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Is A Facelift For Rheem Valley Center In The Works?

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An architectural rendering of a possible future configuration for Rheem Center.

We think we can safely say that after 30-plus years of deferred improvements and a “trapped in 1966” look and feel – Moraga’s Rheem Valley Shopping Center could use a little work.

If the owner of a significant portion of the center gets his way, future patrons may see signage-bearing, hopefully business-boosting towers, reconfigured pedestrian pathways, conversation-provoking fire pits and other changes aimed at keeping Moragans – and their dollars – closer to home.

We shall see. Plans are still in the preliminary stages, it’s not yet known when the Old Girl will go under the knife, and right now all interested parties are talking about what could be.

Jay Kerner, who owns a substantial chunk of the venerable center – essentially the Allen Wrench-shaped bend from CVS to Amaroma with those island businesses in the parking lot thrown in – put together some renderings based on input from locals and intends to present them at a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Design Review Board on Monday, April 24.

Kerner’s team will present their initial plans for updating the infrastructure, landscaping, signage and access to the neglected center, along with potential changes to the use permit procedure currently governing what can and cannot be done there at that meeting.

Town staff have labeled the session as an opportunity for Kerner and his team to get feedback and direction from the DRB and Planning Commission regarding possible improvements to the center – something many residents believe have been a long time in coming.

On the short list of long-hoped-for improvements to the center and its retail offering are newer, quality restaurants, produce marts, a bakery and a local pub or sports bar.

26 COMMENTS

  1. @Tommy: go to Maya in Orinda. Their carnitas is to die for.

    Maybe the sinkhole could be underground parking?

  2. The Rheem Valley shopping Center has the same “trapped in 1966” look as the Oakland Coliseum. Between Moraga and Oakland, maybe they can come up with “a plan.”

    • @Danielle – Kinda, huh? Perhaps they can relocate the stadium to Rheem Blvd. and Center Street, use the Sink Hole for underground parking, and all the businesses along there can sell their wares to the tailgaters out in the parking lot!

  3. Please please please ask Cactus Taqueria to put in a shop! We desperately need some good Mexican food here! And a great breakfast place would be good too! Years ago we had both in that mall and both are long gone!

  4. Businesses will thrive only if they can make money. Rents are too high and demand for goods and services is too low. Fix those problems first.

  5. Are there any more pictures? I realize they are just starting this but it would be nice to have a downtown center that didn’t look like every other downtown center in America. Are those tower things to scale?

  6. Hey everyone, stop knocking 1966 :)…. it was one of the best years of my life.
    I was a happy young boy the time..
    into the new cars of the era. Fond memories!

  7. Please offer free rent to anyone who will bring back Squirrels. Lafayette died a little when it closed. Maybe Rheem will be worthy.

    • @Chris – Yes. Funny how a little neighborhood diner can pull the neighborhoods – and neighbors – together. We had many a breakfast down there, even when the lines were so long you had to come with whip and chair! But on that note, we keep hearing of Bay Area businesses looking for “suitable” footprints for new stores/outlets, it would sure be nice if we could make some connections. A La Boulangerie would be a nice addition…

  8. My biggest gripe with the Rheem Center is the puddles of dog urine found at the base of every post, bench, and garbage can. The staining and corrosion caused by all that dog pee is disgusting to have to walk through. Same problem at the Lafayette Reservoir. Check it out sometime. Once you notice it, you can’t really un-see it.

  9. I’ve seen some of the other renderings. I know it’s early and nothing is formalized but I can’t say I’m impressed with what I’m seeing. While some grass and enhancement landscaping would be nice I’m afraid adding towers and stone cribs to existing structures only makes the center look like a military installation. I know it is hard to do this on budget and while keeping existing businesses going but I’m hoping more can be done than I’m seeing now. And I stress that I know this is still early in the design stage.

  10. Any improvements would be enthusiastically welcomed by me. However I have to ask why would the owner invest in improvements from an economic perspective? Moraga has plenty of vacant retail space sitting idle(which dilutes rents), we have difficulty driving much more than marginal demand from our location & population, demographic trends indicate consumers are doing more and more shopping online each year and the Rheem Theater has been on the knifes edge of closing for the last decade. I’m asking because I don’t know. How does this pencil out for the owner? Are the anchor tenants asking for this?

    • @Kip – Great questions. We invite those involved to make their opinions known, should they wish. We have heard for some time that business owners were hoping for a new look and feel for their center, of a design they hoped would be more attractive to local customers. And local customers have told us the center had a faded, dated look and feel… we believe that may be the impetus behind the improvements, but your questions remain solid.

  11. The proposal to face lift the appearance of this decrepit shopping center should be very much welcomed by all that are not contributing financially to its improvement. An individual purchased it because they have lots of successful experience in improving shopping centers, and are willing to spend their money to improve our neighborhood in the hope of making some return for the risk they are taking. Is there something wrong with that?
    As Moragans we have to realize that by interfering so much into each others affairs, to a point that requires a massive bureaucracy; of usually not the most qualified persons who end up working for governments, to mitigate our disputes, but usually not so satisfactorily to at least one party, and sometimes to both, thus increasing the frustration of all. At the end, if we really think about it, we are very much likely to lose any improvements to our neighborhoods, and this is what I have witnessed in Moraga for almost 30 years I lived here. Both shopping centers in Moraga are practically in the same state as they were in 1988. I know many people are outraged by the red tape required to do any improvements on their property due to cost and complexity of the permitting process. There is a 6 Acre lot in front of my home that has been vacant for ever as the owner informed me 29 years ago that any time he tries to build his dream home somebody does not like the plans and complains to the design review board, who sends it to the planning commission, and then to the town council, the owner is over 90 years old now and he gave up, maybe his children or grand children one day will be able to realize his dream, but what a shame for him.
    I worked for over 30 years designing large medical devices that diagnose or treat millions of patients a day worldwide, and I can guarantee you that if we had the kind of hearings I see going on in Moraga -where so many individuals feel so empowered to tell experts how to do their jobs- that non of these millions of patients would have a chance of living today as CT scanners, MRI machines, Linear Accelerators do not always look very pretty, comfortable, painted the right color or are 100% safe, and in some instances are likely to injure some patients. To sum up what I am trying to say, if we had the same mind set we have nowadays when electricity was invented, there would be no electric current in our homes today, as some arm chair skeptic would have complained that he may stick his finger across 2 wires, and breaths his last. Please try to support progress over what we have in areas that need improvements, but not at the expense of the environment or the serenity of our hills.

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