Whenever I am out of the house—whether I’m on a walk or are simply driving somewhere—I try to keep alert for new houses, buildings, or businesses, as well as for any interesting changes to what is currently there. While you can see a lot simply by walking around, much of what goes on isn’t visible from the sidewalk, at least not at first. For instance, when a developer proposes a new building, the site upon which the building is to be built doesn’t exhibit any visible signs of change until some time after the project is approved. It can be many months from the initial proposal to when there is visible activity on the site—assuming that the project is even approved, of course. Some proposals have to be publicly advertised so occasionally you’ll see public notices on walls, fences, or trees, like this one:
I took the above photo the other day while exploring the area near Franklin 299 and Redwood Trading Post. This announcement had been posted on Diller Street, near Franklin; it was giving notice for a project I’ve written about in the past: 204 Franklin Street. Late last summer the developer, Butler Realty LLC, had proposed tearing down their own development offices (which are currently located at 204 Franklin) and replacing them with a 7-story building containing 91 apartments. But the project has yet to be approved, and a couple of days ago I learned that the project has been significantly expanded and resubmitted for city approval.
In its original form, the project was to have occupied just two properties: the one on which the W.L. Butler Construction, Inc. office sits today plus the parking lot out back (which has the property address 28 Diller Street). In the following map, the two properties are those marked with the red 7:
Although the original project was fairly tall at 7 stories (plus one underground parking level), it at least was positioned well back from El Camino Real, behind “La Mancha Plaza” (currently home to Treadmill Outlet). Further helping it to blend in was the fact that it would have been in the vicinity of the now-completed Franklin 299 complex (across Franklin Street), and adjacent to the 1305 El Camino Real project: a 137-unit, seven-story apartment building that has already been approved for the block where Redwood Trading Post and Redwood Car Care now stand (number 10 in the above image).
So what changed? Apparently a new developer with even more ambition has entered the picture. Possibly inspired by all of the residential development going on in the immediate area (including Franklin 299, 103 Wilson, and 1305 El Camino Real), the developer has managed to acquire an additional five properties: 20 Diller Street, plus the four properties arrayed along El Camino Real from 1401 to 1445. The developer is now proposing that all seven properties be combined, the existing buildings be demolished, and a giant 315-unit apartment complex be built on the site. At this point I have no other details, other than the project’s location and size. The updated map would look like this (with the new project again being identified by the red 7):
This project is early in the proposal process, of course, and may or may not be approved. If approved and built, however, that side of El Camino Real from Jefferson to Maple Street is going to be a virtual wall of tall buildings. Starting on the corner of Jefferson and El Camino, we have the not-so-tall Papa John’s Pizza place, surrounded by the AT&T building. Next, spanning the entire block from Wilson to Diller, would be the seven-story 1305 El Camino Real project. Then from Diller to the driveway leading to Security Public Storage, would be the new 1409 El Camino Real project (height as yet unknown, but seven stories wouldn’t surprise me). Next we would have the tall Security Public Storage building (with Chain Reaction Bicycles on the ground floor), followed by the five-story Franklin Street Apartments.
The five additional properties that the developer wishes to join to the two Butler Construction properties to make up the 1409 El Camino project parcel currently contain a number of small businesses. I took a walk around the block to get some “before” pictures. Perhaps the most important business there today is the one currently on the parcel with the address 1409 El Camino Real: the Sequoia Veterinary Hospital.
Also on the block is the previously mentioned Treadmill Outlet, the Speed & Color Body Shop (at 20 Diller Street), a small office building at 1441 El Camino Real, and a small retail outlet of some sort at 1445/1447 El Camino Real.
Since I was in the area, I walked over to the intersection of Franklin and Wilson to check on the progress of the nearby 103 Wilson Street project. This is the next in a series of apartment buildings being built by Greystar Development, the company that brought us Franklin 299 (and will be bringing us 1305 El Camino Real). The construction fences have been up for a while now, and I was looking for evidence of demolition activity: the block currently contains a small concrete-block apartment building (on the corner of Jefferson and Franklin, kitty-corner from the Habit Burger restaurant in Sequoia Station), a couple of light industrial buildings, and the little blue “$1 house.”
At one time the plan was to relocate the little blue house to a city-owned lot at 611 Heller Street and make it available to a low-income family. It seems that that plan has changed, however. Sadly it appears that the dilapidated-but-cute blue house is simply being demolished:
To double-check that this activity wasn’t just an artifact of the moving process, I next headed over to 611 Heller Street, the city-owned parcel to which the house was to have been relocated. Unfortunately, there are no signs of activity. In particular, there is no sign of a foundation, which would have been necessary in order for the relocation to have taken place. Perhaps the house was just too run-down to make relocation feasible, or perhaps the city has other plans for their property. In any case, it is time to finally say goodbye to this little beauty…
Since I was at 611 Heller I just had to head around the block to Jardin de Ninõs park. I had heard that the park had gotten a new sign, and I wanted to see it for myself. I’m glad I did! The new sign, which replaces a concrete wall with the park’s name inset, is fabulous:
I’ve written before how much I love this little park, and this sign is just the icing on the cake. The exquisite tile work, like that on the combination bench/fountain I’ve written about before (see my post Public Art Redux), just goes to show what the city can do when it really wants to. Kudos to our Parks, Recreation & Community Services department for another job well done.
While on the subject of public art, I also should note that work on the murals that face the Perry Street parking lot (on the backside of the Redwood City Underground pub, the Pickled Clothing store, and the Revival Upscale Resale store) is progressing nicely. In particular, the backside of the Redwood City Underground building is getting an elegant mural with a period Jazz vibe. Curiously, across the top are the words “Spirits & Brew”:
Either they are just advertising what they sell (it is a pub, after all) or they will be changing the name of the business. Either way, this mural is a nice addition to the outdoor public art gallery that is rapidly transforming this little-seen parking lot. Do yourself a favor and give the parking lot a visit: the murals, which are clearly visible to Caltrain riders on the west side of the train, are really great.
Circling back to where I started, I wanted to add one last note about Redwood Trading Post. Given that they are currently located at 1305 El Camino Real, where, as I previously mentioned, Greystar will be constructing a seven-story apartment building, Redwood Trading Post has been planning their move for some time now. Their future home at 1455 Veterans Boulevard has been under construction since at least September, when I first wrote about it, but apparently it has run into some snags. It seems that Redwood Trading Post’s new home won’t be ready by the end of January, when they need to be out of their current location. So, sometime in late January they are going to make a temporary move to 849 Veterans Boulevard, which is adjacent to the Old Port Lobster Shack (and next door to the In-N-Out Burger). Once their new place is ready, they will then move down the street to their permanent home, next door to Tom’s Outdoor Furniture.
Redwood Trading Post has been a long-time Redwood City business (since 1952!), and is well worth supporting. Given how their double move is going to undoubtedly hurt their business, be sure to think of them if you need anything in the way of outdoor gear over the next couple of months. And tell your friends! Let’s ensure that this is one independent business that will continue to thrive despite the upheavals they are experiencing from Redwood City’s hot development market. We need strong independent retailers like Redwood Trading Post, and the best way we can ensure that they stick around is to give them our business.
There is a lot going on in Redwood City at the moment that isn’t entirely visible to the naked eye. Fortunately the city is doing a good job of making the “behind the scenes” information public, through public meetings (of the Planning Commission and the City Council, primarily) and through their blogs, mailing lists, and website. Eventually the projects become quite visible, when the shovels hit the ground. But between the initial proposals and the groundbreakings, I’ll be out there watching for, and then letting you know about, changes to our city both big and small.