Something in Common

After I gather my notes for one of these blog posts, I put them into a rough order and then try to discern a common thread around which I can weave my prose. Usually, but not always, I can find something that ties all (or most) of my topics together. But sometimes I have so simply throw up my hands and publish a post that consists of topics that have very little in common. I thought that was going to be the case this week, to the point where I had completed a first draft of this post without any kind of unifying theme. Given that I think that each of this week’s topics are interesting in their own right, I was OK with that. However, shortly after completing that draft I realized that, if you look at them a certain way, there was indeed something that this week’s topics had in common. This led me to begin my Friday by rewriting my introduction and reframing the topics slightly. What is that common factor? It is simply that each item has one or more standout features with which I am delighted.

First up, the 601 Marshall Street project. For a long time now I’ve been keeping a close eye on this eight-story office building being erected at 601 Marshall Street, which lies between Middlefield Road and Jefferson Avenue and is across Marshall from the Bank of America. As a measure of my level of interest, I note that I have taken 171 photographs of the site so far—some of the buildings that were torn down to make way for this project, and many of the new building in various stages of construction. I take pictures almost every time I walk by the building, and this week was no exception. Here is one that illustrates the current state of the building, which as you can see is fully framed and is receiving some of its exterior finishes:

Normally a building in this stage would not be something I’d write about, but if you haven’t been by there lately I recommend that you take a close look at those tall, thin cast panels that are covering the vertical members at street level. Here is a closeup of one at the Jefferson Avenue intersection:

[click the above photo for a larger version]

I find these panels to be quite beautiful. The developer, Palo Alto-based Dostart Development Company, is really going out of their way to make this project a showpiece, to Redwood City’s benefit. There are other things to like about this building, including the cylindrical element at the Middlefield/Marshall corner and the use of materials that compliment the nearby historic courthouse and Courthouse Square pavilions, but these panels are an especially nice touch.

The panels are made to look as if they had been carved from stone, and have a number of dates and symbols on them of significance to Redwood City’s history. For instance, the ship in the center presumably is a nod to Redwood City’s rich history as a port city. The book and gavel presumably represent the fact that Redwood City is the county seat and is home to the county courthouse (both old and new). As for the dates, there are three:

  • 1867, which is the year in which Redwood City was incorporated
  • 1938, the year in which a WPA project was initiated to expand our courthouse, as well as the year in which our new library at the corner of Jefferson and Middlefield (where our City Hall stands today) was dedicated
  • 1910, the year in which our fourth courthouse (the historic courthouse that today anchors Courthouse Square) was completed

The panels at the building’s corners also identify the street upon which the panel sits (here, “Marshall St.”), which is yet another really nice touch.

I do hope other downtown project developers take note of what Dostart is doing, and add a similar level of fine detail to their own projects. These little touches can transform an otherwise humdrum building into something really special (although even without these panels you probably wouldn’t call 601 Marshall “humdrum”).

The building going up at 550 Allerton Street, on which I have also been keeping a close eye (103 photographs, and counting), doesn’t appear to be getting anything similar in the way of artistic details, but this building, too, has a rather unusual design that delights me. From most angles it looks fairly routine, but the narrow corner where Fuller Street meets Winslow Street seems to have inspired the building’s architect to design a building that is strongly reminiscent of a large ship, albeit one made of bricks and with a glass prow:

It isn’t entirely clear from the above photograph, but that sharply pointed roof section actually bends upward, a fact that is a bit clearer in this photo that I took  several weeks ago from the upper level of the nearby county parking garage:

Whether this is also a nod to Redwood City’s maritime history, or simply a reflection of the shape of the parcel upon which the building sits, the shape provides a bit of whimsy that makes this something other than a run-of-the-mill building.

For my last item I am delighted to bring to your attention something that I’ve known was in the works, and this week was finally approved: the City of Redwood City is entering into an agreement with Kilroy Realty (the owner of the “Box buildings”) and Box, Inc. (the primary tenant of the buildings) that will allow the city to utilize up to 75 parking places in the building’s basement garage for city vehicles and the vehicles of city employees. If Redwood City takes full advantage this agreement, 75 vehicles that currently take up spaces in the Redwood City Main Library parking lot and in the Main Street lot (behind City Hall) on weekdays will be instead parking beneath the Crossing 900 (“Box”) buildings.

This is important for two reasons. First and foremost, it means that there will be more open spaces in these very popular surface lots during the day on weekdays. 75 fewer cars should make a noticeable difference, I would think. And because the Crossing 900 buildings are not open to the public on weekdays, this isn’t just trading available spaces in one place for another; it is truly as if those 75 vehicles were removed from the city altogether.

The other reason is less impactful, but to me even more interesting. Box was able to make this deal because it turns out that they don’t need all of the building’s parking. Even though there are roughly 1,400 employees in these buildings, a significant number of the 900 or so parking spaces in the building’s internal garage sit empty on the average workday. According to Box, this is due to their location—their close proximity to both Caltrain and to housing—and to their Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program, which encourages employees to get to work by means other than a single occupancy vehicle.

Regardless of why, the fact that employees in the Crossing 900 buildings are not using all of the building’s parking means that they most likely aren’t parking elsewhere in the city, either. Thus, although there appears to have been an increase in the number of cars parking on our downtown streets and in residential neighborhoods immediately surrounding our downtown, we can’t really blame the 1,400 employees working in the Crossing 900 buildings. Of course, this says nothing about employees working in other buildings, or those living in the newly built downtown apartment buildings: the increase, if real, is due to something. It just doesn’t appear to be from this particular office development. (And note that I am talking about parking, not traffic. The Crossing 900 building may have a lot fewer than 900 cars in their parking garage on a typical workday, but those cars do still generate traffic getting to and from the building.)

On the subject of the Crossing 900 buildings, let me remind you that those 900 parking spaces, although not available to the public during weekday working hours, are very much available in the evenings (after 5:00 p.m.) and on weekends. If you’ve ever parked in the garage underneath the downtown Century Theaters, the same basic rules apply: the first 90 minutes are free, and with theater validation you get four hours free. Beyond that, you pay the posted rates:

Two other things to note on this sign. First, parking is not free on holidays. And second—and perhaps more importantly—this garage has closing hours. Monday through Thursday it closes at 10 p.m., while Friday through Sunday (and on holidays) it closes at midnight. There used to be a sign indicating that if the garage closed while your car was still inside, you would have to wait until 8 a.m. the following day to retrieve it. That sign is gone, however, so I don’t know the consequences of staying past the closing hours. The garage may well let you out now, but personally, I don’t plan to risk it. If I think that there is any danger of me not retrieving my car before the garage closes, I’ll find somewhere else to park.

If you haven’t used this garage before, just as with the theater garage you pay before you go back to your car. In the theater garage there are payment machines by the elevators and by the stairs closest to the theaters. In the Crossing 900 garage, I know of only one payment machine. You’ll find it behind the glass door to the left of the garage’s entry/exit driveway:

The Crossing 900 buildings have gotten a lot of flak for their rather pedestrian design, but let’s give kudos where kudos are due: their parking garage is convenient and is a really nice adjunct to the theater garage (which does fill up at times). I use it often, never having trouble finding a space. Now that it is going to absorb a number of city vehicles as well, I’m an even bigger fan. And I’m truly delighted to see how successful the building’s occupants have been at finding alternative means to get to work. It seems that building offices in close proximity to transit may make sense after all.

I love walking around Redwood City and finding hidden delights among what otherwise might be considered routine. I’m a strong believer in leading by example, and hope that 601 Marshall, 550 Allerton, and the Crossing 900 building’s parking garage all serve to inspire other Redwood City projects yet to come.

The Stafford Park concerts have begun! If you didn’t make it to the park this week, there are nine more concerts to go in this series. Redwood City hosts summer concerts not only in Courthouse Square, but in Stafford Park (on Hopkins Avenue, at the corner of King Street) and in Redwood Shores. The schedules can be found on the city’s website, but at Stafford, anyway, you’ll find a concert each Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. through August 16. One tip: get there a bit early. The park was teeming with people last Wednesday, and although you’ll still find a spot if you show up at 6:00 (or later), the selection may be very limited.

8 thoughts on “Something in Common

  1. Pingback: In Development | Walking Redwood City

  2. Greg – Thanks for your appreciation of the design of the pilasters at 601. Wanted to let you know that the inclusion of 1939 is actually a nod to RWC being the home of NorCal’s longest continuous 4th of July parade (and that’s also the reason the date is flanked by a parade drum below and American flags above).

  3. Here are photos I recently took mid-afternoon at the Box parking garage showing well over 300 empty spaces. What a tremendously expensive waste! So it’s great to hear about the deal with the city to use up to 75 of those wasted spaces to free up an equivalent number in the Middlefield & Jefferson library lot across from City Hall.

  4. Greg,
    First and foremost thank you for the blog. I look forward to each of your essays.
    In most cases you present your writings without bias and allow the readers to draw their own opinions. I like that.

    Second of all since this is an area for public comment, I would like to share my views on the parking in downtown. I am happy to learn that 75 cars will be utilizing the Box bldg garage. Unfortunately, the city still doesn’t grasp what it takes to bring non-walkers to our downtown. Charges for parking should be eliminated including street and garage. Although, I am in favor of street parking duration limits. When faced with a choices that I am easily able to make, I will favor San Carlos, Menlo Park or Palo Alto. They offer Free parking. By definition, this entices me to those areas and likely spend more time and likely more money at the retailers and restaurants, Thus those cities are gaining tax revenue that would otherwise not occur. If RWC is going to see a substantial change in bringing non-walkers to the downtown, then this would go a long way.

    Thanks again for your writings. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks for the feedback; it helps to keep me writing! And thanks for your opinion. Indeed, I prefer to (mostly) just present the facts and let others form and voice their opinions. Have a great weekend, and stay cool!

  5. Greg – Thank you for taking your time to apply your excellent writing skills to share your interest and explorations of Redwood City. I love Redwood City and what I learn from your blog increases my joy and appreciation of it!

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