Marin Gateway Center new signage-Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal

Marin Gateway Center new signage. photo: Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal

By Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal | POSTED: 09/25/17, 5:21 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 09/27/2017

Six months into a revitalization push at the Marin Gateway Center in Marin City — marked by the arrival of Target — the shopping hub is getting good reviews from the community.

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 left many in the community of 3,500 disappointed, saying it has never lived up to expectations.

But the arrival of Target has given the center and the community a boost.

“Target hired a few dozen Marin City residents,” said Damian Morgan, a Marin City resident and community activist. “It’s pleasant to walk into Target and see staff that resembles the neighborhood it serves.”

The store is attracting people from beyond Marin City as well, Target officials said.

“This new store is serving a wide range of guests in the area, including commuters on their way in and out of the city, tourists vacationing as well as families in the community,” said Trish Thompson, the store’s team leader. “For the families that continuously shop the store, the store team members are able to build relationships with the guests.”

Also, the store has donated to local organizations and food banks.

Felecia Gaston, executive director of Performing Stars of Marin, said her youth organization received $2,000 unsolicited from Target. She used that money for her summer program.

“I love having it here,” Gaston said, adding she hopes the store will continue to employ local residents. “It brings people from all over the county. You see lots of new faces. The community really loves it. Personally, it’s great to not have to jump on the freeway to get food, clothes, shoes and other items.”

Gateway manager Terrence Tallen, a partner with the Southern California-based Gerrity Group, which owns Gateway, said Target has refreshed the center.

“Target is drawing consumer traffic from the Marina District in San Francisco as well as far as Sonoma County,” Tallen said.

Tallen reports the property’s co-tenants — West Marine, Ross, CVS, Starbucks and others — have experienced increased sales due to the draw of Target.

Other changes at the center include the opening of a new drive-thru Starbucks, the only one in Marin. It is in the former Burger King site and expanded from 1,800 square feet at the old Starbucks location at the center to 2,889 square feet at the new spot, making it one of the largest Starbucks in Marin.

“Starbucks recently transitioned into a bigger space, which allowed Starbucks to add more community space to be reserved by appointment, if necessary,” resident Morgan noted.

Also, Anytime Fitness has signed a long-term lease to occupy 6,000 square feet adjacent to CVS and is in the process of getting permits from the county, Tallen said.

“With the proximity to Highway 101, we believe that the club will serve the fitness needs for all of Southern Marin,” Tallen said.

There have been some recent losses at the center. Gateway had donated space to The Hannah Project, a student and community enrichment project, but work to the building where it was housed forced it to move.

“The Hannah Project was an excellent community gathering place, a worthwhile project and they had to relocate to other facilities in the community when we redeveloped that outdoor area; we did extensive work to the concrete due to the sloping of the property,” Tallen said. “It became non-compliant from an (Americans With Disabilities Act) perspective and we identified it and fixed it. The building was uninhabitable during this period.”

Outback Steakhouse also closed recently, part of a restructuring by new owners.

“The Marin City Outback was not a one-off closure and in my opinion, it is not indicative of the location,” Tallen said. “The former Marin City Outback is an excellent facility, enjoys tremendous freeway visibility and we believe that this is an opportunity to attract a new and exciting restaurant.”

Overall, Tallen said he is excited about the future of the center.

“I am very pleased with the progress that has been made over the last year and expect many new and exciting announcements in the future,” he said.

Morgan, the community activist, said he is encouraged by the center.

“Gateway Shopping Center has made great strides as of late,” he said. “I’m real hopeful that more businesses will sign leases and move in. Gateway Shopping Center seems to be headed in the right direction. The community will be greatly impacted with a healthy local mall.”