Evolution of Bayfair Center Mall in San Leandro, CA – From Shopping Haven to Mixed-Use Campus

The Beginning: A Promising Launch in the 1950s

Born from the ashes of the former Oakland Speedway, Bayfair Center graced San Leandro, California, with its grand opening on November 8, 1957.

Bayfair Center emerged as one of the earliest malls in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, costing $25 million to build and an additional $6 million to construct the anchor department store, Macy’s.

Designed by renowned architect John Savage Bolles, the same visionary behind Candlestick Park and various other Macy’s locations, Bayfair Center was a breath of fresh air for the community.

Boasting an open-air, L-shaped, split-level design, the shopping center was the first across two stories in the Western United States. As Macy’s opened its doors on August 8, 1957, 19 more stores (including a supermarket) followed suit in the coming months.

A Time of Expansion: 1960s to 1990s

Bayfair Center continued to grow throughout the years, with Montgomery Ward opening a two-story store and auto center in 1971. By this time, the mall had expanded to 600,000 sq ft and housed 62 stores.

In addition, the mall’s accessibility improved in 1972 when the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) opened the Bay Fair station adjacent to the mall.

A major renovation occurred in 1977, led by Macy’s, which enclosed the mall and added escalators, air conditioning, and carpeting. In total, 82,000 sq ft of space was added, accommodating around 40 different shops, making Bayfair Center a hub for about 100 stores. In addition, T.J. Maxx joined the lineup as an anchor on April 28, 1994.

Hybrid Power Center and Transformation: 2000s to Present

In 2001, Montgomery Ward declared bankruptcy, resulting in the closure of its stores nationwide. The abandoned store was demolished, and a 145,000 sq ft Target Greatland was placed in October 2002.

While Bayfair’s owners had ambitious plans to remodel the center into an open-air power center with big-box tenants and upscale lifestyle-oriented stores, these plans never came to fruition.

In the closing months of 2003, Madison Marquette acquired ownership of the mall. Nonetheless, Bayfair managed to adapt, housing big-box stores like Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Staples, and 24 Hour Fitness alongside a Cinemark cinema multiplex.

In 2018, San Leandro adopted a plan to transform the Bay Fair neighborhood into a transit-oriented village, including the mall and surrounding areas. This high-density, the mixed-use neighborhood would promote walking, cycling, and community events.

In July 2022, an affiliate of Madison Marquette completed the sale of Bayfair Center to B3 and GAW Capital Partners. At the time, the mall was 91 percent leased.

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The Future: A Mixed-Use Campus Transformation

By October 2022, Bayfair Center had been purchased for $57 million by B3 and Gaw Capital Partners. In addition, city documents revealed plans to study the area for a potential transformation into a mixed-use campus featuring homes, offices, and retail.

While no closure date for the mall has been announced, the Bayfair Center we’ve known and loved is destined for change.

Bayfair Center Timeline

Year Event
1953 Bayfair Center announced
1956 Construction begins
1957 Macy’s opens on August 8
1957 Official opening on November 8
1971 Montgomery Ward opens
1972 Bay Fair BART station opens
1977 Major renovation; mall enclosed
1994 T.J. Maxx anchor opens
2001 Montgomery Ward closes
2002 Target Greatland opens
2003 Mall sold to Madison Marquette
2018 Transit-oriented village plan adopted
2022 Bayfair Center sold to B3 and GAW Capital Partners
2022 Plans for mixed-use campus transformation revealed

As we reminisce about the journey of Bayfair Center, we cannot help but feel nostalgic for the memories it has created for countless residents over the years.

From its humble beginnings as one of the first malls in the East Bay to its various transformations into a hybrid power center, Bayfair Center has been an integral part of San Leandro’s history.

With the plans to study the area for a potential transformation into a mixed-use campus, it’s clear that change is on the horizon for Bayfair Center.

As we look forward to the future, let’s remember the past and the unforgettable moments that have made Bayfair Center a beloved community landmark.

Reinventing Itself: Bayfair Center’s Ability to Adapt

Despite the challenges and changes, Bayfair Center has faced over the years, its ability to adapt and reinvent itself to meet the community’s needs has remained constant.

Bayfair Center shifted its tenant mix to stay relevant in the ever-changing retail industry. The addition of a Cinemark cinema multiplex provided a valuable entertainment option for visitors, further strengthening the mall’s appeal.

As the city of San Leandro continues to explore the potential transformation of Bayfair Center into a mixed-use campus, this adaptability will be crucial in ensuring the mall’s continued success and relevance for years to come.

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