Sep 25, 2015

When Rockwood Capital and Four Corners Properties paid $90 million for Mountain View’s old Mayfield Mall, they acquired an asset with a unique story arc.
The former mid-century shopping center went dark in the early 1980s, then found a new calling as an office building for Hewlett-Packard. By 2012, it had been vacant for years and was targeted for townhomes — something community members resisted.

But Rockwood and Four Corners figured the old building — Northern California’s first enclosed shopping mall — had at least one more life left.

Inspired by tech companies that prized huge floors and sustainability, they envisioned a rehab that would play up the building’s fantastic bones and scale while updating the facility for the way we work now.
“The biggest challenge, and later the biggest reward, was in our complete rethinking of a former shopping mall into an innovative, employee-centric office that retains much of the old character and uniqueness but adds the best of today’s workplace design,” said Jason Oberman, who led the project for Rockwood as a director there. (He’s now a partner with real estate firm Blox Ventures.)
The design team included Oberman, Four Corners’ Bruce Burkard, landscape architect Rene Bihan of SWA and architect Ted Korth of Korth Sunseri Hagey. Their big idea: Play off the building’s industrial image, keeping much of what was there while opening it up and adding large outdoor gathering and recreation spaces.
The building’s concrete structure, brick cladding and rough window openings stayed. Tech tenants, the team figured, would love the up-to-19-foot exposed concrete ceiling heights and enormous floor plates (up to 175,000 square feet). A stunning central atrium, with light piercing all three stories of the main building, provided a focal point.

But spaces between and around the building — created as plazas for shoppers — were clearly concrete wastelands. The designers transformed these areas into “outdoor conference rooms” and tree-lined work pods.

In addition, new windows freshened the façade, and the garage was cut back to allow more light into the office space while creating a new outdoor courtyard. The design also saved a redwood grove and turned a forgotten sculpture by modernist Charles Ginnever into a prominent focal point.

One thing designers didn’t do: Try to make it perfect. “Tenants prefer an environment with character and useable indoor/outdoor space,” Oberman said. “Rough chipped concrete, COR-TEN steel panels, industrial windows, exposed bolts and so on — that continues to make 100 Mayfield a very unique and desirable workplace.”

Oberman said the project exemplifies the growing trend of adaptive re-use as less and less land is available to build new in Silicon Valley.

“It’s a great forward example of what can be done with existing structures, whether industrial or retail or old offices, and it’s been studied and discussed quite a bit,” he said.

“Rethinking these existing spaces is exhilarating and rewarding, and employees really love working in a place that has character and history and a story behind it.”

The ending to the story so far provides a nice case study of Silicon Valley’s ability to reinvent itself. Google Inc., which leased the property in 2013 for its Google X skunkworks division, moved in earlier this year.

Nathan Donato-Weinstein covers commercial real estate and transportation for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.