Strolling Along Fifth Avenue

Although absolutely no one would confuse our area’s Fifth Avenue with the more famous one in New York, I nevertheless find it an interesting and useful street to walk along. Interesting because of the things you will find there—some of which I’ll cover in today’s post—and useful because it ducks under the Caltrain tracks and thus provides a direct and safe way to get from El Camino Real to that part of Redwood City where the Stanford in Redwood City project is under construction. As I mentioned in last week’s post, last week I took a walk down El Camino Real to Fifth Avenue, and then turned on Fifth and headed down to Bay Road. Along the way I discovered far more than I wrote about in that earlier post; today I’ll fill you in on more of what I saw.

Although I had a specific goal or two in mind, as I often do when I walk I varied parts of my route to take me along streets that I’ve never before walked (or at least haven’t walked in a long time). For instance, I walked along a part of Ruby that I’m not sure I’ve ever been on before. Or if I did, back then this wasn’t there:

I’m referring, of course, to the large metal “sculpture” in the front yard along the sidewalk. As you can see they have him (or her) on his side, but I think that when he was designed he was arranged vertically, to look as if he was in the middle of a gymnastic routine on the parallel bars. I know that I’ve seen a number of these things somewhere, although I’m at a loss as to where. Does anyone know where this particular bit of whimsy came from? Let us know in the comments if you do.

If you drive El Camino Real between Redwood City and Menlo Park with any regularity, you have likely noticed that the remodel of the Pool, Patio & Things building (formerly the Franciscan Forge) is making good progress. When I was there they were installing the new windows; those are probably done by now. Most of the roof sheathing was on, and there was a great deal of activity focused on the interior framing. I’m pleased that the building retains its historic look; the building’s new owner could have torn the whole thing down and put up a multi-story office building, but instead we’ll be left with a building that looks much like it did before the patio furniture store moved out:

Back when the patio store closed I was told it was going to be converted into offices, and from what I can tell the interior improvements do seem to be consistent with that. I’m very curious to see who will be occupying this building, and plan to keep visiting it until I know the answer.

From the patio store, I headed back to and then down Fifth Avenue. Along the way I checked in on a construction project that has recently broken ground, at the corner of Waverly Avenue and Fifth Avenue: the Waverly Place Apartments:

Construction on this 16-unit apartment building for individuals with severe mental illness began in early May, and as you can probably see the construction crews are making rapid progress. This project, which lies in North Fair Oaks, is being built by the Mental Health Association of San Mateo County; they will own and run the project once it is completed.

From Waverly Place I walked beneath the railroad tracks and crossed Middlefield Road. As I continued along Fifth Avenue I discovered that there is a San Mateo County Sheriffs Office-Community Policing Unit on Fifth, between Edison Way and a nearby railroad spur. And as I passed it I was somewhat surprised to see this:

Clothing donation boxes like these are a familiar sight in our area, but the fact that it is a total mess (as they often are, it seems) and is located illegally (I believe) on the railroad right-of-way (the tracks are just to the right of the above picture) ought to get the attention of the nearby Sheriffs, whose vehicles can be seen behind the fence just to the left of the pink clothes box. Oh, and that piece of paper that is stuck to the box is an advertisement by the Auto Pride Car Wash for workers. Litter upon litter surrounded by litter…

Just down the road from the pink clothes donation box I passed a house with this in its front yard:

This as got to be the most inexpensive “little library” I’ve ever seen. To the resident’s credit, these shelves provide a lot of space for books. And the books that they had on offer made up a fascinating and surprisingly literary selection, including:

  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens
  • The World According to Garp, by John Irving
  • Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul
  • 11th Hour, by James Patterson
  • Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy)
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (an account of the life of Jesus)
  • two hardback Oz books by L. Frank Baum

Little libraries are usually filled with children’s books, and rarely have much of substance. Not so, here. Truly, one cannot judge a “little library” by its appearance…

Getting to the Stanford in Redwood City project, the last time I visited the site all of the former buildings had been removed, large portions of the property had been graded, and there were huge piles of material for recycling: concrete, steel, and the like. Nowadays construction is well underway.

The site bounded by Broadway, Douglas, Bay, and Second Avenue will ultimately contain nine office buildings, four “amenity” buildings (one containing a fitness center, one containing a day care center, and one containing an “I.T. Hub” and bike storage), and three parking garages. The project will be built in phases, with most of the initial phase being concentrated towards the Second Avenue end.

In the above photograph (click it for a larger view), which was taken from Bay Road, the excavation for the underground level of one of the three parking garages can be seen; most of the pit is lined with some sort of metallic material. Beyond it, in the left half of the picture, the brown-colored columns are forms around supports for the two-story fitness center. In the center of the photo, behind the parking garage and the fitness center, you can see the steel framework for the campus’s central office building. This building will not only contain office space, it will also have a 10,000 square foot conference center, a 12,000 square foot cafeteria, and the site’s transit hub: “a physical focal point for transportation-related services in the Stanford in Redwood City Campus, including public and private buses, transit shuttles, car share and bike share services, as well as appropriate amenities.” Stanford’s Marguerite shuttles will operate from here, transporting employees to and from Redwood City’s Caltrain station (these shuttles will also be open to the general public at no charge, and should prove to be convenient for, among others, people needing to get to Stanford’s nearby medical facility).

Stanford plans to open this “administrative campus” sometime in 2019; although they have clearly made a great deal of progress since their official groundbreaking in mid-May, they still have a long way to go. Naturally I will continue visiting the site and reporting on their activity in the interim.

As long as I’m talking about projects down towards (and in) North Fair Oaks, I should provide an update on a property that is even further down that way: the former site of Roger Reynolds Nursery, on Encinal Avenue in Menlo Park. While I will admit that I didn’t walk there last week—it would have added a bit too much time and distance to the walk, which was already getting long—at 4.2 miles from my house it is well within my normal range. In any case, I drove by the site a while back and took some pictures, and then did some online research to find out what is being built there.

First off, I’m just going to share one photograph, given that as yet there isn’t all that much to see:

Except for a few trees the entire site has been cleared. All of the buildings are gone, including the carriage house, which, I was surprised to learn, had once been an Edy’s Ice Cream parlor (it was the nursery’s gift shop whenever my wife and I visited). It seems that the carriage house didn’t meet state or federal standards for a historical building, and the high cost of moving or retrofitting it left the developer with little choice but to demolish it along with the site’s other buildings.

The project’s developer, Hunter Properties, will be constructing 24 townhouse-style condominiums grouped into seven buildings. Twenty of the condos will have four bedrooms each, while the remaining four will be three-bedroom units. All will have garage space for two cars. I am particularly pleased to see that three of the four-bedroom units will be set aside as affordable (one at the low-income level, and two at the moderate-income level), so although most of the units will probably be on the expensive side, the development won’t be entirely made up of high-wage earners.

One of the “craftsman style” condominiums buildings—the one that will sit in front of the neighboring residences visible in the above picture—will be two stories, while the remaining six will be three stories tall. Most of the development’s common areas will be located up against the tracks on the northeast side of the property, taking advantage of a 40 foot easement on land controlled by the SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission). The architect has also placed a “Children’s Discovery Garden & Community Courtyard” in the western corner of the property, preserving a redwood grove that stands there today.

All in all, it looks like a pretty nice development. I do wish Roger Reynolds could have remained as a going concern, but given that the site is surrounded on three sides by housing (if you ignore the train tracks), putting housing there seems the logical thing to do. And what is being built seems very much in keeping with the neighboring properties; when complete the development should blend nicely into the neighborhood while adding some badly needed housing to the area.

The area along and around Fifth Avenue is an interesting one. Many people drive past it along El Camino Real, or use it to transit between El Camino Real and Middlefield Road; I suspect that most pay it little attention and rarely, if ever, stop. But there are some interesting things to be found in this area, things that, as always, can best be appreciated when on foot. Because this area is largely in North Fair Oaks I am technically not “Walking Redwood City” when I’m down there, but I will nonetheless continue to explore the area on foot, ever watchful for things worth noting.

Next Tuesday is the Fourth of July, and in the event that you are new to our community, you should know that Redwood City always celebrates the Fourth in a big way. The parade—which is a pretty big one—begins at 10 a.m. and winds around our downtown: along parts of Winslow Street, Marshall Street, Main Street, Middlefield Road, and Arguello Street (see the map here). Most people bring camp chairs and sit along the route, and many put those chairs out early. Be aware that you cannot put chairs out before 12 a.m. on the Fourth—and also be aware that many people will be out there at midnight, to ensure that they get that “special spot.” But if you are willing to stand there is really no reason to come that early, and even with a chair you can often find a reasonably good viewing location if you show up and hour or two before the parade starts. Do bring sunscreen, a hat, and water; it often gets pretty hot on those sidewalks…

In addition to the parade, Redwood City has a number of other events on the Fourth, including a 5K run along the parade route (it takes place before the parade), a pancake breakfast (at the Marshall Street fire station), a rather elaborate chalk art event, a festival near Courthouse Square (with food booths and vendors and such), a Carnival (with rides!) in the parking lot at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Winslow Street (which runs from July 1 through July 4), a car show, a concert at the port of Redwood City, and, of course, a fireworks show over the Port of Redwood City (the fireworks start around 9:30 p.m. and can be seen from almost anywhere that has a decent view of the port area; if you want to see them from the port itself, read the FAQs and get there early). For all the details, check out the city’s web page dedicated to the day.

[Note: the following has changed since I originally uploaded this blog post. My original post reflected what the city’s web page says, which apparently is not correct. What follows should be more accurate, given that the updated information came directly from the parade chairperson.]

Because so much of the festivities take place downtown, I need to say something about parking. Most of the parking you are used to using when downtown will not be available on the Fourth. And note that many of the downtown streets will close at 7:45 a.m. As best as I can tell, here is the status of the various downtown garages:

  • The Jefferson garage, beneath the Century Theaters, will not be accessible until after the parade has completed. Note that regular rates apply on the Fourth; you’ll have to pay to park here.
  • The Marshall Street garage is being used for the arts and crafts vendors and is thus presumably not available for public parking.
  • The Crossing 900 (“Box”) garage will be closed between 8:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the Fourth. This one doesn’t open until 8 a.m. [if you can get to it; the streets may be closed] so you have a pretty narrow window of time to get your car in. Know that if you manage to park here your car will be trapped until around 1 p.m. Regular rates apply on the Fourth; you’ll have to pay to park here.
  • The County Garage (at Veteran’s and Winslow Street; enter off of Winslow) will be fully accessible; it can accommodate a large number of cars and should be a good choice. And note that you won’t be charged to park in this garage on the Fourth.
  • What street parking is available—due to the parade and to the downtown festival much of the downtown street parking will be unavailable—will be free of charge on the Fourth, so if you find an available, legal street space, take it!

Redwood City knows how to do the Fourth right. If you haven’t enjoyed our holiday festivities before, I strongly suggest that you plan to spend your morning, at least, downtown. And don’t forget to check out our fireworks show! It is always a good one.

10 thoughts on “Strolling Along Fifth Avenue

  1. Pingback: Neighborhoods: Friendly Acres | Walking Redwood City

  2. Mystery solved. I’m the designer of the sculpture you saw at our house on Ruby. Seventeen of these 12′ long flyers were installed at Stanford Shopping Center for many years, so that’s probably where you saw them.
    The Flying People (Stanford called them the Acrobats) flew down a 100′ long corridor that connected Macy’s to then Bloomingdales, then turned the corner toward the street. They animated the long stretch of mostly youth oriented stores lining each side, and helped as a wayfinding device for shoppers coming from the parking lot.
    They were installed the week my son was born, so I think of them as my babies. Glad you enjoyed the view.

    • Yes! That’s exactly where I saw them. My wife and I did a lot of shopping in that part of Stanford Shopping Center when our kids were young, and we loved your Flying People. Thank you so much for creating them, and I’m glad that at least one of them lives on in your front yard. But I must ask, what happened to the others? Do they still exist somewhere?

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  4. Great post! Any info on the nursery on El Camino that closed awhile back? The one next to the Ferrari dealership? Wondering what will be in that space…if anything!

    • I wrote a bit about that place some time back. Currently the next-door Ferrari/Maserati dealership is using it to store their cars. But the property is owned by an investor in (I believe, not having checked my notes) Palo Alto who of course wants to put a multi-story building on the site. I seem to recall that it would be housing. But no proposals have been submitted to the city yet so we’ll have to wait and see.

  5. street closure start at 7;45 AM. The Jefferson garage will NOT be open at 6:00 AM, it will reopen after the parade is finished. The Marshall St. Garage is being used for the arts and crafts vendors.
    If you plan on parking any where early, be advised that there is NO WAY OUT until the streets are open again.
    Parade Chairperson.

  6. Regarding the metal sculpture, there are two that I am aware of in Fair Oaks neighborhood: one in front of the Fair Oaks Library and one on 5th Ave near the railroad underpass. I don’t recall who the artist is.

    • Hmm, Carol, I think that the gymnast sculpture is by a different artist than the one who did our North Fair Oaks primary colors pieces…

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