All Changes Great and Small

Change is hard. I was at my dentist recently and learned that he is in his mid-60’s. Although he hasn’t said anything about retiring, yet, its inevitable. I’ve been going to him for more than 25 years and shudder at the thought of having to find a new doctor. On the bright side, his office is in the southern part of San Jose, so I suppose it’ll give me an excuse to find someone closer to home.

Most of us have trouble accepting change. Especially the kind of change where we lose something and don’t yet know what will replace it. The replacement might be better than what we lost, but until we become aware of it and have it to look forward to, all we know is that something we care about is going away.

The closing of the Middlefield Road parking lot and the subsequent construction of Crossing/900 was a great big change, one that affected many of us who regularly patronize Redwood City’s downtown businesses. It is easy to focus on what we lost—a convenient parking lot with some 200 spaces—but once the project is done we should regain those spaces, and then some. According to the Precise Plan amendments made to to accommodate the project, Crossing/900 will include 290 public parking spaces (with validation!) in addition to the 614 spaces for exclusive use of the tenant. So in this instance, at least, we have something to look forward to which should help a bit in dealing with the drastic change made to that particular property.

Very recently we lost something smaller, something that my wife and I cared about very much:

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My wife, who is a landscape designer, spent a lot of time at Redwood City Nursery and sent a lot of business their way. As well, we frequently shopped there for trees and plants to use in our own yard. Coming on the heels of the closure of Roger Reynolds Nursery late last year, it feels as if our options for buying plants seem greatly reduced. Oh, well: time to revisit the various remaining nurseries in the area. We’ll find a new source for plants soon enough, I’m sure, although we’ll miss this intimate little nursery at the south end of town…

Regardless of the inconvenience to me, I certainly can’t fault the reason for Redwood City Nursery’s closing. As the sign indicates, the owner of Redwood City Nursery, who has owned it for over 25 years, was simply ready to retire. The property is now for sale, and unless someone can figure out how to make a nursery work on this site after first purchasing it—the asking price is $2.8 million—the nursery isn’t likely to reopen. I’ll certainly be watching the site with interest to see what the future owner of the property does with it. I’m hoping that whatever it is, it’ll be a net positive for the city of Redwood City.

One of the best jobs I ever had was working for NeXT Computer, Inc. out on Chesapeake Drive (off Seaport) in Redwood City. Not only was it a terrific company to work for, it was the shortest commute I ever had. The close proximity of my workplace to my home not only allowed me, on occasion, to ride my bike to work, it also allowed me to take an afternoon break and help out in my kids’ elementary school classroom. The office location here in town also meant that when I and my co-workers ate out for lunch, we ate in Redwood City. The City Pub (on Broadway, near El Camino) was a favorite, as was this place:

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The guys at NeXT introduced me to La Azteca Restaurant (and supermarket); before joining the company I had never even noticed the place. Tucked away on Main St. just south of Chestnut, it wasn’t the kind of place you pass by often (unless you are going to Broadway Cleaners, perhaps). After NeXT was purchased by Apple and we employees were moved to Cupertino I ate there less often, although I still tried to drop in every once in a while. The Azteca Burrito was just excellent, and I loved the friendly atmosphere. The outdoor seating was a real plus: I particularly like places where I can enjoy our “climate best” while dining. Unfortunately, this is another long-time local business that is no more, due to the retirement of its owner. Knowing that it closed, but not knowing exactly why, I recently went by to take a close look and see if I could learn anything. A rather courteous note on the door satisfied my curiosity:

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Another loss. Another change. But also, another opportunity. I can only wonder what will take La Azteca’s place. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll be something great: something even better than what we lost.

Unlike in the above two instances, sometimes when we lose something we either know what is replacing it, or we very soon learn. Once such instance of this are the signs along El Camino that, upon entering the city, greet you and identify many of the civic organizations that have chapters in our city. Thousands of people daily drive by these things and probably pay them no attention. On foot, however, its a different story: they’re rather hard to ignore. I recently did gave them a visit, and was very pleased with what I saw.

For the record, here is what used to greet folks driving into Redwood City from the north. The building visible behind the signs is the 7-11; Whipple is about a block ahead.

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Basically, we had a small forest of wooden poles festooned with the signs of the various organizations, behind and beside a carved wooden sign with the city’s name and motto, identifying us as the county seat. To me, they felt like a motley assortment of telephone poles with signs haphazardly tacked onto them. Contrast the above with what we have there now:

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(When I took this photo the landscaping had yet to be put in; the landscaping has recently been completed and it looks great.) Although perhaps a bit cluttered—and how could they not be with the wide variety of shapes and sizes of signs affixed to the metal frames—these signs look much more intentional, and far more classy. The metalwork is very nicely done, too. At a quick glance you might think that the entire assemblage is one flat sign, but no: the horizontal Redwood City sign sits forward from the vertical panels that house the organization signs. This is hard to see while driving by, but if you happen to stop alongside, or you walk by, you can see that these signs really do have a third dimension:

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I’m not sure who was responsible for these new signs, but: Bravo! I, for one, am a fan.

Redwood City is undergoing so many changes right now it is hard to absorb what they all mean. Some will be a net positive; others will not. Of course, it all depends upon your point of view: the employees of Box, Inc. who will be occupying the buildings at Crossing/900 probably view those buildings quite differently from those of us who enjoy sitting in the sunshine at Cafe La Tartine. And I’m sure that the downtown merchants are thrilled at the thought of Crossing/900 and the new apartment buildings being fully occupied. Regardless of how you view the changes going on in our downtown, after a long period of stagnation I must say it sure is nice to see so much activity. And I must admit, it does give me a lot to write about…

Community Benefits Program Workshop

Many of you have strong opinions around how Redwood City could benefit from downtown development. The city wants to hear from you: according to their press release, it is designing a “Community Benefits” program intended to ensure that “specific benefits or amenities are provided to the community by developers, as part of future development projects.” The City is holding a workshop on October 15 in which we, the public, can help shape how that program looks and what kind of community benefits should be included. I plan to attend, and if you have opinions on how we can gain some perks as a result of future development projects, you should too.

The workshop details are:

Partnership Redwood City
Community Benefits Program Workshop
Wednesday, October 15, 7:00pm
Room 4, Community Activities Building
1400 Roosevelt Ave., Redwood City

If you cannot attend but want to make suggestions, note that you can submit them to the RWC Forum.

7 thoughts on “All Changes Great and Small

  1. Pingback: Following Up | Walking Redwood City

  2. I read the Redwood City Nursery will be sold to a developer for apartments or condos. I think it was in the Daily Post (not freely available online). Here’s the SJ Mercury story on the closure: http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_26456399/redwood-city-nursery-set-close-after-65-years

    Now that Redwood City Nursery has joined Roger Reynolds in closing, I guess we’ll be going to Wegmans Nursery http://www.wegmansnursery.com on Woodside Road a whole lot more now.

    Also Main Street Coffee Roasting Company, after about 25 years in business, closed this last weekend. I heard it may continue/reopen under new ownership.

    • Ugh. I had heard a rumor that Main Street Coffee was closing, but nothing concrete. I’m very sorry to hear that they’ve actually closed. I sincerely hope that someone reopens it.

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