Passerelle Unveils its Mission: Developers Focused on Quality Projects

Written by Town Crier Report   
Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Taylor Robinson, left, and Amanda Tevis, co-directors of Pas-serelle Investment Co., visit Skateworks on State Street, one of six new businesses Passerelle has brought to town.

Since its arrival in 2009, Passerelle Investment Co. has quietly made a major impact on downtown Los Altos.

Passerelle owns six buildings on First and State streets, totaling approximately 65,000 square feet. The company has attracted six new businesses to downtown – Evolve Yoga & Pilates, Skateworks, Bumble, 359 State Street (the bike shop), Play! Los Altos and a startup company, Indigo-I. In addition, the company has renovated the facades of the Peet’s Coffee & Tea building, Passerelle’s office at 108 First St., 127 First St., Bumble (formerly Cottage Green) and the new Linden Tree Children’s Books at 265 State St.

The Town Crier recently conducted an email interview with Passerelle co-founder Amanda Tevis, who shed some light on the investment company and its unique mission.

Q: Tell us a little about Passerelle Investment Co.

A: “Passerelle” is a French word meaning “footbridge” for pedestrians and bicycles. It spoke to our desire to bridge the community to their downtown in an environmental way.

Taylor Robinson and I started Passerelle in 2009 with some local partners who share our vision and who are like-minded about the importance of a vibrant downtown that truly anchors its entire multigenerational community.

Q: From an investment perspective, why Los Altos?

A: When we formed Passerelle, Los Altos was a logical place to start. We felt strongly that the issues facing downtown Los Altos could be effectively addressed by our particular brand of experience and talent, and from our very long-term perspective of real estate investment/development.

In other words, with patient capital, creative deal structures and deep revitalization experience, we could attract top-drawer retailers and restaurants and cultivate the downtown into a place that would finally be what the community has wanted for years and years.

Q: You’ve referred to Passerelle as a “preservation-minded” investment/development company. What does that mean?

A: We would like our projects to both preserve and enhance the “livability” of Los Altos. We preserved and rebuilt 145 First St., a 1910 cottage that was originally the town librarian’s house. It’s now our tenant Bumble, which serves organic farm-to-table food in a friendly, permissive atmosphere where families and friends spend time together while their children play. That is exactly the kind of project we believe in.

Last year, we bought and renovated 265 State St. for Linden Tree Children’s Books. If anything enhances a downtown, it’s a first-rate local bookstore.

With the city, we carved out a fun, unexpected social gathering space by building a seat-wall/planter at the corner of First and State Streets. With the narrowing of First Street, the seat/planter is a nice safety buffer from the cars.

Q: What is your business background?

A: I started in retail brokerage and development as an intern with Terranomics, the largest retail brokerage company on the West Coast, during college in 1984. I saw how real estate revitalization through retail, restaurants, office and hotels was really about civic renewal and community building.

I left Terranomics in 1999 to start my own consulting practice and did projects such as Santana Row in San Jose and Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.

I have been a partner in Intrinsic Ventures, a real estate development company that focuses on investments in the Bay Area and Portland, Ore., since 1995.

Q: Can you tell us about the members of Passerelle?

A: Taylor is my co-founding partner. Her background and expertise is in sustainable construction and real estate management. She lives in Los Altos with her husband and son. We have phenomenally symbiotic skill sets, as I have conviction about what to build and she has knowledge and conviction about how to build it right.

Brooke Ray Smith is our in-house urban planner. Her diverse areas of expertise range from LEED certification to zoning codes and parking policy.

Joan Zhao and Brooke Randall are our project associates, Grant Bowen is our green construction management guru and Katie Stern works on many and various research and development projects.

Q: What are some of your goals?

What I’ve observed, in every community in every country I’ve been to, is that the marketplace, in our case this downtown, is where community is built – where people socialize and kids play, where values are shared, ideas are exchanged and where creativity is expressed.

We see “gathering spaces” as critical to an energetic downtown and look forward to collaborating with the city to create a plaza behind the Peet’s building. We would like to contribute to the city council’s commendable effort to find a comprehensive parking solution that protects the convenience and charm of the downtown. Like most Los Altans, we are concerned about vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle safety. We are looking into ways to make the various crossings over Foothill and San Antonio more safe and hospitable to pedestrians and cyclists. And in our spare time, we canvas the Bay Area and beyond to find great tenants to bring to the downtown. We love to idea-exchange and welcome input at