The former Best Buy store in Marin City has been leased for a Target store. The 48,500-square-foot store will be smaller than the Target sites in San Rafael and Novato.

By Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal | POSTED: 11/27/16, 12:37 PM PST | UPDATED: ON 11/29/2016

The old Burger King at the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City, Calif. will be the location of a future Starbucks.

Work is bustling at the future Target store in Marin City and with it the hope of an energized shopping center that will benefit Southern Marin with jobs and goods.

The building previously occupied by Best Buy at the Marin Gateway Shopping Center is being transformed into a 48,500-square-foot Target, set to open in a few months.

“We are projecting an early-March store opening date,” said Kristy Welker, a Target spokeswoman.

The new store will be one of Target’s smaller “flexible format” customized stores that caters to the clientele of the area, Target officials said. Other Target stores — such as those in Novato and San Rafael — operate in larger spaces of at least 130,000 square feet.

“The work is coming along nicely,” said Terrence Tallen, a partner with the Southern California-based Gerrity Group, which owns Gateway. “They completed the demolition work and are building up the interior, and painting has been done. They are right on schedule.”

The Marin City Target will offer a selection of groceries, key for Marin City, which does not have a grocery store. The store’s offerings will also include children’s clothing, toys and baby products; portable technology products and accessories; men’s and women’s clothing; and cellphone services.

The store will likely employ 75 to 100 people.

Melissa Cadet, executive director of the Marin City Community Development Corp. — which provides career training, among other services — said Target has reached out to talk about jobs in the community. Training is being lined up in the new year.

“We have met with them twice and they are interested in hiring locally,” Cadet said. “They are very aware of the area, the community and the culture. They want to be a positive force and be here for years to come and collaborate with the community.”

In addition to landing Target, Tallen is working to bring in a “chef inspired” restaurant to the space adjacent to the store later next year.

And plans for a “Starbucks on steroids” is moving forward, he said. It will include a drive-through and offer beer and wine, Tallen said.

The center’s existing Starbucks will move to the site of Burger King — which closed earlier this month — and expand from 1,800 square feet to 2,889 square feet, making it one of the largest Starbucks in Marin. The new Starbucks could open as soon as the second quarter of 2017.

“The traffic can be awful on Highway 101 and it will offer a place for people to come over and have a drink,” Tallen said.

Fitness operations, other restaurants and new landscaping will be part of the new mix for 2017 to join the existing Ross Dress for Less, West Marine, CVS Pharmacy, Outback Steakhouse, Sleep Train and others. The arrival of Target signals a major change for Gateway, which has struggled for years to maintain a successful identity.

Marin City residents have heard the same optimism before for the center, only to see little result.

The center, which has 182,000 square feet of retail space and 900 parking spots, opened in 1997 as part of the Marin City USA economic redevelopment project that also included new townhomes. Though the center brought the prospect of economic vitality for Marin City, it has left many in the community of 3,500 disappointed.

Black-owned and -operated businesses were to be part of the economic mix at the center, but they didn’t take hold and closed. Tenants came and went, the center ownership changed hands, and the plaza has struggled to find momentum in its first two decades.

That left locals to reflect on their beloved flea market, which was discontinued when the shopping center opened. A fixture for more than two decades, the flea market generated about $500,000 annually for the Marin City Community Services District, which poured part of the money back into community programs.

But Tallen believes the center is on the verge of turning a corner with Target leading the way.

“I think this will really come through,” he said. “It will become a great amenity for all of Marin and for the southern part of the county.”