It’s the Lease I Can Do

My wife and I regularly drive for Meals on Wheels, which means that each Friday we make the drive down to Menlo Park and back (our local Meals on Wheels kitchen is in the Little House Recreation Center at Nealon Park). Our most direct route is straight down El Camino Real, so I regularly get a good view of activity along that corridor. Whenever I notice anything of interest, I make a mental note, and then plan a later visit accompanied by my camera.

On a recent trip to the Meals on Wheels kitchen I noticed that the Beltramo’s building, which has had a “For Lease” sign affixed to it ever since Beltramo’s ceased operations, is no longer for lease: it has a new tenant. I was a bit surprised at just who that tenant was, however:

Yes, Treadmill Outlet. My surprise was mainly due to the sheer size of their new home. Until they moved, Treadmill Outlet (who sells treadmills and other such exercise equipment) was in a much smaller space on El Camino Real in Redwood City. The Beltramo’s building in total has over five times as much space as Treadmill Outlet previously had, although to be fair the building is divided into four separately rentable spaces and Treadmill Outlet most likely hasn’t rented all of them. But even so, if we just focus on the ground floor retail area that Beltramo’s used to have (which Treadmill Outlet is clearly occupying), they’ve expanded into a space that, at 16,500 square feet, is more than three times the size of their former location. The home gym business must be booming!

My surprise also arose partly because I had also assumed that this building would soon be history: that it would soon be flattened and be replaced by offices, housing, or perhaps a housing/retail combination. But when I did a bit of digging, I saw this in the listing for the Beltramo’s space:

The building will be redeveloped after planning and building permits can be acquired which should take about a year or longer. We are offering a firm lease up to 6 months with month-to-month terms afterward.

Reading that, this strategy makes perfect sense. Why not earn some income from the building in the year or so it’ll take to get the various approvals and permits that will be needed for whatever project they are planning? That seems more logical than just letting the building sit empty, and so a short-term lease makes sense. Of course, that means that in a year or so Treadmill Outlet will be on the move again…

After exploring the Beltramo’s building, I then headed back to Redwood City, to the former home of Treadmill Outlet. They used to be located at 1401 El Camino Real, on the corner of El Camino and Diller Street:

As you can see from the above photo, this storefront, which seems to have made up the entirety of what was once called “La Mancha Plaza,” is pretty close to the Chain Reaction Bicycles/Security Public Storage building. La Mancha Plaza was purchased by Greystar Development at the end of August of this year (2016), and together with a number of other nearby properties is slated to become, if Greystar manages to win approval, Greystar’s fourth in a series of housing developments in this area. Greystar is actively in development on Greystar III, the next-door project on El Camino Real, and Greystar II, the project across Jefferson from Sequoia Station. (Greystar also built the Franklin 299 apartments, which in retrospect is referred to by some as “Greystar I.”)

The now-empty Treadmill Outlet space doesn’t yet have chain-link fencing in front of it, but all of the other Greystar-owned parcels on this block do—either that, or they are sufficiently boarded up as to not need a fence. Given that the other parcels are clearly not going to be leased in the interim, I’m guessing that this one won’t be either. Especially since they let a perfectly good tenant go, one who could have continued to pay rent until the needed approvals are obtained (which may take a while). Perhaps this is confidence on Greystar’s part, or perhaps they have other, unknown reasons, but I’m guessing we’ll see the portion of this block north of the Chain Reaction building sit boarded up and empty for some time to come.

Incidentally, one of those fenced-off parcels is the former home of the Sequoia Veterinary Hospital; if you’ve used their services in the past, be aware that they’ve relocated to 255 Old County Road in San Carlos (a few blocks north of Holly Street).

While I was out peeking into the former and current Treadmill Outlet locations, I also stopped in on a project that is located midway between the two: the old Franciscan Forge building. This building has been empty for over a year now, ever since the owner of Pool, Patio & Things decided to retire.

At the time I was told that the new owner would be dividing the building into smaller spaces and leasing them out as offices. If that is indeed what is happening, it seems to have taken over a year to obtain the necessary permits. But they must have obtained them, since a demolition crew is actively working on-site. Based on the demolition they are doing and some notes I saw, it appear that the building’s basic facade may remain, with the bulk of the changes being limited to the building’s interior, its rear, and the property immediately behind it. Perhaps the most visible change? Sadly, the huge Valley Oak tree that is growing in the building’s central courtyard (and looms over the building) is being removed.

Back in August I wrote about Cru Wine Bar & Merchant, the new venture coming to a space within the smaller of the two Box buildings at 900 Middlefield Road. This week Bill Silverfarb of the Daily Journal interviewed the business’s owner, Donato Scotti (who also owns Donato Enoteca, across from our main library), and published an article with a lot of great information. Starting sometime this November Cru plans to be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving coffee in the morning, quick-service items at lunch, and wine and beer, plus some food items, in the evening. The “& Merchant” part of the name is to indicate that they will be selling not just glasses of wine, but entire bottles and even cases. I dropped by to check on their progress and watched one of the workmen assembling and staining the numerous planter boxes that will delineate their outdoor seating area:

The outdoor seating area is divided into two, with a corridor down the middle (starting just past where the worker is standing in the above photo) leading to Cru’s main entry doors. The far space (the one closest to the tracks) is designated for Cru’s patrons. The nearer one is being set aside for the building’s other retail tenant, Maebar Bistro & Lounge.

Whereas Cru is almost ready to open, Maebar has yet to begin any renovations on their space. I did some poking around and learned that Maebar’s two principals are Adam Bremer, who most recently managed a Home Depot; and Andrew Goldfinch, currently a software engineer and manager for Intuit. The two appear to be using an online service to connect with investors, and seem to making good progress towards raising the funds they need for their new venture. I found their description of the business on that investment site to be interesting:

This Restaurant and Lounge is a destination where Professionals around the Bay Area will come share ideas, culture, and connecting in a comfortably modern setting. The inclusive menu will have offerings to satisfy the discerning foodie, the business person who wants a delicious yet healthy entree for lunch, and everything in between. Later in the week this space will offer what the Peninsula is lacking—a classy place to dance and be entertained by all. Lease is signed, and liquor license is purchased.

According to their website they plan to serve lunch and dinner, and then act as a lounge from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Maebar and Cru are both taking advantage of the currently little-used North Plaza, the triangular open space between the Crossing 900 (“Box”) buildings and Redwood City’s Caltrain station. They are fortunate in that the plaza has plenty of space for their outdoor seating areas, unlike many other dining establishments around the city. Sidewalk seating is becoming an increasingly popular thing especially in our downtown, and when the available sidewalk space is insufficient, some have come to an agreement with the city to expand into the adjoining parking spaces. City Pub has done this, as has LV Mar. The Blacksmith bar recently converted the parking spaces in front of their establishment into some nice outdoor benches surrounding two fire tables. And now the handful of small restaurants on Broadway next to Margaritas Mexican Restaurant are the latest to expand their sidewalk seating areas into the street:

At a cost of five parking spaces, four separate restaurants (Talk of Broadway, Yokohama Japanese Bistro, May’s Vietnamese Restaurant, and Russian Family Restaurant) will be able to increase the number of patrons that they serve outdoors. (Note that Yokohama is in the process of expanding to a larger space down the street; they may not stay in their existing space as well. Regardless, there will likely be some sort of restaurant in that space.) Given that Redwood City is “Climate Best By Government Test,” the more outside seating we have, the better, in my book. As you can see, the installations are substantial but not permanent, so the parking can be restored if the extra seating is no longer needed. Presumably the merchants have signed a lease with the city for this extra space; I wonder if any monies received for the use of these parking spaces is going into the city’s parking fund?

Watching existing businesses expand is almost as exciting as watching new businesses come to town. Both are signs of a healthy economy, and both make our community an even better place to live. While I may not agree with all of the new businesses and buildings that are coming to Redwood City, overall it seems to me that this is a great time to live in Redwood City.

5 thoughts on “It’s the Lease I Can Do

  1. Pingback: Taking a Page From our Playbook | Walking Redwood City

  2. Heads up: Saw a post on Nextdoor that a Lovejoy’s Tea Room will be coming to RWC on Main street. The post was about hiring. I love the space in SF, so glad they will be coming to RWC. Now up to your walking shoes to figure out where on Main they are going to take. 🙂

  3. When you say you “may not agree with” all new businesses and buildings … are you talking about being opposed to certain business types or building designs, or what, exactly? Some examples might be helpful.

    I’m delighted to see all the approved and under-construction downtown housing. Whether they know it or not, increased supply can’t come soon or fast enough for renters worried about high rents and displacement. The reality is that stopping housing doesn’t stop or slow area job growth and associated ongoing increased traffic and demand for housing, which, absent increased supply, will drive rents for existing housing stock up higher and faster. Fighting housing might make good selfish economic sense for homeowners, but when renters join them and/or cheer them on, it’s like lower income and working class people who campaign and/or vote for Republicans. Ouch!

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