I’ve always felt that the presence of a college or university adds a lot to a community. I look upon Canãda College as Redwood City’s one real institution of higher learning, although technically it is almost entirely outside the city limits. (Curiously, the city boundary runs right through Canãda’s property: the college buildings themselves lie outside Redwood City’s borders, although the recently constructed faculty and staff housing is within the city limits, as is one parking lot.) Periodically—yearly, I suppose—our household receives a course catalog from Canãda College. I always flip through it before I toss it into the recycling bin, and a number of years ago some courses caught my eye. Before I knew it, I was a Canãda College student. Given the price—which is excellent by higher-education standards—and the fact that I could simply take those classes that interested me without concern for fitting them into a degree program, community college seemed to be a great way to fill some minor holes in my education. As it turned out, I was right: I took a number of English classes (including two short-story writing classes), plus two semesters of Film Criticism, and I not only learned a lot, I had a wonderful time doing it. Canãda College is a real asset to the Redwood City community, and I can whole-heartedly recommend giving them a try.
If you needed something a bit more high-end, for a number of years Redwood City played host to a University of California, Berkeley Extension facility; you could’ve taken classes at their Peninsula Center at the corner of Broadway and Main Street. Unfortunately, they moved to Belmont in late 2010, where they remain to this day.
We may have lost Cal, but we’ve gained Stanford, sort of. For some time now we’ve been hearing whispers about the “Stanford in Redwood City” project. Just about a year-and-a-half ago (in December of 2013) the City of Redwood City signed a Development Agreement with Leland Stanford Junior University. From talking to people it seems that most don’t know what the project is about, where it will be located, and, perhaps most importantly, what benefits it will bring to our community. Accordingly, I took a hike down to their property (which, unlike Canãda, does lie within the city limits!) to snap some photos. And, perhaps more importantly, I combed through the Development Agreement itself and identified the myriad ways that Stanford’s coming to Redwood City will benefit even those of us who haven’t or won’t ever be Stanford alumni.
First things first: the large buildings out on 101 between Woodside Road and Marsh Road clearly marked “Stanford Health Care.” Those buildings were originally the headquarters of the Internet provider/web portal Excite@Home, who declared bankruptcy a short two years after moving in. The buildings then sat empty for roughly three years before Stanford purchased them in early 2005. The Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center opened its doors to the community in late 2007, and has been serving members of our community ever since. These Stanford Health Care buildings (which are located at 450 Broadway Street) were just a toe in the water for Stanford, however: they aren’t actually part of the “Stanford in Redwood City” project. The project, which is slated to occupy a parcel more than three times the size of that which holds the Stanford Health Care buildings, is to be located adjacent to and across Broadway from the Stanford Health Care Buildings, consuming most (but not all) of the former Mid-Point Technology Park—basically, the space between Broadway Street and Bay Road, from Douglas Avenue down to just before 2nd Avenue (not including Andrew Spinas Park or Fire Station #11). It also includes some of the property on the 101 side of Broadway, just west of the Stanford Health Care buildings. Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, let me show you:
In the above image (click it to see a larger view), the existing Stanford Health Care buildings sit on the parcel highlighted in green, while the Stanford in Redwood City project is slated to occupy just about all of the land highlighted in purple.
As you can see from the photo, a large part of the 35-acre property that makes up the project is currently devoted to parking. There are a number of buildings and a nice water feature, but the buildings are low-density, two-story jobs, mostly set well back from the road and protected by a moat-like area for parking. Not only are the buildings low-density, they are also relatively uninteresting, of a style popular in the 60’s and 70’s:
Stanford purchased the 35-acre property some time ago, and has done little with it in the interval. As this sign attests, however, they have occupied a small part of the existing space:
Look closely at the sign (click it if you need a larger view), and you’ll see among the companies at this address (which is part of the development) both “Stanford University Press” and “Stanford University Libraries.” A small branch of each, to be sure, but it is a start.
It is both a start as well as an indication of the type of thing Stanford hopes to do here. From the development agreement, Stanford hopes to
among other things, constructing, developing and using the Property for administrative functions, offices, medical clinics and/or research and development facilities.
So we won’t seeing classes taught here, although the medical clinics and R&D facilities will undoubtedly serve some function in the educational process. For the purposes outlined above Stanford plans to demolish the roughly 500,000 square feet of existing buildings and replace them with about three times that much office and research and development space in a denser (that is, taller) and greener configuration that should be a lot nicer looking. They plan extensive infrastructure improvements, including the necessary piping to enable the use of recycled water throughout, plus both a pedestrian “greenway” running through the campus (parallel to Broadway) and 2.4 acres of publicly accessible open space immediately adjacent to the existing Andrew Spinas Park (which is just to the east of the subject property).
Of course, what Stanford plans to do and what Stanford winds up actually doing may be two different things: the agreement clearly states that due to changing economic conditions Stanford may choose to do nothing, and simply leave the site as-is. A number of the financial benefits that the city hopes to reap from this project are conditional upon Stanford actually rebuilding the site: if they don’t, or if they choose to build a smaller project, then the financial benefits get proportionally scaled back. But assuming that they build the entire 1.5 million-square-foot project, the benefits that will accrue to Redwood City are considerable:
- First and foremost, the services and jobs that should result will add to Redwood City’s current employment boom, which will indirectly add to the City’s coffers.
- Stanford intends to pay $1.5 million to Redwood City’s Neighborhood Streets Enhancement Program to improve the streets in the surrounding neighborhoods of Friendly Acres, Redwood Village, and North Fair Oaks. The improvements include signage, trees, sidewalk bulb-outs, improved landscaping, roundabouts, and other features to not only create a more attractive neighborhood but also to discourage high-speed driving and through traffic.
- If the entire 1.5 million square feet are built, Stanford will contribute $4 million to Redwood City’s Community Sustainability Fund. At the City’s discretion these monies will augment the Neighborhood Streets Enhancement Program and/or be used for other improvements and programs with an aim towards promoting sustainable neighborhoods and communities in Redwood City.
- A minimum of $450,000 will be given for the improvement of bicycle lanes between the project site and Redwood City’s downtown, the Caltrain station, and Middlefield Road.
- Another $100,000 will be given to improve bus shelters and bus benches within a half-mile radius of the property.
- At least $1.5 million will be given towards the construction of an emergency water supply tank that will service not only this project but other properties in that part of town. Stanford will simply give the money to the city: Redwood City is responsible for building the tank on a site of their own choosing.
- Stanford will pay $1 million for storm water improvements. These funds are to be used by the City to help ameliorate the well-known flooding conditions in the Douglas drainage basin.
- In conjunction with the first phase of development, Stanford will design and improve the aforementioned 2.4 acres of publicly accessible (but privately owned) open space.
- Another $75,000 will be given to the city to study potential changes to Broadway’s roadway configuration. These changes could include a streetcar, bicycle lanes, and/or parallel parking.
- Stanford has already been making good on a promised series of executive education and entrepreneur training programs for Redwood City residents, businesses and City staff through the Stanford University Graduate School of Business (GSB), at a total cost to Stanford of $5 million. This includes the “Entrepreneurship Boot Camp” program, for instance, where up to 40 participants attend three two-day sessions over the course of a year at Stanford (the program will be held each year until the funds run out). The GSB will also provide two free management training programs customized for mid-level and senior City employees. And, for a period of at least five years, the GSB, at no cost to the city, will host in Redwood City two educational/networking events each year targeted to local entrepreneurs (such as this one at the Fox). Finally, the GSB will provide funds to enable select Redwood City entrepreneurs to participate in Graduate School of Business open enrollment programs.
If that isn’t enough, Stanford will also contribute:
- $1 million toward the cost of constructing a multi-use recreation and wellness center at Red Morton Park,
- $250,000 toward the cost of the City’s summer concert series, and
- $250,000 to the Redwood City Educational Foundation (RCEF).
Some of these benefits have already been paid to the city, others are contingent upon meeting certain development milestones, and others are proportional to the amount of development that Stanford actually ends up doing. But as you can see, if Stanford constructs the full 1.5 million square feet of office and R&D space on Stanford’s 35-acre Broadway Street property, Redwood City and its residents stand to benefit greatly.
Regretfully this project won’t bring a new academic campus to our city. We are already benefiting from the presence of Stanford’s Medical Center, however, and soon (hopefully) we’ll also gain what I presume will be thousands of new jobs. As well, it will forge even stronger ties between Redwood City and Leland Stanford Junior University—and who knows where that might lead to in the future?
And all this from a project that is located outside of our downtown. To whomever negotiated this agreement with Stanford, I say: nice going! I’m looking forward to the construction of this project, and I’m very much looking forward to all the ways we residents of Redwood City will benefit. It may not enable me to take Stanford classes within my local community, but hey—there’s always Canãda!