The large Mission-style building at 160-170 State St. in downtown Los Altos started as a grocery store 65 years ago. It’s being transformed into State Street Market, a food hall that will feature indoor and outdoor dining and cuisine from several local high-quality vendors.
The market is projected for a midsummer opening. It has been undergoing construction for months, and for the most part, its developer, Los Altos Community Investments (LACI), has kept quiet about its intentions. City officials approved the project administratively in December 2018.
LACI, led by 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki, a Los Altos area resident, has apparently spared no expense with regard to environmental considerations and historical integrity. Original and recycled building materials have been used in the market’s construction.
“Adaptive reuse of buildings may be one of the most impactful things we can do for the environment,” Brian Corbett and Corinda Wong wrote in an email interview for the Town Crier. They both worked on the project with the San Jose-based Gensler architectural firm.
The 33,000-square-foot building includes 20,000 square feet for the food hall and 13,000 square feet for second-floor office space. The food hall will have a seating capacity of approximately 400 and will house roughly a dozen vendors, “plus a couple of pop-ups can occupy the space,” said Robert Hindman, LACI managing director.
Hindman added that the food hall also will feature an “easily accessible” curbside pickup zone, more than 100 feet long.
Most of the vendors are not being revealed yet, but a few local enterprises such as Tin Pot Creamery and former Maum chefs Meichih and Michael Kim have confirmed plans to open at 170 State.
The building first housed Purity Stores when it opened in the 1950s. It was later converted to a two-story commercial structure. Past tenants include Design & Interiors, Linden Tree Children’s Recordings & Books, and Beausejour French Restaurant.
“Originally a mid-century modern grocery store, its striking roof structure was hidden by the building’s conversion to a two-story mission-style commercial building,” Corbett and Wong described. “We were excited by the possibility of revealing this stunning double height structure to create an amazing indoor gathering space.”
They also took advantage of the existing paseo separating 160 and 170 State to emphasize outdoor dining.
“We envisioned being a great place for people to gather and dine outdoors in the beautiful Los Altos weather,” the architects said. “This inspired our architectural concept to make this a central feature of the State Street Market experience, by creating even more indoor/outdoor gathering spaces along the paseo and State Street.”
The change in use from retail and office to an assembly space for diners required a seismic upgrade.
“Our challenge was to integrate a new steel structure without it detracting from the existing building,” Corbett and Wong wrote.
The exterior of the building stays true to Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. In addition to the vaulted roof, prominent features include arched steel-pane windows, tile, wrought-iron railings, hanging lanterns and terra-cotta roof tiles.
“There are over 30 different tiles in the building,” Hindman said. “We used a lot of reclaimed wood, including original Douglas fir posts and trusses, Douglas fir from the original San Francisco Transbay Terminal foundation and Redwood fencing from a Northern California farm.”
“One of the main architectural features on the exterior of the building was the modification of the building facade along State Street and the paseo to create covered outdoor spaces and terraces for gathering and dining,” the architects said. “This activation of the ground plane creates vibrancy and fosters human connection.”
According to Hindman, “170 State Street was and still is a building with a rich history and unique design characteristics that are both worth preserving.”
The commitment to preservation was a goal from the beginning. LACI personnel reached out to the late Wendell Roscoe, the original architect of the building.
“Wendell was a kind soul and he was very excited to learn that a building he designed in the 1950s would be reimagined as a community gathering spot,” Hindman said, “so excited, in fact, that at 99 years old, he drove down from Mendocino to meet the LACI team onsite. He was instrumental in helping identify many original architectural characteristics at 170 State that we ultimately preserved.”