SAN RAMON — The commercial project that is expected to change the face of San Ramon — and put the city on the map — had its official groundbreaking Tuesday.
The city was abuzz as the much-anticipated City Center, designed by the world-famous architectural firm headed by Renzo Piano, officially began construction. It is expected to open in October 2018.
Featuring upwards of 70 retail tenants, the two-phased project eventually will include 487 housing units and a 169-room hotel.
Secured so far is the Lot Cinema, a luxury theater where movie-goers watching the big screen on leather-inclined seats can order food and drinks to their seats with a press of a button.
Sunset Development, the company that built and owns Bishop Ranch business park, is the force behind the center.
The center has been designed by one of the biggest names in today’s architecture world, Italian “starchitect” Renzo Piano, who also designed San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences and the New York Times building.
Piano’s design for San Ramon creates a transparent structure filled with his signature all-glass facades around a one-acre piazza that also incorporates lots of greenery and open space, with parking hidden away.
Although some may say it’s a glorified mall without a roof, the openness of the structure makes it feel as though there are no walls or a fortress on the outside, said Jeff Dodd, senior vice president of Sunset Development.
“We wanted a place to stand on its own,” Dodd said.
Although Tuesday marks an official groundbreaking, foundation work had started in March, he said. They’ll soon be starting to pour in the concrete for the parking lot structures. A taller concrete building will go up in the fall.
Also this summer, passerbys will start to see the structural steel that will be the basis for the movie theater, which is expected to be 33 feet tall. More framework will follow for the rest of the project by fall, Dodd said.
The City Center will have 300,000 square-feet of space with an estimated 60 tenants when it opens. About 18 of those tenants will be food, beverage or cafe-style places. Planners hope to shying away from chains, Dodd said.
The second phase, which will include the housing and hotel, is approved by the city in a development agreement. Dodd said the second phase is in the planning stages with architects and civil engineers; the developers will likely apply for a development permit within the next year. Phase 2 is expected to open about two years after the first phase opens.