The Metreon made a quiet debut of their first floor food court last weekend, the first phase of their $30 million renovation project. The debut included Buckhorn Grill, Sanraku and Jillian’s. 16 other food merchants will trickle slowly in the next few weeks and months. Prior to the debut, I attended a media preview tour of the facilities led by Scot Vallee, Vice President of Development of Westfield Group.

The preview included a tour of Metreon’s top floor private event venue, on the 4th floor. City View’s 19,000 square feet space and 10,000 square feet Terrace, was renovated in Summer 2011, and has already proven successful with big event organizers. Corporate bigwigs are not the only ones who have enjoyed the magnificent views of the city skylights, the space recently completed its first wedding reception celebration too.

According to Vallee, the largest cost of a renovation project involves demolition. The Metreon’s main entrance was shifted down to the 4th street side of the building, and the original AMC ticket counter was relocated further inside.

The change seems to provide a better configuration for customers, since the elevators are now just a few steps away. In addition to more than double the number of dining seats, all areas are better illuminated compared to the past. “Lighter and brighter,” proclaimed Vallee.

Customers also have the option of new escalators that lead to the 3rd floor movie theaters. All the dining spaces use modern contoured seating similar to Westfield’s SF Centre Food Emporium. A design detail that ties the 2 Westfield properties together.

Among the new features is an outdoor dining space terrace, which wasn’t setup during the tour, and free WiFi service within the building and surrounding areas, including the park. All food merchants will be required to limit the amount of trash that goes to a landfill, to no more than 15-20% annually, so 80-85% must be recycled.

The last tenant to debut will be the Target store on the 2nd level, scheduled to open in October 2012. City Target’s 85,000 square feet of retail space is smaller than the average Target general merchandise store with 126,000 square feet, and half the size of a typical Super Target store. So customers will have a limited variety of products compared to other Target stores. On the other hand, instead of facing an ugly parking lot, patrons will enjoy majestic views of Yerba Buena Park.

The Westfield Group is optimistic that their investment will be well received. And although there’s no plans to add more parking, they hope that the variety of food options, the central location, and proximity to public transportation, will entice office workers, Moscone convention attendees, and Bay Area residents (using public transit of course), to visit on a daily basis.

Photo Credit: Luis Chong