a link that directly states who developed the San Mateo mall, though. My Google searches found documents about the demise of the mall, but not about the opening or planning. I don't claim to be a practiced researcher at all, but an Oakland reference librarian used some alternative search engines, and did not come up with anything, either. I'm sure there's some 1980 San Francisco Chronicle articles out there--I'm just not finding them at the SFgate site.
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Post by justin karimzad »

Unfortunately, the SF gate archives only go back to 1995. The development is an interesting story, and one that I found in a book in the San Mateo library about the city's history. It was developed by the Hahn company, which is confirmed here, although it actually opened in 1981, except for the Liberty House, which came in 1983;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsdale_Shopping_Center
...and the Hahn company is touched up here;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hahn_Company
The Hahn company also developed the successful and still operating La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara, in 1967.
Anyway, in the 1970s, Hahn and Bohannon (Hillsdale's developer) were actually friends. When Hahn proposed to build another mall in San Mateo, Bohannon warned that two regional malls couldn't survive in the same trade area. Hahn replied with something like "business is business", and the race went on. The pending development of this mall could be attributed to why Hillsdale was one of the first open-air malls in the Bay Area to go enclosed and have a second floor added, which happened at the same time as Fashion Island opened. There was quite a bit of controversy regarding the development on marshland, and the problem of commerce associated with two close-in malls. There was a public hearing held, and some rather emotional speakers were present. Still, the city approved the development, and they hoped that both malls could succeed.
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Post by TheQuestioner »

Based on the single photo I found, it looks like Fashion Island had a very strange layout compared to other malls of the era. Almost any mall I have seen developed from the 1960's through the late 80's had either a "T" or "I" kind of configuration, with a long center court and anchors at each end. Sometimes there would be an 'L" if the mall had been expanded out from it's "I" shape, or it might have a 4 anchor cross shape. Fashion Island looks like it zig-zagged all over the place. The central isle must have had quite a few turns in it. The octagonal Bullock's was pretty odd, too. I can't say I've ever seen an anchor store with more that many outer walls!

Some reports describe this as a conventional mall, while others call it specialty. From the name, I would guess it had more of a focus on apparel and less of the other traditional mall-based businesses such as record stores, electronics, arcades, and books. Was this the case, or was the retail mix pretty much typical? Part of me wonders how much more successful this mall would have been if they weren't saddled with two anchors who died early deaths chain-wide (along with a Montgomery Ward, a chain which was already seen as a downmarket chain by the 80's, at least as far as apparel.) Then again, I read in several places that the access roads from the highway were limited and convoluted, making visting the mall a difficult struggle in itself. That's a mistake that certainly will not be repeated in any major retail development in the future. Developers these days seem to make sure the city/county/state is on board with them as far as access before they break ground.
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Post by TheStranger »

From my memory...

I already mentioned Whole Earth and KB Toys, as well as the skating rink (which I think actually was rebuilt this year at the big box center). The rink itself was well known for Kristi Yamaguchi learning her craft there in the 70s.

There was also a General Cinemas theater which was on its last legs when I went to the mall.

The place also had a Round Table out front that me and my family ate at once before we went skating.
Chris Sampang
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