We’re in Business

For almost two years now I’ve been watching businesses come and go in Redwood City. Lately there seems to be a lot of activity in the restaurant sector, which is likely due to all of the new downtown housing currently under construction. Just counting the new housing within an easy walk of downtown, we have the following:

Project # units Location
Township Luxury Apartments 132 333 Main (leasing)
201 Marshall 116 201 Marshall (leasing)
The Radius Apartments 264 640 Veterans (leasing)
Classics at Centennial Place 18 735 Brewster (under construction)
The Palacio 133 439 Fuller (under construction)
Franklin 299 304 299 Franklin (under construction)
Indigo 469 525 Middlefield (under construction)
601 Main 196 601 Main (under construction)

All told, that adds up to 1,632 new housing units. More importantly, that means at least 1,632 people (likely, a lot more) that current and future downtown merchants can lure to their businesses. Plus the hundreds of new employees who have recently begun or will shortly begin working in downtown Redwood City. In addition to those of us who are already here, of course! These numbers should make a compelling case for both new and existing downtown businesses. Which we seem to be seeing, at least with regards to our restaurants and drinking establishments.

Two such establishments that I’ve been watching for a while now finally opened within the last couple of days. Accordingly, I thought I should mention them again, in case you are interested in checking them out.

The Blacksmith

First, The Blacksmith bar (on Broadway, between Jefferson and Main) opened last Saturday. My wife and I went by there that day hoping to give it a try, but it was packed! I’m presuming that some of the crowd was simply due to it being opening night: likely the owner had invited friends and family to come on down and give The Blacksmith a try. Although it was just too busy to stay for a drink, we did shoulder our way inside to look around. I really liked the look of the place, although my wife prefers a softer, less manly look—more like the decor that The Living Room previously had. As you might expect from a place called “The Blacksmith”, it is done up in dark wood, metal, and leather. There still is a couch, for those lucky enough to snag it.

Late on Monday night I drove back by The Blacksmith and saw that it was much less crowded, so there is hope for those of us who prefer things a bit quieter. I can’t begrudge them their success, though, and I do wish them well. The Blacksmith should be a nice addition to our downtown scene.

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Next, Nobu (the owner and/or chef, I presume) over at Kemuri Japanese Barú (at 2616 Broadway, next to City Pub) let me know that they are open. They apparently have been having soft openings at lunch (and possibly dinner) and will likely continue to do so until their grand opening on May 15, so if you elect to drop by be aware that they are still fine-tuning things. But from the reviews so far on Yelp, it seems that they may have a hit on their hands! Kemuri serves Japanese small-plate dishes to share, along with Sake, Shochu, and Japanese Whisky. This should be a great addition to the Redwood City dining scene; looking over their menu it seems that they’ll be serving food and drink that you just can’t get elsewhere in town. I’m looking forward to trying them out, and learning more about dining Japanese-style.

While I’m on the subject of restaurants, although they’ve been open for a week or two now I wanted to give Howie’s Artisan Pizza one more plug: my wife and I dropped by there over the weekend and had a really nice meal. We tried the Eggplant Pillows (thinly sliced, fried eggplant that was rolled around house-made ricotta and topped with a green-olive tapenade); they were delicious! And the pepperoni pizza we shared was excellent. My wife’s only quibble was with the dessert: she thought the Banana-Cream pie was great but wasn’t wild about the chocolate shavings on top. Fortunately, we asked and learned that you can ask that they be left off.

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LV Mar has finished their street-side patio/deck, so if you enjoy dining outside as much as I do, check out their menu (scroll down to see it) and pay them a visit. I had a chance to have lunch there (inside, alas; the deck was not yet open to customers) a week or so ago and the food was just as wonderful as I remember it. I had the Tostada de Salmon, which was excellent—but big! I ended up taking half of it home and having it for dinner later in the week. LV Mar has excellent “Latin inspired cuisine”; I highly recommend that you check it out.

Getting away from restaurants, Bunsow De Mory Smith & Allison LLP (can you tell from the name that this is a law firm?) has answered a question I’ve been posing for a while now: just who is moving into this newly remodeled building at 701 El Camino?

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Bunsow De Mory is (or was) nearby, at 600 Allerton St., but it seems that they are moving (or expanding) into 701 El Camino. Which is probably ideal; given the limited parking, retail of any kind (such as the cookie store that was once here, or the Chinese restaurant—Joy Meadow—that occupied this space before that) was always going to have a hard time. From Bunsow De Mory’s website it seems that they practice IP law: they help companies enforce patents, among other things. It doesn’t appear to be the kind of business that will generate lots of vehicular traffic and require lots of parking.

Shifting to another part of town, I took a walk down below Woodside Road, to 995 Charter Street. This is where the latest addition to Redwood City’s ever growing tech community—OpenGov—has chosen to plant its flag. And just what does OpenGov do? According to their website, they have created a cloud-based financial analysis platform that helps state and local governments better analyze, share, and compare financial data. Whether or not you understood that, they seem to have turned what once may have been an industrial building into a rather tidy headquarters:

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Very near to OpenGov is what may well be the future site of our newest charter school: Rocketship, at 860 Charter Street (its seems appropriate that a charter school would be located on Charter Street!). This K-5 school is planning to open in the Fall of 2015—they’re already taking applications—but I visited the site the other day and so far there is no evidence that a school will be occupying the site, and no work being done on the buildings. In Redwood City’s project list, this one is still listed as “proposed,” so we’ll have to wait and see whether this project truly pans out. Whatever the outcome, although a good part of Rocketship’s building appears to be unused at the present time (formerly it was the home of “Brothers’ Furniture Warehouse”), since late 2012 this site has been a showroom for a classic car business: it is (was?) the Redwood City arm of Speciality Sales Classics:

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In case you are wondering about the appropriateness of a school in this rather industrialized area, I should note that not only is the neighborhood changing (OpenGov being the latest example), but also that Summit Preparatory High School is but a block away, at the corner of Broadway and Charter.

I always seem to find new things when I am out on one of my walks. Since I was in the area, and since I hadn’t really explored it yet, I decided to take a stroll down Bay Street. Approaching Douglas Avenue, my eye was drawn to the bright sun reflecting off some sort of shiny material. Looking harder, I realized that I was seeing foil panels on some sort of structure. Naturally I had to investigate further. Fortunately, I was able to get quite close to what was obviously a construction project:

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From the foundations—or lack of foundations, I should say—it quickly became evident that I was seeing structures that were being built to be transported elsewhere. Further inspection led me to conclude that these are parts of a manufactured home. And a small sign on the fence gave me the final clue I needed: it seems that Redwood City is the chosen site for Blu Homes’ Silicon Valley Design Center. According to their website Blu Homes is a builder of “highly personalized, premium prefab homes of extraordinary quality.” Using green building techniques and materials, Blu Homes builds light and airy homes that are designed to “bring the outdoors in.” As a customer, you choose from a number of models and layouts, and then further customize the design to suit your needs. You then receive a bid from Blu. Upon acceptance, within 6-8 weeks your home is built and shipped to your site. After only 3-5 weeks for final assembly and installation, your new home is move-in ready. It’s a fascinating concept, and the homes they build (do check out their website!) are very attractive. And the prices seem fairly reasonable.

On my way back home I swung by Middlefield Road to check up on Indigo, the 469-unit apartment building that is currently needing three cranes to build. I’m glad I did: the end of the project closest to downtown (the Bradford Street end) has topped out, so you can now get an idea of just how one of the three 10-story towers in this mammoth apartment complex is going to look:

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The tower in the center of the above picture is the one that has reached its maximum height; they have completed the forms for the roof level. On the other hand, the tower you can see on the left, which is closest to (but not quite on) Veterans Blvd., still has two floors to go. Those rebar “pillars” sticking up in the air from that tower provide some idea of how much higher it will climb. But because the one end has reached its full height, from the downtown area at least you can now look towards Veterans and get an idea of how this particular building will affect the view.

Even though Redwood City seems to be in a bit of a lull as we wait for the handful of very large, very visible downtown (or near downtown) apartment complexes to be completed, smaller changes continue to take place. New businesses seem to pop up almost every week, and frankly it is those that we should be most excited about. After all, almost nobody reading this will be occupying one of those new apartments, while almost everybody reading this may discover a new favorite in of these new small businesses. That’s why, when I see a “for lease” sign go up or I see construction getting underway, I get excited for the day when I will see a sign indicating “we’re in business”!


May is “Historic Preservation Month”. For those of you wanting to know more about the history of our city, the city is hosting two walking tours: one of our historic Union Cemetery, and one of our downtown area. The Union Cemetery Historic Site tour takes place on Saturday, May 9, at 10:00am. The downtown historic walking tour will take place on Saturday, May 23; meet in front of Lathrop House (627 Hamilton Street) at 10:30am. For more information on either tour, be sure to check out the city’s press release.

11 thoughts on “We’re in Business

  1. Pingback: Under Construction | Walking Redwood City

  2. Pingback: On the Move | Walking Redwood City

  3. Appreciate the updates! I’m still hoping to one day read that either Woodside Plaza or Sequoia Station is being redeveloped/refreshed…both seem so under utilized.

    • Agree about Sequoia Station and Woodside Plaza … they are both so dated and tired. Time for a major revamp, especially for Sequoia Station because it’s so central and totally turns its back on downtown and our “gateway” Baby Bullet Caltrain station (among the busiest on the line) … while presenting the quintessentially ugly and formulaic strip mall behind an auto-oriented bike/ped-hostile ocean of parking from the El Camino side. Soulless, unhip, dated and out-of-place as can be in our historic and vibrantly revitalizing downtown core.

  4. Hello,

    Looking forward to reading more about life in Redwood City these days. So much has changed. So much is familiar and remembered clearly when I look at your photos.

    Just discovered your blog while looking for photos of the miles of unbroken rolling hills that are in my memory before Interstate 280 was built. My family moved to Redwood City in 1957 when I was 7 years old. We lived in Farm Hills. When I was a little girl, I used to take our family’s dog and walk from our house near Roy Cloud School, up Jefferson Avenue, across Canada Road (before Interstate 280), through Rohn Stables, stopping to see the horses, and then up into the Huddart Park.

    I have a vivid memory from my childhood of riding with a group of people on horses rented from Rohn Stables. We rode somewhat east from there, across Canada Road, and up into the golden hills. There was clear blue sky, wind, and the sound of horses moving through the tall dry grass.

    “For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back.”
    ― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

    It is occurring to me that my memories of the hills above Redwood City are like a movie, not something a single photo could capture. My family lived in Redwood City until 1974. I haven’t been back since 2008. That’s a long time. Seeing your photos brings me back today. Thanks so much!

    Kind wishes,
    am

    • You are very welcome! I really enjoy hearing stories of Redwood City “back in the day” so feel free to share them. I didn’t move here until 1989, myself, so I have to rely on research and other folks like yourself for information on what it was like prior to that time. Sounds nice, though!

  5. I always enjoy your posts. Next time you walk along Woodside Rd., see if you can figure out what is going on with the building that housed Our Common Ground. Are they moved out?

    • That’s something I love about doing this blog: I constantly learn new things from you folks. I didn’t know about “Our Common Ground” but I do now! I’ll put it on the list (perhaps along with the two apartment buildings on Woodside that burned; I still need to find out what is taking those so long to rebuild). Thanks for the suggestion!

    • FYI I did go by there today. The property has a “for sale” sign on it, but at least for now Our Common Ground appears to still be in operation on Woodside Rd. I haven’t spoken to anyone about what’s going on, or what they might do if the property is sold, but I’ll keep it on my “to do” list and let you know when and if I find out more.

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