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The front of a an empty mall shows a crosswalk leading to a red-painted curb and beyond that, a large brown building with a very wide concrete canopy.

What is going on with Hilltop Mall?

on November 15, 2023

Twenty years ago, the Hilltop Mall was the place to be in Richmond. It was a bustling shopping area full of life, and around this time of the year, it would have been extra busy with holiday shoppers. Today, the mall is vacant and isolated, stores are empty and dark, with only Walmart open. 

But Hilltop’s owner says the site has a promising future providing three things Richmond needs: employment opportunities, retail space and mixed-use housing. 

Prologis, an industrial real estate company based in San Francisco, bought the 78-acre mall property in 2021 and has a big plan for its redevelopment that includes data centers and retail space, as well as such amenities as bikeways, pedestrian paths and a transportation hub, said Samidha Thakral, vice president and investment officer at Prologis. For the housing portion, the allowable residential density at the mall site is a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 135 dwelling units per acre. Thakral said Prologis’ plan includes for-sale townhomes, apartments, duplexes and single-family homes.

credit: Hilltop District Homeowners & Stakeholders Association

Richmond Planning Commission

What: Study session for Hilltop Horizon

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: City Council Chambers, City Hall

In the meantime, the city has been working on its own vision for the property  that includes many of the same elements. Both Prologis and the city say the dialogue between them has been open. 

Lina Velasco, Richmond community development director, said she does not anticipate Prologis submitting a project application until the city has adopted the site plan. This could delay development at the mall for about five years. 

After holding community workshops and surveys, the Planning Commission expects to conduct a study session Thursday to craft a preferred land use plan by the end of this year, Velasco said. This will be presented to the council early next year for guidance, direction and approval, after which the council will hold public hearings about the plan. 

File photo of the Hilltop Mall sign in 2014
A file photo of the Hilltop Mall’s sign in 2014.

“Our goal here as city staff is to make sure that we present a project that reflects community priorities,” Velasco said.

Bhavin Khatri, president of the Hilltop District Neighborhood Council, said the community wants to make sure that there’s more retail and entertainment, and open space and parks. “So that’s what the current plan is,” he said.

What the community doesn’t want are warehouses and distribution centers. That’s what residents feared when the property was purchased by Prologis, which boasts on its website of developing the “largest collection of high-quality logistics real estate in the world.” 

Prologis has met and listened to residents, said Arto Rintella, president of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council. The company also realized it would have a zoning fight to turn the property into a distribution hub, he said. 

While Rintella acknowledged that the city needs more affordable housing, he also said, “There are concerns about when people come to Richmond and there are not many places to go.” 

In an email to Richmond Confidential, Prologis said the next step is to work with the city on putting a plan in place. Prologis said it brought on Signature Development Group to help with the mixed use plan. Signature’s projects include Brooklyn Basin on Oakland’s waterfront, The Hive District in downtown Oakland and Willow Village with Meta in Menlo Park.

“We’re excited about what the future of Hilltop could be and look forward to working with neighbors and City leaders to create a more detailed plan in the coming months,” the email said. 

Community engagements have been underway “to re-envision the future of the defunct mall,” Thakral said. For Prologis to start redevelopment, it will need approval from the City Council. Thakral said the company will work on the applications in tandem with the specific plan to not lose critical time in starting redevelopment.

During the second community workshop, held on Nov. 1, residents expressed the need to see development within the next five years. In an online survey conducted during the workshop, 65% of the respondents said they do not want warehousing and distribution centers at the mall site, while 57% said they favored retail development.

Several people said they were worried that if the zoning was not restricted, the property owner could do whatever it wants. The city and Prologis will have to follow certain guidelines, said Beverly Choi, a program manager with ESA, the city’s consultant on the project.

Velasco said the project is an opportunity for the city to meet its housing goals, after a Contra Costa County grand jury found that it failed to meet its housing targets of 2,424 units between 2015 and 2023. Hilltop is identified as a high-priority development area and is anticipated for future employment and housing, Velasco said. “So we see it being a key development area for realizing our housing needs,” she said. 

Many people live in the Hilltop area, and they need more retail outlets, Khatri said. “It is essential that we get the opportunity for people to shop local, especially for the residents that live and work here.”

People of Richmond: What type of business does the city need more of?


  1. Janet Gee on November 16, 2023 at 7:26 am

    About Hilltop development, is there going to be a community center for youth development projects? I feel now adays, we don’t have enough places for our younger generations to go to to help them find directions for there careers or just recreations to keep them from going in the wrong direction s in life.
    Janet Gee

  2. Dave on November 16, 2023 at 8:39 am

    Same as all areas that have lost multiple retail stores, until there is a way to control some people’s tendencies to steal and destroy, no retailer will want to invest in those areas. As it is now the store closers are expanding not reopening.

  3. Tomas on November 16, 2023 at 5:29 pm

    It would be great to see the space being used again. There are videos online of people going through the abandoned hilltop stores and it’s heartbreaking to think of it in that state.

    • Eva on November 17, 2023 at 11:34 am

      It would be great to see restaurants, a florist shop, a bakery and maybe a grocery store. They need to also incorporate senior housing…..
      As a former city of Richmond park & recreation & affirmative action commissioner. I do recall in the day grocery stores like foodco were told to hire Richmond residents to full full the affirmative action goal. The store owner pleated he could not find good people to hire the people he invested in stolen from the store or employee gave groceries away at the check stands. I feel for that guy…we can have criminal element or dishonest people destroying what will be build. Get more research done. Also get advice from law enforcement as well as security.

  4. Ja`mela Wheaton on November 17, 2023 at 7:51 am

    I was born @ Brookside Hospital. I am a gen y and what you can refer to as a real Richmond baby. Richmond was thriving , every beat followed a rhythm. Virtual reality is really the next thing. Employment is a big issue and so is housing. Let real Richmond residents brein Strom for the future. We need hilltop mall. I remember when there was a movie 🍿 theater inside on top was matinee`the top was premier.ijs

    • Ben Griffin on November 17, 2023 at 1:31 pm

      That movie theatre is where I saw Star Wars in 1977

  5. Scyvitria F Parker on November 17, 2023 at 8:25 am

    I have lived in Richmond for almost 50 years and I was her when the mall opened. The ice skating rink was a favorite of the community. I go to the 24hr fitness, I miss the Cinnabon, JC Penney, Georgia’s, Macy’s, the food court and all the little shops we had. Now ai have to travel to Concord to go to the mall. I knew this would happen when walmart came in. I like Walmart but it should have been place outside the mall somewhere. I loved walking the mall top to bottom when I didn’t want to go to the gym. I could see what wanted to buy when the stores open or after my top and bottom walk. I know the youngsters an some adults love to steel, we can train security with the R.P.D. and S.P.P.D. an coordinate between them, Pinole P.D. and the Sherrifs Dept for smash and grab groups so no one gets out of the area with the goods. We need fun and retail back at Hilltop, we need a Dave and Busters as well.

    • Pam Dawson on November 22, 2023 at 10:38 am

      🪷As a Oakland to San Pablo resident for years, I raised 3 sons & a daughter, WE RELIED ON THE SHOP VERSATILITY & FUN of our visits to Hilltop Mall, yet we (residents & friends) ‘knew’ that when WALMART was allowed to open, it would eliminate the variety of smaller independent entrapeneurs in the mall – & that’s EXACTLY what happened!!! We miss them!!!🪷

  6. Jada on November 17, 2023 at 8:33 am

    Bring the retail stores back and activities for the kids. We do not need more warehouses. Don’t know why they shut down the mall anyways, it just needed to be revamped with better stores.

  7. Jean Ropati on November 17, 2023 at 9:44 am

    I would be very happy to see the space used again. We definitely need work opportunities.

  8. Lew on November 17, 2023 at 10:56 am

    Sad to say this has been going on for too long and no progress. All of these study’s are pointless . You know what the community needs up there to thrive. Why drag it out ? But people are going to do what they want anyway putting stuff the community don’t need. No I’m not being negative, just being real you see it happening all over

  9. PC on November 17, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    Making real senior housing the housing priority makes real sense as we DO NOT need Hilltop to become a traffic nightmare among serious commuters, those kind of accomodations can be installed sparsely and very spread out. The other thing is the practicality of SIDEWALKS! Around Hilltop Mall Road which encircles the existing mall, there are virtually no pedestrian walking spaces on much of the roadway. The new Hilltop should be designed as a big park with redwoods, cedars, and other native trees and plants…And then we have full time gardners to keep things beautiful. Then interwoven in that we put buildings and meeting places…with this in mind, that if what we have done becomes awkward, we recreate it, move it, or swap it…we don’t just suffer with it! And about cannibas and other problem installations, let’s get it right, right now! WE DO NOT WANT TO PLAN FOR VIOLENCE. WE WANT TO PLAN THAT KIND OF THING OUT OF A SAFE AND FAMILY ATMOSPHERE WHERE ALL ETHNICITIES CAN CONGREGATE AND ENJOY BEAUTIFUL PLANNING, AND AN OASIS, YES, RIGHT HERE IN RICHMOND!!!

  10. Marcus Arline on November 18, 2023 at 5:53 am

    I remember the Christmas Trees whenever I go there🎄. It looks pretty! But what about it now?

  11. honeybat on November 21, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    I have so many fond memories of taking my young child there to ride the Carousel, and some of the sweetest photos of them enjoying it with me ☺️ this was around 2010, after the mall had already been struggling and slowly failing…was heartbreaking to see more empty storefronts every time we went. I’m grateful we had our Carousel moments together before that was ultimately sold off and removed. I hope whatever plans are implemented include these sort’ve small and simple delights that can mean so much to so many!

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