A retail renaissance is unfolding in Menlo Park, California, an upscale corner of Silicon Valley near Stanford University. More than a decade in the making, the $100 million-plus mixed-use development will include two office buildings — SoftBank has leased the largest — high-end apartments for Stanford faculty and 35,000 square feet of retail space called Middle Plaza, which will be housed in a three-story building of the property.
The land, which is owned by the university, is located along the El Camino corridor and was formerly occupied by car dealerships. This is the first luxury development of this size and scope, said Stephen and Jared Silver, principals of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry. The Silvers, who manage and plan the retail and restaurant spaces at Middle Plaza, said the upscale retail and dining experience will open in the fourth quarter.
Working with the late visionary real estate mogul John Arrilaga Sr. in partnership with Stanford, the Silvers set out to radically evolve the local community, building a new cultural hub that would showcase high-end shopping, dining and art.
ZIP codes served by new development consistently rank among the nation’s most affluent, according to Bay Area NBC station KNTV Channel 11. Nearly half of the wealthiest US ZIP codes are in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The ground floor will be split into two parts, with half the space dedicated to luxury boutiques and the other half dedicated to restaurateur Ayesha Thapar and chef Srijith Gopinathan’s new restaurant concept, Eylan. Gopinathan headed the Taj Campton Place in San Francisco, where he won a second Michelin star in 2019 for his Cal-India fusion fare. He is also the chef-partner of Ettan Indian restaurant in Palo Alto, which recently received a Michelin citation.
“This is planned to be Silicon Valley’s answer to Rodeo Drive,” said Jared Silver, president of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry. “It will be a mansion experience with underground parking. You will be able to park your car and take the special lift. We have three floors of boutiques and our own private elevator.”
In addition to Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, which will unveil a flagship in Middle Plaza, four stores have been leased to exotic Swiss watchmakers, including MB&F, which is also opening a boutique on Rodeo Drive and recently unveiled Singapore stores at Raffles . Hotel, Paris at Place Vendome and Dubai Mall. H. Moser & Cie, watches and Roger Dubuis, a watchmaker known for his technical prowess and the Excalibur collection, will also open boutiques on the ground floor.
Bulgari will launch a new concept, a watch boutique with ultra-fine movements and highly technical pieces. The brand, which is known for its jewelry, will showcase the Octo Finissimo family of watches. Bulgari holds eight world records for thinnest automatic, thinnest tourbillon, thinnest chronograph and thinnest minute repeater. “Being next to watch brands greatly elevates Bulgari’s position as a watchmaker,” said Silver.
Silvers will soon announce two additional brands that will complete the ground floor boutiques.
On the second floor, the Stephen Silver Lounge, a 4,000-square-foot experience created by John de la Cruz, a local interior designer, will feature watches priced from $3,500 to seven figures, with most from $20,000 to $60,000. “We will be hiring two watchmakers to do service and repair work in the future,” Silver said.
“In the Bay Area, we’re different from Paris, we’re different from New York, and we’re different from Los Angeles,” Silver said. “We have a much more relaxed atmosphere. People are much more private, but they have good taste. They just don’t necessarily like to show it all the time. They don’t like to flaunt it, they want to enjoy it privately. So the second floor will be designed as a residence.
A private showroom and salon on the third floor of the mansion will display high jewelery and watches from Messika, Hermes, Urwerk, Greubel Forsey, Laurent Ferrier, Bovet, Ressence, Louis Erard, Arnold & Son, Bell & Ross and Purnell, among others others. “We will have our own jewelry creations under the Stephen Silver brand,” Silver said, adding that the company’s new corporate headquarters will be on the third floor.
Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry collaborates with Louis XIII, a 100-year-old cognac. “Years ago we acquired one of the largest bottles of Louis XIII in North America, called Le Mathusalem, it’s a six-liter bottle,” Silver said, adding, “I wanted to incorporate a multi-sensory experience into our retail. Every time a customer buys something over $25,000, we celebrate by having our own Louis XIII moment together. We actually give them an ounce of Methuselah. It’s probably the best cognac in the world, if you ask the people who love it.”
Silver said luxury consumers in the Bay Area, until now, have had two ways to think about buying watches and jewelry. “You have Union Square in San Francisco, which is unfortunately going through a rough patch,” Silver said. “The city’s handling of rising crime and homelessness rates is troubling. The other option is traditional mall retail, which does not offer the personal touch expected of high-end luxury retail.”
“Brands are also forced to move into a mall with a confusing mix of other brands that doesn’t necessarily match the quality of their image,” Silver continued. “We want to incorporate and showcase the best watch and jewelry brands and weave it into the fabric of everyday life in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.”
“We want to have live music in the summer months and we want to host farmers markets,” Silver said. “There is a beautiful fountain and lots of seating. Between Springline [a development with key San Francisco restaurant outposts] and what we do, a block and a half north of us on El Camino, you have the Guild Theater, which just went through a major renovation. They have amazing musicians and standup comedians that come from there.
“There are billions of dollars invested in the El Camino corridor,” Silver said. “People are moving here. The Menlo Park I grew up in has changed dramatically. With Middle Plaza, it will soon be the hub of San Francisco Bay Area activity. Now, the reality is that everyone is leaving town. It’s really sad and in a downward spiral. The trade winds have changed.”
Another iconic California outdoor luxury venue, The Americana at Brand in Glendale, California hosts cultural celebrations, food festivals and live music. “Middle Plaza is much smaller than Americana, but it will have a big impact on our community and change the way retail is perceived.
“That’s the differentiator here,” Silver said. “Having so many world-class brands open in one place is unprecedented in Menlo Park. For many of these brands, this is one of their first US boutiques. They see the Silicon Valley market as a critical step in their global growth.”