South San Francisco officials gave the green light to a new Mercedes-Benz dealership taking over the former Orchard Supply Hardware building and a surrounding shopping center.

The South San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved Thursday, July 2, Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco’s plan to rebuild the vacant hardware store and shopping hub into a new showroom and service center.

Board Chair Alan Wong admired the proposal, while encouraging the dealership to collaborate with residents living in the nearby neighborhoods to assure their quality of life is not diminished.

“It’s extremely important to take the residents in the surrounding areas — their comments and their concerns — into consideration and be good partners to the city,” said Wong.

The comment comes in the wake of a few letters and comments from neighbors who raised fears regarding the potential for light or noise from the dealership invading their home.

Ash Zaki, an executive with the car company, committed to being a good neighbor and assured those concerned that the new facility would be respectful of those living nearby.

“We are very, very sensitive to the community,” he said.

To that end, he said lighting at the site would be directed away from homes and dimmed at night and that sales staff will be instructed to direct test drives to Interstate 280, rather than residential streets. A forthcoming discussion on signs will determine advertising allowed on the building.

Under the commission’s decision, the car manufacturer can move ahead with plans to redevelop the addresses spanning from 2211 to 2245 Gellert Blvd. into a 30,000-square-foot service facility and 80,000-square-foot showroom and sales center.

The site is expected to feature 588 parking spaces, which will accommodate shoppers, employees, vehicles visiting the service center and sales inventory. The two-story showroom will also include space for administrative offices, a customer lounge and part storage.

Officials also detailed a comprehensive security plan for the site intended to offer commissioners peace of mind that the threat of burglaries or car thefts would be limited.

Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco has operated in San Francisco since 1961 and is now planning to relocate its headquarters to the Peninsula. Zaki said the company was drawn to the new site due primarily to easy access to Interstate 280. But he also noted finding such a large site is difficult, and he mentioned the challenges associated with operating in a major metropolitan center.

The Orchard Supply Hardware location in South San Francisco shuttered in 2018 when parent company Lowe’s announced all 99 stores across California, Florida and Oregon would close. San Mateo County’s locations had included South San Francisco, Millbrae, Foster City, San Carlos and Redwood City. Months after, the parent company also shuttered the Lowe’s store at 720 Dubuque Ave. in South San Francisco as part of a corporate downsizing targeting underperforming locations.

The service bay will replace the Gellert marketplace, displacing 11 restaurants and businesses. Since Mercedes-Benz announced its intent to takeover the site, city officials worked with merchants to help identify new places to operate.

For his part, Commissioner Sam Shihadeh expressed confidence the new dealership and service center would be an asset for South San Francisco.

“I think it is an improvement for the neighborhood, for the area. And I think it should also bring some revenue to the city,” he said.

Wong too said he is excited to welcome the company to its new community, while reiterating his expectation that it the business work hard to integrate into its surroundings.

“Being the new kid on the block, it’s extremely important to be a good neighbor,” he said.

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