Waterside Developments

With all of the activity going on downtown it is easy to forget that there is development going on in other parts of the city as well. It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Bair Island and to the Port of Redwood City, so this week I made a quick trip out there to see how things are going.

I was most interested to see what progress has been made on the Blu Harbor development, which is rapidly rising on the grounds of the old Pete’s Harbor. You get there by taking Whipple Avenue east of Highway 101 and following the road—which changes names a handful of times—all the way to the end. On the way you pass the old Century Theaters (still there, no visible changes), the Boardwalk Auto Dealerships (still there, no noticeable changes) and the nearly complete Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. Progress on that hotel is easy to follow, given that it is clearly visible from Highway 101. Based on its exterior, it seems nearly done: it looks to need little more than some paint and a lot of landscaping. While I was on Bair Island this week I noticed that you get a pretty good view of the hotel:

I’m sure that crews are working madly trying to get the interior of the building finished up. They must be close, since Marriott plans to have the hotel open this November (next month!). If you have friends or family coming to visit for the holidays who need a place to stay, this one might be worth considering. The hotel is already up on Marriott.com, at http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sford-courtyard-redwood-city/; it appears that you can already make reservations. Based on the renderings that they are showing on their site, the hotel looks to be a pretty attractive one. Not a cheap one, though…

The view of the hotel from the island was a bonus: my primary reason for walking out onto Bair Island was to view the progress being made at Blu Harbor. As I mentioned up top, it has been a while since I’ve paid a visit to this project. Given its location—it isn’t on the way to anywhere—I have to make a specific trip out there to see it. And unless I do, this project tends to be “out of sight, out of mind”. Thus I was a bit surprised to learn just how much progress has been made since I was last there.

To refresh your memory, the project’s site was once a thriving marina with berths for some 260 boats (approximately 110 of which were live-aboards) known as Pete’s Harbor. In addition to the slips Pete’s Harbor boasted a restaurant (The Waterfront Restaurant), a sailing school (Spinnaker Sailing; they’ve since moved to the Port of Redwood City), and various other boating-related services. In 2012 the marina ceased operations and sold the 13-acre property to the Pauls Corporation, who quickly put together plans for a large housing complex on the site. Construction on the project started some time ago, and I’ve been monitoring its progress ever since.

The design is an interesting one. All told the development will consist of just over 400 market-rate apartments, from studios up to three-bedroom units. Arrayed around the small harbor will be ten three-story “10-plexes,” for a total of 100 apartments. Each 10-plex has a couple of private garages for select renters, along with nearby surface parking spaces. Then, there will be a huge five-story building containing just over 300 apartments arranged so as to wrap around an enormous seven-story parking garage. Finally, there will be a clubhouse and community pool for the Blu Harbor residents, plus the marina itself, which will have some 64 slips. I was pleased when it was announced that those boat slips would be available to the general public, and wouldn’t be restricted to Blu Harbor residents—although I should note that in this marina live-aboards are not allowed. For those of us who don’t own large boats, Blu Harbor will have a hand-rowed boat launch for non-motorized craft such as canoes and kayaks. The project will also include some 5+ acres of parkland and open space, although only 2 of those acres will be open to the general public: the rest will be reserved for the residents of the project.

What’s it all look like these days? Well, here is a picture of a handful of those “10-plex” buildings:

As you can see, they are rapidly coming together. The above picture is the view from Bair Island looking back at Blu Harbor; those concrete pilings sticking up out of the water were part of the old outer marina that once existed on the northwest side of the Pete’s Harbor property. The old inner marina, which is now Blu Harbor’s only marina, is not visible in this picture, but sits just to the right of these buildings.

Because the view from Bair Island only allows me to see the project from one side, I headed over towards the Port of Redwood City to get a look back at the project. From here we get a good view of the project’s marina, the giant parking garage (the structure of which is now complete) and some of the apartments that will wrap that garage:

From this angle you can see some of the 10-plexes on the right, the seven-story parking garage (all in concrete, on the left), and the five-story apartment building being constructed around the parking garage (nearly all in wood, it seems). Currently the large apartment building mostly covers the far side of the parking garage and the side between the garage and the marina; when complete it will wrap around the nearly blank face you can see above, and then will continue around the left side of the garage, between the garage and “The Villas,” the next-door apartment complex (not visible in the above picture; that complex would be off the left-hand edge of the frame). Because the garage has seven levels, however, and because the apartment building is only five stories tall, the top of the parking garage will peek out from amid the surrounding apartments.

Here is one last view, looking over the construction from “The Villas” next door:

Here you can see the full five-story height of the giant apartment building. For reference, the giant garage is just to the right, just out of the frame of this photo. Cars entering the garage will drive through here, coming in from the left (which is where the street is), and then negotiating a traffic circle that will be built in front of where the porta-potties are today before finally entering the garage. Exiting will be the reverse. Note that, based on the project plans, this is the garage’s only vehicular entrance and exit.

Blu Harbor’s website currently indicates that they will be opening in late 2016, and their FAQ states that “we are expecting our first move-ins in Summer 2016.” They clearly missed their summer goal, and I’m not sure that they’ll even make “late 2016”—even considering that  they are phasing the opening, with some parts of the development opening before others. Even if they do manage to get some residents in before the end of this year, construction will clearly be going on well into 2017.

From the website it does not appear that Blu Harbor is leasing yet, although they do have a waiting list to which interested parties can add themselves (see the website for more information). Note that this includes people looking for slips in the Blu Harbor marina; sign up on their website if you are interested in one.

Unless you occasionally wander over to the east side of Highway 101, as I regularly do, it is easy to forget that Redwood City has an incredibly vibrant, constantly changing waterfront. Spurred on by an email from the city regarding the unveiling of its newest piece of public art, I headed out to the Port of Redwood City to see “The Heron” for myself:

To get to it, from Highway 101 head east on Seaport Boulevard. Pass the Redwood City Municipal Marina and make the next left, on Seaport Court. Park and walk straight ahead to the waterfront, where you will encounter the statue.

On Thursday evening there was a public unveiling for The Heron. I had hoped to be able to attend, but due to a conflict (my wife and I had tickets to hear George Takei speak down at De Anza College that evening, and I wasn’t going to miss that!) I had to settle for an individual viewing beforehand. It’s a pretty impressive sculpture, and well worth an in-person viewing. While you are there, wander around the port and see what is going on. On my trip to the port I noticed some activity going on not too far away, so I strolled down the sidewalk to see what was up. What I found was a tug (the “Pacific Warrior”) with its engines running, seeming to hold a barge (the “Rockport” based out of Seattle, WA) in place against a dock:

Hard-hatted men appeared to be working on the barge, and I could hear what sounded like welding going on—although if that was indeed what was happening, it wasn’t visible to me. But I spent an enjoyable few minutes watching. I’ll have to go out there again soon, and see if I can tell what was actually going on.

I once worked out on Chesapeake Drive, and spent many a lunch hour wandering through the Port, so I’m quite familiar with the kind of activities that go on out there. I miss the hustle and bustle of the working port, watching the ships being loaded with shredded metal from the Sims Metal Management scrap yard, watching the now-dismantled salt processing operations, and watching the boats in the municipal marina come and go. Now that I no longer work out by the port, I have to make an effort to get out there to see what is going on. But if you are like me—a person who loves machinery and the like—the effort it takes to visit the port is well worth it. And soon, Blu Harbor will be a place worth visiting as well. I’m particularly looking forward to being able to walk the trails around the development, and to sit and watch the boats in the marina. Combined with its proximity to Bair Island, the area around Blu Harbor seems to be turning back into the kind of public amenity that we once had in Pete’s Harbor. It’s about time…

4 thoughts on “Waterside Developments

  1. I am supportive of increasing housing in Redwood City. My issue is the lack of development for supporting infrastructure like grocery stores. Redwood city only has 5 nationwide supermarkets (Nob Hill, 2 Safeways, Whole Foods and Luckys), plus a handful of smaller grocery stores. If the population is to increase by 5 to 10k based on the 2500 or more increase in housing units, we will need more supermarkets. The main Safeway and Whole Foods are annoyingly far too crowded now. How do we influence the city to include supporting infrastructure as part of the city development plan?

  2. Hi Greg, I can’t wait to check out the heron! Do you know what is replacing the Dress Barn at Sequoia Station?

    On Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 5:08 PM, Walking Redwood City wrote:

    > Greg Wilson posted: “With all of the activity going on downtown it is easy > to forget that there is development going on in other parts of the city as > well. It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Bair Island and to the Port > of Redwood City, so this week I made a quick trip o” >

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