Target plans to open a TargetExpress store in downtown Berkeley in March 2015. This is a photo of the first TargetExpress store, which opened in July in Minneapolis. Photo: Target
Target plans to open a TargetExpress store in downtown Berkeley in March 2015. Photo: Target

Target is coming to town.

The Minneapolis-based retailer is poised to turn a long vacant building at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way into one of its new-concept TargetExpress stores by March 2015. The store will only be 12,000 square feet — compared to the average Target store size of 80,000 square feet — but will sell food, clothing, accessories and consumer electronics that will appeal to students, commuters and downtown’s growing residential population.

“This fills a critical 12,000 square feet of vacant space,” said Michael Caplan, the manager of Berkeley’s economic development program. “Many people from Berkeley frequent the Target stores in Albany and Emeryville. That takes consumer dollars out of our community. Even though this store is smaller, it will be an opportunity for people to get some of those products here.”

Target also announced it will open a TargetExpress in San Francisco near the Montgomery BART station. The company plans to announce the location of a third location, also in San Francisco, later this year. It opened its first TargetExpress in Minneapolis in July.

Teams from Target spent time in Berkeley to better understand the community and present “the right merchandise mix,” according to a press release.

“The Berkeley store will offer a large selection of grocery items, including produce, dairy, frozen, snacks and beverages to serve the students, commuters and residents of Berkeley,” the company said in a press release. “Additionally, both new TargetExpress stores will be stocked with essentials in home, beauty and electronics, including a robust assortment of Target’s owned brands. The stores will also include Target’s popular pick-up-in-store service and a pharmacy.”

Target is taking over a space that was previously occupied by Walgreens, which moved across the street to 2190 Shattuck Ave. The two stores will now compete, as Walgreens has also diversified its offerings. It now sells fresh fruit and carry out, and has a selection of Cal-related clothing.

Mayor Tom Bates said downtown has long needed more retail. The owners of the building still had a lease with Walgreens, so they could wait to get the best tenant for the location.

“I think it’s a step forward,” said Bates. “It’s something we’ve been looking for for a long time, which is a retail store to come downtown and offer various products. We’ve been anxiously awaiting for something to happen at that corner.”

Target first started looking at Berkeley about six months ago and just recently signed a lease, said Caplan.

“They liked Berkeley,” he said. “They liked the direction of  downtown Berkeley. They wanted to be close to campus. A lot of the elements here were very appealing to them.”

Target considers itself a socially responsible company. Since 1946 it has donated 5% of its profits back to the community, which equals about $4 million a week, according to the press release. Target has 1,925 stores in the United States and Canada. Its nearest big stores to Berkeley are in Emeryville, Albany, Alameda and Richmond.

See Target’s planning application with the city of Berkeley. This story was updated as more information became available.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...