Following Up

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

In a response to my most recent post, All Changes Great and Small, reader “Reality Check” noted that Main Street Coffee Roasting Company had closed but “may continue or reopen under new ownership.” I went by on Monday to see what’s what, and was surprised—and pleased—to see that they were open and apparently doing business as usual. Upon closer inspection, I saw the sign they have posted on their door (pardon the reflections):


[click to enlarge]

It seems that Main Street Coffee is now “Sodoi” (pronounced “so do i”) Coffee, and one of the Main Street co-owners, Bob, remains a partner in the new venture. From all appearances the new business is already up and running. Given that many of the staff have been retained, and that the signage has yet to be updated, Main Street Coffee patrons who weren’t paying too much attention will be forgiven for not noticing any real changes. I expect that there will be some, eventually: it seems that Sodoi may be more about selling coffee beans, if they are indeed associated with the Sodoi Coffee that was planned for Berkeley (see this “Nosh” article in the Berkeleyside news site for a bit of information on that location). But whatever it is called, the coffee shop at 150 Elm (very near Main Street) is very much open and doing business; if you have frequented Main Street Coffee Roasting Company in the past, I’m sure that they will very much welcome your future business.

Not Five, but Six

In Time for Some Commercials I provided some background on the five office projects proposed for Redwood City’s downtown. The developers of those five projects all have submitted paperwork to the Redwood City Planning Department outlining their proposals for the various sites as I described. In an attempt to better understand how the City Council hopes to deal with the fact that the five projects in total exceed the allowable square footage for new office space in the Precise Plan area, I watched last week’s City Council meeting (Redwood City posts video of its City Council meetings here). Watching that meeting did indeed give me some idea of the City Council’s thinking. The Precise Plan specifies “Maximum Allowable Development” limits for three categories: office, retail, and residential within the downtown area. Because the requests exceed the specified limit for office space, while the retail and residential limits are yet unmet, the City Council is considering allowing reallocation between the three categories so that they can assess market needs and (in this case, for instance) shift some of the unrequested retail and residential space over to office space. (Note that they are still considering this, however; they have not decided anything as yet.)

While watching the discussion, I was extremely interested to learn that there is yet another office project being proposed. I hadn’t heard about it because the developer has yet to submit any paperwork, although he has discussed the project with the Planning Department. He should be submitting a formal application by the end of October or November, at which point we’ll know more (and I’ll report on it when that happens). I did learn the key facts, however: the location, and the size. And what I learned surprised me.

The size? 90,000 square feet. For reference, the shorter of the two Crossing/900 buildings is about 113,000 square feet, so this would be about 20% smaller than that. The location? 850 Main Street. That address probably doesn’t ring any bells: it isn’t somewhere that most Redwood City residents pay much attention to. But I suspect that a picture or two will help:


Here is a view of the back of the building:


If you know Main Street, this is directly across from Martin’s West, and adjacent to the Sequoia Hotel building. Strictly speaking, 850 Main Street is the address of St. Regal Jewelers, who are located on the first floor at the left half of the first picture, above. But they are just one tenant in a large 30-year-old building that includes a couple of small retailers on the ground floor and the Redwood Plaza Village Apartments on the upper three floors. Redwood Plaza Village is an 87-unit senior community, open to people aged 55 and older. Rents seem to be somewhere between $995-$1400 or so for a one bedroom: an amount that is significantly below what is being charged for the new apartments being built in the area (in 2012, at least, this building was listed as having 13 affordable housing units). Thus, the loss of this building will not only mean that numerous elderly households will have to relocate, but that many of them will have a difficult time finding anything in the area for a comparable price. The plus side? Well, the new building will likely look nicer and fit in better with the surrounding area…

The Great Escape

Watching the City Council meeting also revealed another nugget or two of valuable information. Eric Lochtefeld, one of the owners of the Fox Theatre, addressed the council on the subject of 815 Hamilton, the project that I mentioned as being behind the Fox. The first interesting tidbit: he and his partners are in negotiations to acquire the building that formerly housed Prestige Portraits (and currently serves as the management office for the Crossing/900 project). Once they have acquired that building, they will own the entire frontage across the street from Crossing/900 between Middlefield and Hamilton. This explains how they intend to fit their building on the site: not only will it occupy the two small parking lots behind the Fox, but it presumably will occupy the Prestige Portraits site as well. I had reported it as being a 35,000 square foot building, but he stated that it would be 69,000 square feet; the extra land provided by the Prestige Portraits building has apparently allowed them to expand their project.

The second nugget, clearly thrown out as an enticement to the City Council to approve the project, was the fact that the building will have underground parking. That in itself is not all that interesting. What really piqued my interest was his statement that they intend to connect their underground parking garage to the one underneath the Century theaters, giving moviegoers a second exit from the Jefferson parking garage. Currently there is only a single exit (and entrance), on Jefferson: with this new project we would have a second way to exit the garage, either to Middlefield or to Hamilton (the precise design, and thus the actual location of this second exit, has yet to be determined). This would indeed be a beneficial aspect of the development; that garage’s single exit is a real bottleneck at times.

Whenever I start to wonder what I could possibly write about next, things like the above three pop up. It appears that for the next couple of years, at any rate, I’ll have no shortage of material from which to draw!

14 thoughts on “Following Up

  1. Pingback: Declare Your Independents | Walking Redwood City

  2. I am applauded by “reality check” and this persons evaluation of below market rate facilities. Shameful if you ask me. It must be nice to hide behind a “reality check” name and not let people know who is actually speaking or providing opinions. Seniors and those less fortunate need to be part of our community. Very very sad to hide behind an internet screen. Coward!

    I am already done with this blog and will leave it to all you other readers. BOTH OF YOU. Bye Bye!

    • Laura, you must have me confused with someone else because I neither applauded or denigrated you. Rather than run away, why not stay engaged … respond to points you disagree with and articulate your vision and reasoning for it? Posting using pseudo anonymous pen names like “Laura” or “Reality Check” allows people to speak more honestly and freely. Since this isn’t and shouldn’t be about personalities, why not engage or respond to the ideas presented on their merits? In order to have a meaningful exchange ideas, thoughts, opinions and observations, there is no need for me to know (or care) who “Laura” is or who the blog owner “Greg Wilson” is. What earthy difference does (or should) it make to you (or anyone) who I am?

  3. While I don’t want to see anyone, particularly seniors, displaced … it is true that the Redwood Plaza Village Apartments are ugly and dead. Having entire large complexes that take up a major part of what should be super-vital downtown blocks dedicated to senior or low-income housing isn’t good. Inclusionary low-income (aka below-market rate, BMR) housing units should be seamlessly distributed throughout market rate projects, thereby avoiding (or minimizing) the clustering effects and stigma of putting them all in single, large “projects”. As for senior housing, particularly low-income senior housing, if not inclusionary and in a cluster, it’s best kept out of the downtown core because these residents, on average, don’t get out much if at all and don’t have much if any disposable income to spend on fueling the vitality of downtown entertainment, dining and shopping venues. Change can be tough, but the heart of a vital, desirable Peninsula downtowns are not the best place for large homogenous senior and/or low-income complexes. Imagine if we moved all the senior facilities downtown and all the market rate around the outside of it. Then the reverse. Which makes more sense, which works best? Food for thought.

  4. Greg you do an amazing job with these blogs! WE feel so informed in Redwood City now. What would we do without them!

  5. FYI – I picked up the new Spectrum Magazine today and it says Main Street Coffee Shop was reopened by the Lutticken family which has businesses in Redwood City, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. It is now called “Lutticken’s Main and Elm” not “Sodoi”. The story also states that the old owner “Bob” is not involved in the new business at all.

    I regards to the 850 Main Street building. There is no “plus” to seniors losing their housing. That was just a insensitive comment by you.

    • Interesting about Lutticken’s; that’s a very different story from what the letter in their own window said. Very strange. As for 850 Main, I thought I was pretty clear that seniors (especially low-income seniors) losing housing was a very bad thing. Sorry if that didn’t come through. I am very concerned with the lack of low-income housing in the latest residential projects.

    • God how I wish we had a local paper that did journalism and had at least some real reporting going on, breaking real & local stories. The Spectrum is such a lazy puff piece … and it seemingly continues to become even more so, with the only occasional newsy/gossipy nuggets buried in the publisher’s stream-of-consciousness navel-gazing “As I was Saying” column. Great “work” if you can get it, I guess.

      Compare to Menlo-Atherton focused Almanac or Palo Alto’s Weekly or Daily Post. Those papers break real, timely, significant stories. Those papers are not merely ad-filled puffery. There is real meaty important news in there, holding local officials and developers at least somewhat accountable and on their toes.

      Apart from the leisurely monthly publishing schedule, the key problem with The Spectrum is that the publisher is more concerned with name-dropping and hob-nobbing with electeds and the community’s A-Listers than he does about journalism and reporting. It’s probably impossible to do both since one requires you to stay in everyone’s “good graces” and the other means stepping on some toes for the greater good of the community and he has clearly chosen the former.

      • Sorry to hear that. I used to pick up The Spectrum now and then when I was commuting on Caltrain. I don’t think that I’ve read it in years, so I can’t really comment.

  6. Thanks for those updates!

    I’ll be glad to see the Redwood Plaza Village Apartments replaced with something less ugly and more vital. Shouldn’t be hard, because both it and City Center Plaza low-income apartments are completely dead-seeming and do not contribute any vitality to the downtown core. At least City Center isn’t as ugly, but it bugs me that the metal roll-down gate to the path connecting through the complex from Main St. to City Hall is always closed when I see it.

    Regarding 815 Hamilton, I also welcome the prospect of something other than blank walls and parking lots on the Winslow Street frontage facing Crossing/900. The “farmer’s market” parking lot and adjacent tired old Pizza n’ Pipes building are a ripe for an infill redevelopment too. They’re a dead zone lacking any visual or pedestrian interest and don’t present an inviting gateway or connector to our downtown from Sequoia Station or the transit center.

    • Lochtefeld pointed out that 815 Hamilton will have ground-floor retail, as of course will Crossing/900. Thus we will have a whole new retail corridor along Hamilton to complement what we have on Theater Way. And he also noted that his new building will block the view of the backside of the Fox, which is indeed pretty unattractive. Those are both definite plusses for his project.

      • Those big blank back walls should have long ago at least had murals — or even some trompe l’oeil windows with flower boxes, etc. — painted on them!

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