The Only Constant

They say that the only constant is change. If that is the case, then here in Redwood City things are pretty constant: hardly does one building project get underway when another is proposed. As well, we are seeing the opposite: projects that have been approved are suddenly putting on the brakes. Especially in our downtown, we’re all about change—which keeps me busy!

I attended the September 28 City Council meeting because the primary agenda items was a review by the Council of a project previously approved by the Planning Commission: 601 Marshall, the nine-story office building intended for the corner of Main and Marshall streets. I wrote in detail about this project back in July in my post Marshalling Support, and then followed up in a later post with a brief report on the Planning Commission’s approval of the project. Shortly thereafter, however, three separate lawsuits were filed to appeal its approval. Then, just before the City Council met to consider the project, the developer settled all three. Although the settlement details are confidential, the developer apparently agreed to a number of changes, at least one of which turns out to be very significant: the proposed building is now only eight stories, rather than nine (and 105 feet tall, rather than 112). Because the suits were settled not long before the City Council meeting was held, the Council members had not yet had time to review the conditions for settlement. Although the new design is much more acceptable even than the design that had previously been approved, the City Council declined to give the project their thumbs-up (or thumbs-down) until they have had the opportunity to review the settlement agreements.

Even though they did not rule on the project, the City Council did receive a full presentation on the latest 601 Marshall proposal from city staff and from the project’s developer. They then opened up the floor to public comment, of which there were many. Although there were a handful of passionate speakers in opposition, this time most appeared to be in favor of the new configuration. One speaker raised the issue of using automotive parking lifts to stack parked cars, thus giving the developer a way to shrink the building even further while maintaining (or possibly even increasing) the number of cars that could be parked within the building. Various members of the City Council seemed intrigued by the idea, and the developer agreed to take it under consideration. So we may see yet another design for this project…

In the course of the meeting I learned about two new projects that were not yet on my radar (they are now!) along with one that has seemingly risen from the dead with a whole new design. Assuming that 601 Marshall gets the nod from the City Council, there is apparently just enough room within the Downtown Precise Plan limits for a smaller version of an old “friend”: the mixed office/retail building proposed for the Powerhouse Gym location at the corner of Broadway and Main Street (at 2075 Broadway). Back in my post Time for Some Commercials I dove into the project originally proposed for this space: a 180,000-square-foot, 7-story office building. That proposal was nixed, apparently because the developer and the city were unable to come to terms on the building’s parking arrangements. But rather than killing the project altogether, this setback simply caused the developer to return to the drawing board and come up with a much smaller, more palatable design:


This four-story, 93,515-square-foot building, if approved, would have ground-floor retail with offices above, all sitting on two floors of underground parking designed to accommodate 197 cars. And because it would sit behind the Century Theatres building, relative to Courthouse Square, its height—which is very reasonable when compared with just about every other downtown building currently under construction—shouldn’t raise any objections. This project is next in the queue for consideration: I for one will be watching with great interest for the meeting in which it is presented.

2075 Broadway is a redesign of a previous project that was already on my radar, but I mentioned that there were two projects that were new to me. Both are residential projects, and both are very close to each other. The first is planned for 603 Jefferson Avenue, where this building stands today:


For reference, Union Bank is to the right, just outside of the picture; and the dark brown tower-like roof peeking over the top of the building’s right end is the Fire Station on Marshall Street. This puts the development very close to the heart of Redwood City’s downtown.

For a change, 603 Jefferson would not be apartments but would instead consist of 92 condominiums. The building is classified as “mixed use”: the ground floor is designed to include some 4,500 square feet of retail space. All of the condominiums would be on floors two through seven, while the eighth floor would be a “partially enclosed rooftop courtyard” and would include outdoor kitchens for use by the building’s residents. The design includes three levels of underground parking plus some on the ground floor (tucked behind the retail storefronts), for a total of 148 parking spaces. The building’s design is fairly modern, but this is only a preliminary rendering; it very well could change before approval:


(The above rendering shows the building’s corner at Bradford Street and Jefferson Avenue. To the left of the building, along Bradford, is the Redwood City School District office. To the right, along Jefferson, you can just make out Union Bank behind the trees.)

As for the other residential building that was new to me, it is being proposed for the spot where Jefferson Avenue meets Veterans Boulevard, right next door to our In-n-Out Burger:


The building that is there today has (or had) a couple of tenants. The storefront closest to Veterans Boulevard is being used as the construction office for the Indigo project. Behind it is the Old Port Lobster Shack; they, at least are still in business. There used to be a Supercuts behind that, but it has recently closed.

The project known as 849 Veterans Boulevard would consist of 90 apartments, seven of which would be affordable (finally!). The project description states that the building would be six stories in height, but it also states that the building would have “1 level of above ground parking, and 4 levels of for-rent apartments”. From this latter description, and from the rendering that was provided, it appears that the proposed building may actually be only five stories tall. Perhaps someone counted the additional underground level of parking in the total? In any case, this building too has a somewhat modern design, but given its location in a “mixed-use corridor,” surrounded as it is by businesses and other residential properties, it should fit in just fine:


Unlike the Jefferson Avenue project, 849 Veterans does not appear to have any retail within it. Also, because it would be located on the northeast side of Veterans Boulevard, it would not fall within the Downtown Precise Plan boundaries. However, it would still be only about four blocks from Courthouse Square. Add in the fact that its location on Veterans means it has easy access to Highway 101, and you can see why it is being proposed for this site.

Both 849 Veterans and 603 Jefferson sit very near to the two giant apartment complexes that are nearing completion within our downtown. The smaller of the two, the 196-unit Marston Apartments (at 601 Main) is in the process of being unwrapped: the building’s outer “skin” is nearly complete and the dark protective curtains are coming down. Thus we can finally get an idea of what the building will actually look like. In case you haven’t been downtown lately, here’s what it looks like these days:


Marston’s nearby cousin, the Indigo Apartments (at 525 Middlefield) still has its curtains up. However, this behemoth (it consumes most of a large city block, and will contain 469 apartments) is scheduled to wrap up next January, while Marston Apartments doesn’t plan to be complete until next March. Either way, I for one will be glad to have them both done, and to have the construction-related traffic restrictions lifted from the surrounding streets. Of course, we’ll then get to see how the addition of 665 new households (combined, between the two buildings) affects our downtown traffic and parking patterns. Which can’t be good, but at least it’ll give me more to write about…

Incidentally, the Habitat for Humanity project slated for the small empty lot at 612 Jefferson Avenue (just across the street from the proposed condo project at 603 Jefferson) appears to be moving through the funding and planning stages; I hope to see it come up for formal approval soon. Assuming that 601 Marshall receives City Council approval, the developer has pledged $500,000 towards the Habitat for Humanity project. When combined with the roughly $1.5 million that the city received from the Marina One project, and another $500,000 that San Mateo County has chipped in, Habitat for Humanity seems to be well on their way to breaking ground on this six-story, 20-unit condo project. They hope to do so by mid-2016, with occupancy in late 2017. They say that it would be their tallest project to date; just look at the rendering:


The ground floor level will contain parking (and a lobby, apparently); the remaining floors will consist of one, two, and three bedroom condominiums.

Building-wise, Redwood City continues to be hopping; it feels as if we have changes planned along every downtown street. But this is not unusual, at least not lately; it has been going on steadily since I began this blog some two years ago, and it appears that it will continue—at a constant pace, even!—for at least another two years. Constant change, thy name is Redwood City!

6 thoughts on “The Only Constant

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