For those walks that I plan, I usually have one or two specific targets in mind: somewhere or something that I need to investigate and take pictures of. But then I think of other things I should check out as long as I’m in the area. And then I think of other, not so nearby things that I could fit in, too. Suddenly, what was a nice, neat, organized walk starts to resemble one of those old Family Circus cartoons. Remember those? Where little Billy needs to go next door, say, and winds up taking an incredibly circuitous route that leads him down the block, through the park, over the teeter-totter, on and off the swings, through the neighborhood empty lot where kids are playing, and finally back to the next door house? Although I haven’t seen one in years, I can still picture those cartoons with little Billy’s route plotted out with a dotted line looping and swooping throughout the neighborhood. This week’s walk was one of those: a walk that initially was going to be very direct, but ultimately had me wandering throughout Redwood City’s downtown.
My original goal was the Main Street Dog Agility Park. And because it is close by, I also thought I’d check on the progress at Jardin de Niños park. Then I it occurred to me that I should check out the Crouching Tiger mural, since although I’d seen pictures I hadn’t yet been by to check it out in person. And hey—the day of this particular walk turned out to nbe opening day for Philz Coffee! Gotta check that out. There were a couple of places on Jefferson and Main I needed to visit as well, and then there is the Habit Burger going in where Johnny Rocket’s once was (in Sequoia Station)…
On with the walk. First up, 701 El Camino:
I seem to have a particular fascination with this building, and I’m not sure why. Its on a good corner (El Camino and Brewster), but the lack of easy parking makes it a tough building for retail. I’ll be interested to see who goes in here: possibly a real estate office or a tech startup or some other low-traffic business. In any case, the big problem with this building has always been parking. And it still is, although the new design has definitely alleviated the problem somewhat: there will be a 10-space (I believe) parking lot in the back. I wasn’t sure where they could fit it in, until I visited the site this week, and saw this:
This is the back side of the building, as viewed from Brewster. The cars will nose into the building, which will be much easier once that power pole—the one leaning in the above photo—is removed. And that’s what the crews appeared to be doing when I visited: they seem to be undergrounding the lines and removing at least that one pole (although hopefully they’ll remove more than one: there are quite a few in close proximity here). Not being one who regularly goes down Commercial Way (that is the name of this back alley), I hadn’t realized just how ugly the power poles and wires were back there.
If you go down that street—you’ll be able to when they’re done, but I couldn’t when I was there, of course—you get to the Perry Street parking lot, which is the small lot behind City Pub and Crouching Tiger. And that is where our city’s new mural is.
Do give it a visit: it is really well done. According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, the Redwood City Cultural Commission is hoping to put murals on all of the buildings on Commercial Way, which should make this little parking lot a very attractive place indeed. Truthfully, the mural had me looking at this side of the block in a whole new way: I’m used to viewing this area as just another back alley, but take down the power lines and put murals on the buildings and suddenly the entire block has a new, attractive face that entices you to investigate the businesses inside.
You’ve probably heard it by now, but in case you haven’t, Philz Coffee is indeed open! It was quite a zoo there on opening day, with substantial lines all day long. By the next day, when I had occasion to be back in the area again, things had quieted down to a more normal pace, so don’t let the first-day crowd deter you. Check ‘em out at 2116 Broadway, and welcome Philz to Redwood City!
Next up on my circuitous route to the dog park, I turned down Jefferson towards Veterans to take a look at a small lot that may well be our next Habitat for Humanity project. I’ve been here once or twice before, but just can’t get believe that they can get 20 housing units onto this tiny 5,000 square foot lot at 612 Jefferson (in the shadow of the 10 story “Indigo” apartment building now under construction):
I’m a big believer in Habitat for Humanity and in their mission, so I’m rooting for this project (and would love to help swing a hammer if and when it gets off the ground). At the moment Habitat is negotiating the purchase of the property with the aid of funds from both Redwood City and San Mateo County. If the purchase goes through, we will soon see just how they plan to perform this architectural magic trick.
After taking a quick couple of pictures of the nearby Indigo project, I reversed course and jogged over to Main Street. What’s going on on Main Street? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Like many other parts of downtown, it is in the middle of a transformation that is going to make it a much more attractive place to be. New restaurants, new businesses, and future new housing: Main Street is regaining some of the glory that seems appropriate for a street with that name. Today, though, my first stop was Gambrel & Co.
I’ve talked about Gambrel & Co. before: they are the “craft butchery” that sits on the west side of Main, very close to the intersection with Broadway. I was excited about them when they opened, but they ended up being very erratic, both in their operating hours and in their stock on hand. You never knew whether they’d be open when you dropped by, and you never knew whether they’d have something you wanted. Perhaps because of this, they recently closed. But I’m very pleased to report that they’ve reopened under new management, and that things are definitely looking up! For one thing, it appears that they will have regular, proper hours (closed Monday, but open until 7:00pm Tues-Fri, 5:30pm Sat-Sun). For another, based upon my visit that day, the case (and, indeed, the rest of the store) should be nicely stocked with high-quality, hand-butchered meats and complimentary items. Benjamin Robert (the new proprietor) sold me a nice Ribeye; I threw it onto the Weber that evening, and it was marvelous! I also picked up some marinaded beef short ribs that look wonderful (I have yet to try them out). In addition to the dry rubs that Gambrel’s previously had, Benjamin is now experimenting with cheeses and dried pastas as well. Do check them out! This new incarnation doesn’t have a website as yet, but you can call them at 650-260-2622, or just drop by their store at 810 Main St.
Further down Main, it is my sad duty to report that after 24 years in Redwood City, Little India Restaurant has closed. For a long time Little India was located on Broadway, midway between the City Pub and today’s Peet’s Coffee. But years ago, when the building was extensively remodeled to accommodate Peet’s (and others), Little India relocated to its most recent location on Main Street. I have many fond memories of buffet lunches at this place, both at their old and new locations, and will miss chef/owner Manoj Chopra and his food. Time to find a new source for Indian food…
From Main Street it was a simple matter for me to cut through the Main Street parking lot and check out the progress going on at Howie’s Artisan Pizza. There were plenty of chairs and tables inside, and they seem to be in the final stages of installing equipment and decor. Thus, I think we can expect to see a grand opening very soon now. Oh—and they have a help wanted sign up, if anyone is interested…
From Howie’s I looped around the Century Theater building, wandered behind the Fox Theatre, and then headed across the tracks to Sequoia Station in order to confirm that Habit Burger is indeed taking over the spot recently vacated by Johnny Rockets. As you can see from the following photo, nothing is actually happening on-site yet: things are still in the paperwork stages.
I also noted that there is still no action on the old Blockbuster Video site. It is still for lease, and the old Blockbuster rental counters are still in place.
Heading down Franklin, I took an opportunity to get some pictures of Elan Redwood City receiving its outer skin. I’ll have more to say on that project and its offspring in a future post, though. For now, a quick zig-zag along Maple, Lathrop, and Elm led me to the corner where Elm Street dead-ends into Main, near the aptly named Main & Elm (the former Main Street Coffee Roasting Company). The Main Street Dog Agility Park is being constructed here, on a small triangular-shaped parcel situated between Main St. and the railroad tracks.
When I first heard about this project, I wondered why it was going to take so long: after all, there was an existing park there, so didn’t it just need some fencing? But now I get it: not only did our Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission want to make the park safe and usable by dogs and their human friends, but they also wanted to ensure that everyone could get to and from the park safely. Given the park’s location, that meant a complete re-do of the sidewalks, crosswalks, and streetlights that surround the park, in addition to the fencing and other renovations needed for the park itself.
Here is a “before” picture of the park:
And here is what you see today, mid-construction:
With the exception of a few mature trees, everything here is new, including the sidewalk and curb. Street trees will be going into those square holes in the sidewalk. You can just see the anchor for one of the streetlights just in front of the roll of black weed cloth that is lying across the sidewalk.
Although it is not clearly visible in the above photo, there is a mid-block crosswalk going in as well:
The above picture is from across Main Street looking towards the park, which is behind the green fencing. Note that because of the safety “bulbouts” necessitated by this new crosswalk, work on this park extends to both sides of the street. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the lion’s share of the project costs are going into the sidewalks and crosswalks, with a lesser share going to the park grounds itself. It sure looks that way, anyway. Regardless, this is going to be one high-class, albeit small, dog park.
In case you are wondering about the park’s name, the Parks & Rec website indicates that this park will be “for the agility practice and socialization of dogs.” Soon there will be benches, drinking fountains for people and for dogs, and permanent structures for dog agility training.
Just a few blocks away, at the corner of Chestnut St. and Middlefield Rd., sits Jardin de Niños, a more conventional neighborhood park. After holding two community workshops back in 2011, a new design for this long-standing park emerged. As with the Dog Park, Jardin de Niños is well on its way to completion, with new play equipment, a new restroom, new lighting, and a rather interesting Bird Bath Fountain/seat wall in one corner:
This little (.3 acre) park is an important part of the neighborhood, and I expect that the surrounding residents—particularly, the younger set—will be very happy to regain the use of their local play area. It appears that construction should be wrapped up in May, meaning that it will be once again open and available by the all-important summer months.
That essentially concluded my rather roundabout trip from my house to the Main Street Dog Agility Park. I must confess that the return trip was only slightly less circuitous: the area around Jardin de Niños has some beautiful old homes which I felt compelled to photograph, and I needed to check on the residential project going up at the corner of Brewster and Allerton. But those are stories for another time. For now, just think of me as “little Billy.”