The other day a friend of mine mentioned that they’d heard that our favorite downtown Redwood City restaurant had closed. Having just been there a couple of days before, I was a bit skeptical. However, knowing that anything can happen—especially in the restaurant business—I just had to find out for myself. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays, and closed between lunch and dinner, so I had a limited window of time in which to visit, but I finally managed to confirm that Aly’s on Main is very much still in business. To my great relief, I might add!
It got me thinking about how Redwood City’s restaurant/retail scene has been especially tricky lately. The downtown construction, the shifting road configurations (largely due to that construction) and the changes in where and how one goes about parking have exceeded the pain threshold for some, causing them to stay away. The city is doing what it can, issuing weekly bulletins highlighting how various construction projects are affecting our downtown city streets, creating a map showing the cost and availability of parking in the downtown area, and producing a guide listing all of the restaurants and other businesses in Redwood City. Eventually the construction will abate (although not anytime soon; new projects continue to crop up) and things will stabilize. In the mean time, though, we need to make an extra effort to patronize our downtown merchants. They have invested a lot to make Redwood City their home, and I for one feel an obligation to at least give them a chance to show what they have to offer. And when I do find a store or restaurant that I like, I make it a point to go back as often as I reasonably can. Merchants leave for all sorts of reasons—lets try to make sure that a lack of patrons isn’t one reason that they do.
I mentioned that new projects continue to crop up, and this week I have updates on two up-and-coming buildings. First up, the folks behind the office building that will soon rise at 815 Hamilton (immediately behind the Fox Theatre) wasted no time upon receiving approval from the city: this week they tore down the old Prestige Portraits building.
815 Hamilton will occupy the entire space behind the Fox, which includes not only a small parking lot but also the place where the Prestige Portraits building used to stand. (For more on what 815 Hamilton will look like, see my recent post, Vive La Différence.) As I watched the demolition I was pleased to see that the contractors were being extremely careful not only to do a clean job, but also to separate the various building materials into easily recyclable piles (as I believe is required by law these days). I watched as the operator of the giant backhoe (shown above) scraped all of the wood framing from the concrete walls, where it was then picked up by a separate operator driving a Bobcat. It was fascinating just how gentle such an enormous machine could be. Building demolition is a real art these days, and is very different from the past, when a contractor would indiscriminately tear a building apart and quickly reduce it to a single large pile of rubble and mixed construction materials.
As you can see, however, if you were thinking that with Crossing/900 in its final stages you would once again be able to enjoy a peaceful respite at one of our outside cafes, think again. The latest assault to our eardrums is just beginning. I particularly feel for the patrons and proprietors of Cafe La Tartine: this new project is literally right next door. Expect the excavation for the underground parking garage to commence any day now. The building is expected to be under construction until the spring of 2017.
The other project I have a small update on is the 7-story, 137-unit apartment building slated to be constructed at 1305 El Camino Real. When I last reported on it (in Around Franklin) it had yet to be approved, but since then the Redwood City Planning Commission has given it their thumbs-up. Thus, the current occupants of the four parcels upon which the building will one day stand—including Redwood Trading Post and Redwood Car Care—will be moving or closing at some point in the future. I don’t know what will happen to Redwood Car Care, but I’m happy to report that Redwood Trading Post will be moving to this building at 1455 Veterans Boulevard (once the home of Stuart Floor Company):
Don’t be put off by the “Tom’s Outdoor Furniture” sign in front; Tom’s is the building to the far left in the above picture; the one with the white sign on the side. The Redwood Trading Post building is both the lower section behind the red signpost and the glass-fronted part behind the palm tree in the above picture. As you can see, the building is not only wide, but deep as well. It should be plenty big enough for Redwood Trading Post!
1305 El Camino Real is the third Redwood City project in line for Greystar Development, the project’s developer. Greystar is currently in the process of wrapping up Franklin 299 (just behind Redwood Trading Post, on Franklin) and will then turn their attention to the 175-unit apartment that they have been approved to construct at 103 Wilson Street (extending to the corner of Franklin and Jefferson). Only after that project is done will they then construct the project at 1305 El Camino Real. Thus, although Redwood Trading Post is planning to move this winter, I don’t expect that their present home will be torn down for some time yet. (For some background on all of Greystar’s projects, see my post Around Franklin.)
Going back to Theatre Way for a moment, the Crossing/900 buildings finally reached the point where the developer could clean up the street in front. Although the construction fencing still constricts traffic along the corridor, Middlefield Road and Winslow Street have been repaved and re-striped. As well, the intersection where Winslow and Middlefield meet—which is directly in front of the Crossing/900 parking garage entrance/exit—has been reconfigured. The small triangular island that once sat in the middle of the intersection has been removed, and the former ’T’ configuration has gained a fourth leg that extends into the garage:
I’m certainly looking forward to once again having full use of these streets, although our new-found freedom may be short-lived: I expect that work on 815 Hamilton will soon require that they occupy part of Winslow Street. Oh, well. At least we’ll be gaining use of the 900+ parking spaces below and within the Crossing/900 buildings on nights and weekends.
Just around the corner towards Sequoia Station, North Plaza—the new pedestrian gateway between Sequoia Station and Redwood City’s downtown area—is coming along. So far there are just a couple of curved walls, but I expect that this small project will proceed somewhat rapidly from here:
Switching away from downtown, and up to the top of Farm Hill Boulevard, Redwood City is experimenting with a lane reconfiguration that should improve a number of aspects of this rather critical artery. Currently Farm Hill has two driving lanes and a parking lane in each direction, with bicycles having to share the right-most driving lane with cars. The new configuration trades two of the driving lanes (one in each direction) for a pair of bike lanes (again, one in each direction) and a center left-turn lane. This should improve safety for cyclists and also make it much easier and safer for residents to make left turns into their driveways. As well, having a single driving lane in each direction should discourage speeders—something that Farm Hill has way too many of.
I went up to the top of Farm Hill Boulevard the other day to see how work was getting on. The old lane markers had largely been removed, and guidelines for the painters who will be re-striping the lanes were in place:
Looking at the above photo, from right-to-left you can see the parking lane, the bike lane, the driving lane, and then, delineated in yellow, the two-way left-turn lane. This configuration will be used for most of Farm Hill from Alameda de Las Pulgas to the Canãda College entrance. Two traffic lanes will remain in some spots, such as the approaches to the Emerald Hill Road and Cambridge Road intersections, and the uphill stretch from Lonesome Pine Road to Canãda College.
It is important to note that Redwood City is implementing this road reconfiguration as a pilot project. The city will monitor the traffic for some period of time after the re-striping has been done and decide whether to leave Farm Hill Boulevard as-is, make additional changes, or revert it back to its original configuration. As well, Redwood City has successfully reconfigured a number of other streets throughout the city in very much the same way (reducing the number of driving lanes and adding both bike lanes and two-way left turn lanes, without detrimentally affecting traffic), including Alameda de las Pulgas, Middlefield Road, Industrial Way, Hopkins Avenue, and Brewster Avenue.
One last item: I’m really pleased to note that the Utility Box Mural Program that I wrote about in For Art’s Sake is continuing. When I last visited the subject the project was in a pilot phase: three artists were painting one utility box each, and the results were to be evaluated to see if the project should continue. It appears that the pilot was a success, since numerous other utility boxes around the city are now getting jazzed up by local artists. I recently came across this one in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot at the corner of Marshall Street and Main Street:
With its bright background colors, its hard to miss! It’s an unusual design, to say the least. It is certainly more interesting that the monochromatic block that we had before!