If you’ve ever been to a true “Public Market”, then you may be disappointed with what Emeryville has to offer. Having recently visited Milwaukee’s version, I’ve realized that Emeryville’s take on it is really just a glorified mall food court. Instead of fresh local produce, artisan products and gourmet prepared foods, the EPM gives you a cross-section of mostly average tasting ethnic foods with a few notable exceptions. There is a huge gap in quality between the various food stalls with only a hand-full worthy of repeat business (We’ll be spotlighting the cream of the crop in a future “E’ville Bites” post by E’ville Eye food writer Calvin Rouse III). The Food Truck Movement has raised the bar on what people expect from quick, affordable food and the public market will have to adapt if it is to stay relevant and maintain repeat visitors. EPM’s new owners, City Center Retail Partners, recently announced their strategy to make the EPM a foodie-mecca by incorporating twenty new restaurants with a teaser that they were “in talks with a number of Michelin-starred Bay Area chefs”.
TMG Partners recently gave the EPM a needed facelift and recruited anchors Urban Outfitters, Hot Italian Pizza & Guitar Center but the food stalls themselves were mostly left in tact. TMG then sold the Public Market to hedge fund investment managing advisor Angelo, Gordon & Co. and their City Center Retail Partners group about a year ago. The Public Market has generally been a secondary retail destination to neighboring Bay Street but City Center is looking to change that by capitalizing on 800,000 square feet of commercial, residential & retail entitlements. “We’re in the process of wrapping our arms around the asset and analyzing what the opportunities are,” said City Center partner Mark Stefan. “What we love to do is urban retail.” CCRP recently contracted food-specialty real estate Runyon Group & retail real estate firm McDevitt Company to spearhead the redevelopment. Runyon Group’s previous revitalization projects include the Napa Mill & Culver City’s Platform project.
The casualties of this food-centric approach are not yet known as some of the existing tenants will be given the axe. “We’ll be keeping some of the best, higher-performing tenants that really have a following, but we’ll also have to make some room,” Runyon principal David Fishbein was quoted saying in this Eater SF article. TMG made a similar promise two years ago when they claimed they were in talks recruit top food-trucks to transition to Brick & Mortar restaurants … this never happened. “Emeryville is the junction of the East Bay, and it’s a great place for people there to congregate,” says Fishbein. “Of the [existing] developments, Bay Street is very homogenized, and Fourth Street is really nice, but targeted to an older demographic. We’re looking to attract a younger crowd, and one way to build interest is by bringing them in as diners first.” Fishbein anticipates that he’ll be announcing chefs who’ve signed on later this year. Renovations will begin at the end of 2013, with the first new market stalls opening in mid-to-late 2014. We’ll have to wait and see if the EPM will realize its full potential!