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Proposed as slightly smaller store; other retail sites getting inquiries, too

SAN RAFAEL -- After tabling plans nearly a year ago for a new 137,000-square-foot department store, Target Corp. now wants to move forward with a reconfigured version of the east San Rafael project.

City officials have met with real estate representatives from the Minneapolis-based store chain about resuming the proposed store on a vacant 19.4-acre lot next to The Home Depot store in Shoreline Center, according to city Planning Manager Paul Jensen.

"They're interested in reactivating the project on a slightly reconfigured site," he said about an early February meeting. "It's a slightly downsized project but on the same parcel and property."

The current idea is to have a general-merchandise store similar in size to the one that co-anchors the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center in Novato, according to Mr. Jensen. It would have a limited selection of packaged food and a section for wine and other beverages, but it wouldn't have fresh and frozen food.

The proposal submitted in 2007 called for a 137,000-square-foot store with a grocery component in addition to clothes and housewares common at Target stores.

Some of Target's 1,743 stores in 49 states are being reconfigured to offer groceries or at least higher-profit beverages such as wine. In mid-2009 the company announced a plan to include a smaller-sized fresh-food component to existing and new stores called P-fresh. For example, the existing southeast Santa Rosa store is adding refrigerated cases to the sales floor and a walk-in freezer and cooler to the stock room as part of "expanded grocery-related renovations," according to public records and a company spokesman.

In early 2009, Target abruptly slowed store openings nationwide, putting off the San Rafael project. However, Cal-Pox Inc., the owner of Shoreline Center, moved forward with certifying the environmental impact report on such a project, to be ready when Target returned or another retailer took interest in the site.

The City Council on Oct. 19 unanimously voted to certify the final environmental report with the caveat that the report may need to be updated, perhaps with a new traffic study, when the Target project restarted or another took its place.

As of last week, an updated plan hadn't been submitted.

A Target spokesman declined to comment on the revised San Rafael plan beyond what had already been submitted to the city.

"Typically, we can confirm plans for a new store within one year of the scheduled opening," said spokesman Kyle Thompson.

In a December economic development report to the City Council, Target was said to be "in negotiations for acquisition of a portion of the Shoreline site."

The possible Target store on the long-vacant Shoreline Center site comes amid potential deals for other key retail real estate in the city, according to the report. Deals are working to fill the vacant Yardbird's Design Center, GM dealership, Thomasville Furniture and New George's stores. Mi Pueblo Foods is going into the shuttered Circuit City store, and Walgreens is taking over the Pier 1 Imports store.

Also, Marin County Farmers Market is in talks with The Macerich Co. about moving from its longtime but outgrown home at a Civic Center parking lot to the new Oak Tree Plaza at the newly reopened Northgate mall.

While its San Rafael project was on hold, Target continued its commitment to a store to be one of the anchors for a new Petaluma regional shopping center by Regency Centers called East Washington Place. The Petaluma City Council early last month certified that project's environmental impact and approved the tentative site map.

CORRECTION, March 12, 2010: The planned Target store in San Rafael from the outset was planned to be a 137,000-square-foot standard Target store and not a SuperTarget store, a store format typically sized at 186,000 square feet with an extensive grocery component. Incorrect information was provide for the story.