What’s next for the Hilltop “Ghost Mall?”

Times have changed. The Hilltop “ghost mall” will no longer become the long-awaited development touting 99 Ranch Market, outlet stores, and becoming the new center for foodies everywhere.

LBG Real Estate Companies purchased the decaying Hilltop Mall in July 2017 with plans to renovate the ghost mall into an Asian-centric shopping center with outlets on the side. At the time of purchase, Hilltop mall’s tenants included Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Walmart, 24 Hour Fitness, sneaker shops, and a variety of mom-and-pop stores. Many thought the purchase of Hilltop Mall would bring the mall back onto the map and back into its original state of being the fun-filled landmark it once was.

Hilltop Mall is at an invaluable spot with its proximity to San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley and easy access to Interstate 80. With its prime location, LBG Funds rebranded the shopping center into The Shops at Hilltop and addition of Hilltop By The Bay to turn the beleaguered site into a mixed-use development with residences, offices, hotels, shops, dining, and to become Richmond’s next Main Street once again.

“The Hilltop District has the potential to become the premier East Bay residential mixed-use walkable community of the future,” said Doug Beiswenger, Managing Partner in charge of entitlements and construction for LBG.

A lot of Richmond and surrounding area residents were excited to see Hilltop Mall revitalized and be the new spot for shopping, happy hour, and even the addition of housing to offset the Bay Area’s housing shortage. Via city documents in late 2019, proposed tenants for The Shops at Hilltop complex included the likes of Nordstrom Rack, Williams Sonoma, Vans, UNIQLO, Daiso Japan, Coach Outlet, and Nike Factory Store. The Shops at Hilltop also touted the addition of Asian-inspired entertainment and dining options with Fusion Bistro, T4, Top Voice Karaoke Lounge, and 99 Ranch Market as the newest anchor tenant, as reported by Richmond Standard.

99 Ranch Market was poised to be the anchor tenant that would bring in people from everywhere and fulfill the gap of a necessary grocery store in the neighborhood. The location at Hilltop was going to be 99 Ranch Market’s second location in Richmond with its first at Pacific East Mall along the cusps of Richmond and El Cerrito.

The video below shows a rendering of the revitalization that was to come to the newly named development, The Shops at Hilltop.

LBG Real Estate Companies//Arqui300

However, if you previously visited The Shops at Hilltop before the pandemic or during holiday times, the mall was usually empty and had no construction in sight, despite having grand opening banners set for late 2019. The space set aside for 99 Ranch Market between Walmart and Macy’s lacked any construction progress until early 2020, nearly two years later after the announcement. Suddenly, the impacts of COVID rushed through the country, impacting daily business. There was no word what the next fate of The Shops of Hilltop would be.

That is, until August 2020, when LBG Real Estate announced that they would be rebranding The Shops at Hilltop into the East Bay Science & Technology Center.

“The move [from The Shops at Hilltop to the East Bay Science & Technology Center] is also reflective of brick-and-mortar retail’s accelerated decline, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Beiswenger said the West Coast shopping center owner’s evolving plans for Hilltop tended to involve a decreasing amount of retail through the years,” as reported by Bisnow. The sudden change caused by the decreased demand in retail and store closures throughout the country––leading for Hilltop to have its proposed revitalization turn into another fall for the Richmond community.

At 78 acres and 16,700,000 square feet, Hilltop will become more invaluable as its location is poised to become the newest biotechnology and life sciences center, one of the sectors that have stayed floating during the COVID pandemic. The East Bay is known as a hub for many biotech, science, pharmaceutical companies with Bayer in Berkeley, Grifols in Emeryville, Bio-Rad in Hercules, and the JOINN Innovation Park a mile away from the Hilltop development.

Hopefully, a new buyer will come through and have ambitious plans to turn the Hilltop development into their newest headquarters in Richmond. And for now, residents will have to travel elsewhere to get their shopping and dining fix.