Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his real estate development company, Passerelle Investment Co., are doing for downtown Los Altos, CA what nobody has ever been able to achieve. They're buying buildings, making improvements, and setting in motion plans to bring our sleepy little town into the 21st century. And I'm sure it's being done with a few old-timers kicking and screaming along the way.
I grew up in Los Altos and lived a significant portion of my life there. For decades, while nearby towns such as Los Gatos and Mountain View, become destinations with myriad dining and shopping options, Los Altos just plodded along. The focus was always on retaining small businesses - at any cost - at the exclusion of national chains. The problem has been that "small town America" became unviable decades ago as retail models evolved and consumer expectations changed. During the last downturn, several downtown businesses failed. That said, there is a place for some small businesses that offer distinctive products or services.
The town itself set up the chance for success - by changing zoning regulations downtown to allow taller buildings and mixed use (retail, office, and residential combined). That has made buying and building downtown appealing and it can be seen in the myriad projects under development. The new Packard building, new condos on First Street, the mixed-use building on 3rd Street, and other projects in process or nearly done show massive progress. Passerelle has participated in some of this redevelopment.
Now comes Passerelle Investment Company with a bold agenda to buy buildings, rebuild or remodel as needed, and keeping rents lower for small businesses that should remain to give Los Altos its unique character. One place I'm hoping they can help is knocking down some of the small 25-foot wide buildings on Main Street in favor of wider buildings that will appeal for national chains. We have some chains on Main Street but we could use a few more.
The buildings are the corner of First and State streets have been redone with a contemporary look. The building where the new Linden Tree Books is a modern style that replaced the dated eyesore that was there before.
There are other changes afoot and I'd like to say, THANK YOU, to Sergey and Passerelle for finally getting this town headed in the right direction. I sincerely hope you have continued success in your acquisitions and developments that will benefit us all.