Thousands of homes will replace Chevron office park at Bishop Ranch
Thousands of homes and a mini Santana Row may replace San Ramon’s Chevron office park, plans that — along with a future live performance venue — would mark a dramatic evolution for the East Bay city.
Bishop Ranch, one of the nation’s most successful mixed-use job hubs, is preparing sweeping new changes that would cement the business park’s status as San Ramon’s downtown.
Orchards is the name of the development that would replace Chevron Park, which for decades has served as the world headquarters of the energy titan.
San Ramon-based Chevron will move its headquarters to a different office it is leasing in Bishop Ranch, the vanguard of a “decommissioning” of the Chevron complex that will start by the end of this year.
Orchards is expected to produce 2,600 homes, 125,000 square feet of retail space, a 2.5-acre park and a perimeter walking greenway connecting to Iron Horse Trail, according to Sunset Development, the developer and principal owner of Bishop Ranch.
A short distance away, an outdoor performance theater that would accommodate up to 3,500 guests for live music, performing arts and entertainment shows of all kinds is being designed by Sunset Development.
All of these new plans, when woven together with the lively dining, drinking, shopping and entertainment hub known as City Center Bishop Ranch, appear poised to create a vibrant new urban core for San Ramon.
“It’s a suburban downtown,” said Alexander Mehran Jr., Sunset Development’s president and chief executive officer. “It’s rare to find a suburban downtown in a location like this, which is San Ramon’s natural downtown.”
Multiple factors could help make the emerging downtown San Ramon a success.
“The opportunity is tremendous, especially with what San Ramon has become, because of Bishop Ranch, because of the location, because of the housing nearby,” Mehran Jr. said.
Orchards would sprout along Bollinger Canyon Road near Interstate 680, helping serve as part of the main gateway into Bishop Ranch.
“The retail part of Orchards will be like a mini Santana Row,” said Mehran Jr., referring to the iconic destination mixed-use neighborhood in San Jose. “It will be street retail with apartments above, which is Santana Row’s format.”
This would be a different approach than is the case with City Center, whose merchants flank a big square in the center of the commercial complex.
“At Orchards, there will be retail on both sides of the street and parking,” Mehran Jr. said. “We want to create something unique and different. The street life, the street activation, will provide a different feel and a different tenant mix.”
The shopping and dining choices will make it possible for the potentially thousands of residents of Orchards to be able to access a neighborhood.
“We want to have a lot of things there that aren’t part of City Center, things that serve the neighborhood,” Mehran Jr. said. “A lot of people want to go to the butcher, they want to go to the produce shop, they want to go to these sort of specialty, disaggregated grocery stores. It would be a place for something specific you want, rather than a one-stop shop.”
It’s anticipated that the housing segments of Orchards might appear first, with the neighborhood retail and dining to appear in the latter stages of the project.
The 2,600 homes in Orchards are just part of a massive housing development effort being planned at Bishop Ranch. The residential portion of the revamp of the business park will eventually produce up to 10,000 residences in Bishop Ranch, 1,000 of which are affordable housing.
City Center Bishop Ranch has already become a success story for Sunset Development.
Anchored by The Lot movie complex and Equinox fitness center; and featuring merchants such as Fieldwork Brewing Company, The Slanted Door, Williams Sonoma, West Elm and Roam Burger, the Renzo Piano-designed complex has bounced back from the coronavirus-induced economic maladies that afflicted countless commercial complexes nationwide.
“The vision of Renzo Piano is to make City Center a modern public square,” said Jeff Dodd, senior vice president of retail at Bishop Ranch. “This is a very lively place.”
Opening in 2018, City Center enjoyed brisk leasing and was steadily filling up its spaces – until the coronavirus outbreak prompted government-ordered business shutdowns to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
Vacancy levels soared, but City Center managed a robust convalescence and is now looking healthy again.
“Occupancy is 92% at City Center,” Dodd said. “We are very pleased with the post-pandemic trajectory.”
With weeks or months, the first residents are set to move into houses they have bought at Bishop Ranch, in a SummerHill Homes-developed neighborhood called CityVillage. SummerHill plans 404 residences on sites once occupied by office buildings.
This first new residential neighborhood within Bishop Ranch epitomizes the ongoing evolution of the 585-acre Bishop Ranch, where development began in 1978. The business park now contains 6 million square feet of offices, hotel facilities, and the emerging downtown whose focal point is City Center.
“We’re expanding our already walkable downtown destination, with all of life’s daily necessities, into one central location,” Mehran Jr. said. “It’s not just office, it’s not just retail, it’s not just suburban homes. This is a