Danville Express

Perspective - October 12, 2007

This time's the charm

Blackhawk Plaza has a lot to celebrate today with the opening of Draeger's Market. This new anchor tenant in its remodeled digs is only the beginning of the changes as the shopping center works on a total revamping that should bring it the popularity which has proven elusive in its 28 years of operation.

When it opened in 1989, Blackhawk Plaza was in the hinterlands. Outsiders might have visited the exclusive development and its shopping center for a look-see or to go to the Automotive Museum but it was too far out of the way to generate return trips. The Blackhawk Theater was state-of-the-art with its plush seating and drink holders, but patrons did not combine a trip to the plaza with their movies.

The first grocery store in Blackhawk Plaza, F.J.'s, was known for its brass shopping carts - this was years before Safeway opened across the street. Since then, anchor tenants have included Blackhawk Market, Stars selling children's clothing, Saks Fifth Avenue and, until last spring, Gottschalks department store. But none of these was able to draw enough shoppers to make the plaza a success.

In this latest iteration, instead of just depending on Draeger's to pull in the customers, the entire center is being overhauled. Blackhawk Plaza will "reopen" in the spring with a whole new look, sculptures and a play area - plus 15 new tenants. The theaters also are being refurbished.

Blackhawk is no longer in the boondocks; development has mushroomed off Camino Tassajara and in Dougherty Valley that could go a long way toward supporting a shopping center that has something to offer. As for the rest of the San Ramon Valley and the surrounding areas, Blackhawk seems almost convenient with the improved Camino Tassajara and Crow Canyon Road.

Co-owner Fred Bruning has succeeded with centers in other places, such as Bridgeport Village in Tigard, Ore., which provides the right mix of stores for the entire family. The population is in place for success now, and the new plaza plans seem like a winning formula.

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