Sergey Brin and Passerelle pull off major improvements to Los Altos

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Intero Real Estate CA BRE #01191946

Linden Tree Books, Los Altos, CASergey 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.


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Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Hey Bryan, once your town of Los Altos gets brought back to where you want it, can you let Sergey know there's a little town out here that could use some help coming back? It's called Detroit.

Sep 03, 2012 09:22 AM #1
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I admire for trying to keep small business in lower cost building.  But I don't thing that trying to bring big chains to the City would fly here.  We are definitely anti chain stores.  I am not sure if that is good or bad.  I do love the small town atmosphere of Alameda but I would love to have a Macys or Nordstorms here.

Sep 03, 2012 09:35 AM #2
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I think that Eric makes a good point.  I hope that this type of thing will spread to those cities that could use a little help to get back on track.

Sep 03, 2012 09:39 AM #3
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

Sounds similar to what Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is doing in downtown Las Vegas. It's encouraging to see such successful people investing in their communities.

Sep 03, 2012 09:45 AM #4
Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Change is inevitable.  It doesn't come as swiftly for some, but it does come.  I hope Los Altos adjust and flourish. 

Sep 03, 2012 09:55 AM #5
Phil Caulfield
Guarantee Mortgage - Burlingame, CA
I Get The Loans Done That The Big Banks Don't!

Hi Bryan,

Here in Burlingame, a few minutes north of you, I have seen the chains and franchises move in on Burlingame Avenue, our main street.

If you measure success by foot traffic, this evolution has been successful because there are always many people shopping and dining.

On the other hand, I think we have lost a little bit of our character with the loss of mom and pop small businesses who can't afford the higher rent.

We still do have some mom and pop businesses on the Avenue. Hopefully our Planning Commission will do their best to keep this mix.

Good luck with this balance in Los Altos!


Sep 03, 2012 10:04 AM #6
Larry Story
Total Care Realty - Greensboro, NC
Total Care Realty, LLC, Greensboro, NC Real Estate


I understand your plight since I have seen many a small town go down the tubes because of their refusal to change.  However I have a personal preference for the older smaller buildings since that is what my new offices are in.

Sep 03, 2012 12:12 PM #7
Keller Williams Select Realtors-Buy a home in Washington DC. Sell a home in Washington DC - Bowie, MD
I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES

Bryan I didn't know Sergey Brin had a Real Estate Development Company. Talking about adding to your already $20 Billion wealth.

Sep 03, 2012 01:52 PM #8
David Grbich
Realty One Group - - San Juan Capistrano, CA
Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484

Bryan - good to see tech money being put back into local communities - great town and love the area. Regards Dave

Sep 03, 2012 02:25 PM #9
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Bryan, that is a good thing the Passerelle Investment Company is doing to Los Altos. This should help the small businesses in the long run.

Sep 03, 2012 10:46 PM #10
Reuben Fine
Fill-In-The-Blanks PDF Flyer Templates - Rossmoor, CA

"Do no evil" isn't that the google mantra? So great to hear someone with Brin's wealth is doing something economically good to small town neighborhoods! Makes me appreciate google a bit more.


Sep 04, 2012 12:09 AM #11
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

It made me think of all the money billionaires have taken out of the system and how putting it back is beneficial and expected. Even Farmers know that fields that produce need special attention and services if they are to keep on producing. Money is to be spent not hoarded...

Sep 04, 2012 12:10 AM #12
Michelle Carr-Crowe-Top 1% Diamond Certified Real Estate Team Sells Cupertino San Jose Homes-Just Call 408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

I'm glad to hear the development is actually succeeding in Los Altos.

Sep 04, 2012 06:51 AM #13
Marge Draper
Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto - Menlo Park, CA
REALTOR, Keller Williams Realty, Menlo Park CA

Bryan,  I wondered who took the Linden Tree Book Store out of the box!!!!  Brin should come over to Menlo Park next.  I thought it was bad here when the only childrens' shoe store closed at 5 PM.  This was in the mid-80's and I had just pick our son up from daycare and thought that would be a good time to shop for some shoes for him.  To my great surprise, it still closes at about that time.

My husband and I had dinner at a restaurant in Mountain View about a month ago.  We couldn't believe how vibrant and alive the whole Castro St. scene was.  Shortly after that I took Santa Cruz Ave. (Menlo Park's main st.) home from the office at about the same time of evening, and I could have driven up on to the sidewalks without hitting anyone.  

Facebook effect, anyone?

Sep 04, 2012 10:43 AM #14
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