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San Bruno city officials are lauding a multimillion-dollar real estate purchase by a major developer that will enable the developer to transform a dying mall into housing and a sprawling campus for biotech and tech firms.

“City leaders are encouraged by the recent announcement that Alexandria Real Estate has closed on the third and final parcel at the 44-acre Tanforan site located in San Bruno,” Jovan Grogan, San Bruno’s city manager, said in a statement.

The “third and final parcel” Grogan referenced is the main retail and restaurant part of The Shops at Tanforan shopping center. The developer had already bought the other two other privately held parcels that made up the mall, and the combined price of all three runs in the hundreds of millions.

The city manager said changes in consumer buying patterns, also known as the “retail apocalypse” in which shoppers switched to buying online, has long negatively impacted large brick and mortar shopping centers like Tanforan nationally.

“Then the impact of shelter-at-home and other public health restrictions since March 2020 led to the closure of many of Tanforan’s stores, including anchor tenant Sears,” Grogan noted.

“Recognizing these impacts, the San Bruno City Council adopted a Reimagining Tanforan Land Use Fact Sheet” in July 2021 that aimed to encourage real estate investors to examine the potential for a modern, mixed-use development, the city manager said.

The fact sheet sets forth a vision for redevelopment including office, hotel, retail, entertainment, and a minimum of 1,000 housing units.

The purchase of the final parcel that comprised the high-profile Peninsula retail center means it will close, giving way to housing and offices for biotech firms. The site seems ideal for the purpose, for one thing because it is right next to the San Bruno BART station.

The city manager made it clear that the city is on board with the transformation.

“Alexandria’s acquisition sets the stage for the City of San Bruno to initiate a public master planning process that will crystalize the vision for this important piece of land in the heart of San Bruno and the thriving Peninsula economic corridor,” Grogan said.

The city manager promised that the process will evaluate the potential uses and impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act, and that people living in the city will have a chance to weigh in.