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Walnut Creek Magazine

With a new wave of leases, Walnut Creek is poised for a strong comeback in 2022.

Nov 13, 2021 04:15PM ● By Pam Kessler

(Rendering by Robert Becker)

For years, brands like Ethan Allen and Lenscrafters toyed with plans to open in Walnut Creek. Then in the spring of 2020, an abundance of vacant commercial real estate presented fresh opportunities for relatively lower rents and entry into the market, making Walnut Creek a prime target for local, regional, and national brands.

“We felt the market starting to shift in January 2021, and every week since then, the momentum has continued with users coming off the sidelines. During the last quarter, over 50,000-square-feet of commercial real estate was absorbed in downtown Walnut Creek. The vacancy rate is down to 11% (from 15.5%) and this is good news,” says John Cumbelich, whose firm Cumbelich & Associates releases quarterly retail market data reports about Walnut Creek and other Bay Area cities.

“Clearly local entrepreneurs have seized upon the historic glut of vacancy—outside of the mall—that swamped the market during the COVID pandemic, opening an eclectic mix of local business including Dumpling Hours, Sultan’s Kebab, Kokolo Donburi, Bober Tea, Third Culture Bakery, Wardrobe Boutique, Yogaflow SF, School of Rock, Lulusimon Studio, and Rooted Coffee. This surge of local demand reflects Walnut Creek’s ability to attract a balance of brands,” says Cumbelich. “Spaces formerly occupied by Pier 1 Imports, Forever 21, and Talbots all have active tenant negotiation, suggesting further absorption in the near term.”

COMING SOON 

Here is a round-up of the retailers and restaurants to look forward to in Walnut Creek. 

When Crate & Barrel’s lease expires in January, the home décor retailer is expected to relocate nearby in a smaller footprint. Taking its place at Broadway Plaza is the bocce, bowling, and dining chain,Pinstripes. Opening in the former Godiva chocolate shop, Häagen-Dazs joins the list, while Nespresso moves near the Apple courtyard to make space for Lululemon to double its store size. (Don’t fret: the athletic wear phenom popped-up a holiday shop in the vacant Gap store in the meantime.) And when the ink is dry, look for big news about the restaurant opening in the former Stanford’s building.

One of San Francisco’s illustrious brunch spots, Sweet Maple, best-known for its Millionare’s Bacon and Benedicts, is taking the place of Tozai Izakaya on Giammona Drive. Other cool food concepts to get excited about include World Famous Hot Boys, Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, and Lita’s.

Before we could yell ‘last call’ Broadway Club closed to reemerge as Sakimoto Sushi, “an upscale New York-style sushi lounge” according to their website. 

Mountain View’s French-Italian restaurant, La Fountaine, opened on Broadway in the former Burma Unique space with grilled octopus, mushroom truffle ravioli, and beef wellington on the menu. After two decades on Main Street, La Fogata served its last taco plates and permanently closed. But if the rumors are true, the prime real estate space will soon be leased to a new Mexican food operator. And a contemporary version of Lafayette’s beloved El Charro is opening as The Original El Charro 1947 on Broadway.

Soon, you won’t have to schlep those heavy loads of laundry to Concord. Deanna Caprini-Fusch is bringing her Tons of Bubbles Laundromat brand to 1350 Mt. Diablo Blvd., opening her fourth location here. 

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