Looking Back

I’ve never done a “year in review” blog post before, but I’m not sure why not: with all the change that Redwood City continues to experience, over the course of a year it can be amazing to look back and consider all that has gone on. And since I’m out of town for the holidays and thus am not walking around the city as I usually do, this is one blog post I can easily write without having to gather any new information in person (and one I can write on a plane; I’ll post this when I land, but don’t be surprised if it goes up later ). Note that although this post is long, it is by no means complete: I really only have room to hit many of the highlights for the year.

When 2018 began, the 707 Bradford Street project — the seven story, 117-unit residential development aimed at seniors at the Very Low income level — had just been approved. Here at the end of the year the project has yet to break ground, but given the nature of the project that is understandable: securing the necessary funding takes time. Redwood City is doing its part, however, working to help ensure that the needed parcel swaps take place. I’m optimistic that this project will get underway in 2019.

In early January Pamplemousse, the delightful little bakery and cafe on Broadway in downtown Redwood City closed.

That particular storefront has remained virtually unchanged, with its windows papered over, for the entirety of 2018. But the owners of a French pâtisserie called Mademoiselle Colette have announced that they will be opening their third location in that spot, and that they hope to be open by Valentine’s Day 2019. Like the bakery it replaces, Mademoiselle Colette will not only be serving French pastries, but also food appropriate for a light lunch or dinner — as well as wine, Champagne and beer. And, to my delight, they’ll be baking and selling loaves of bread!

January 2018 had a number of new businesses open up. Rock Salt Pilates, for instance, plus Bubble & Wrap Waffle Co. and Pasha Mediterranean. And that month was when the 929 Main Street project — in the old Young’s Auto Parts storefront on Main Street close to Middlefield Road — began to show some signs of activity.

Contractors made swift work of clearing out the interior of the building, and signs went up in the window announcing the leasing opportunity. However, since then the project has gone dormant: it appears that the developer is waiting to sign a tenant before actually doing the work to refurbish the building as approved. Whatever the actual reason that this project has not made any real forward progress, I’m hoping that 2019 is the year that finally kicks it into gear. The design, which includes a set-back second story, is a nice one, and it would help to make Redwood City’s Main Street an even more attractive place for those of us who are looking to do a little shopping or who are looking for a nice meal.

February opened with Greystar Development introducing their proposed office and residential development project on six blocks that include  Towne Ford, Hopkins Acura, and the Main & Elm restaurant, to mention a few. No approvals have yet been sought for this project; expect to see some movement in that direction in the next year or so. Kaiser obtained approval for their four-story Medical Office Building #2 in February, and broke ground on the site at the corner of Marshall Street and Maple Street later in the year. Finally, on the restaurant front, Hikari Sushi & Grill opened for business in the small center at the corner of El Camino Real and Hopkins Avenue.

In March, Land Rover Redwood City began actively using part of the empty automobile dealership site at the corner of El Camino Real and Whipple Avenue to sell used cars. A bit north of that, the 150 El Camino Real project — a 12-unit townhouse development — finally began to make real progress by the pouring of foundations (expect them to begin selling in early 2019). Elsewhere, Joby Aviation moved into an old automotive painting shop on lower Broadway (they moved out towards the end of the year), and Backyard Coffee, at Brewster Avenue and Perry Street, closed for good. Theatre Way’s Fish’s Wild closed as well, but that was to make way for West Park Farm & Sea, so at least we didn’t have to endure the sight of that prominent location sitting empty for long. Over on Main Street, La Victoria Restaurant and D. Tequila Lounge both closed to make way for the not-yet-approved (at that point) 851 Main Street mixed-use project. And preliminary work was done for the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing project: the utilities that ran through that site were relocated (with any luck, work on the actual undercrossing itself should begin in early 2019). Finally, the city narrowed the number of candidate sites for a downtown park to two, plus a site along Redwood Creek that will be more of a trail and less of an actual park.

April seemed to be a month for restaurant openings: the upscale Courthouse 2021 opened in the old Mandaloun spot on Broadway, Dhaba Express opened on Broadway close to the Caltrain tracks, and Teaspoon opened…on Broadway.

In May, Redwood City residents were greeted with the sight of a tower crane being erected for the 2075 Broadway project. Since then, of course, all of the framing has been erected, and although the building still needs its exterior skin, it has taken on its final shape. Similarly, the County Emergency Dispatch Center project, on Winslow Street near Brewster Avenue, topped out. Out on the bay side of the city, the 1548 Maple Street (Strada) project was approved. This project, which involves the property immediately adjacent to the Docktown Marina, will produce 131 townhouse-style condominiums plus a section of Bay Trail, a small park, and a ramp for hand-launched watercraft. Speaking of which, California Canoe and Kayak opened out on Seaport Court in the Redwood City Municipal Marina, providing an additional way for Redwood City residents to take advantage of our connection to the bay.

For me, the most significant event that took place in June was the passing of Steve Penna, publisher of Spectrum Magazine. For years he had selected and printed a number of my blog posts, but with his passing the magazine seems to have come to a permanent end. I truly miss chatting with Steve as he sat outside “Stuff on the Square,” a small shop on Courthouse Square that Steve co-owned.

The month of June also saw the approval by Redwood City’s Council of two projects on Main Street: 851 Main and 353 Main. 851 Main will be a mixed-use project, with retail on the ground floor and offices above. 353 Main, on the other hand, will be a 125-unit apartment building. At the time of its approval only nineteen of those apartments were to be affordable, but later in the year the project was changed to be completely affordable: 63 at the Very Low income level and 62 at the Low income level.

June also saw a flurry of activity on the automobile dealership front. For one, the Tesla service center project that had been planned for the old Crunch Fitness site (at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Whipple Avenue) was withdrawn due to a disagreement between the company and the city over what sort of activities should take place there. Then, Honda Redwood City moved from their longtime location at the corner of El Camino Real and Hopkins Avenue to their newly constructed dealership on Industrial Road in San Carlos. Finally, Toyota 101 submitted a proposal to completely rework their existing dealership on East Bayshore Road.

July was full of bad news on the new housing front. First, we learned that the 250-unit apartment project (50 of which were to be affordable) planned for a parcel at 801 Brewster Avenue had been withdrawn. Then, I noticed that the small Quonset-hut-like building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Bradford Street was being remodeled, putting the final nail in the coffin for the high-rise condominium building that was once planned for that corner. And finally, we learned that the Habitat for Humanity project, planned for a small lot at 612 Jefferson Ave had been put on hold due to a lawsuit. Fortunately, later that month the project was reactivated after the lawsuit was settled. Continuing the better news, a 17-unit townhouse project proposed for a handful of parcels mostly on Harrison Avenue was approved as the 515 Cleveland Street project.

In other July news, we learned that Coupa Cafe, a coffee place, would be coming to the Marston building at the corner of Marshall Street and Main Street (it has yet to make an appearance, though). July is also when the city considered the possibility of declaring part of the Mount Carmel neighborhood an historic district. Those discussions led the city to get at the real heart of the issue: ways to preserve neighborhood character, something that the city is still tinkering with.

In August, demolition crews got busy on a number of projects: 1409 El Camino Real (AKA “Greystar IV”), 601 El Camino Real (the old Honda Redwood City dealership), and 851 Main Street. That same month Ranzan, a new, high-end Japanese restaurant on Main Street, opened its doors in soft opening mode. Also, signs for the Peninsula Bikeway went up: I rode the section that runs from one end of Redwood City to the other. I also discovered that there is a private ferry service running into and out of the Port of Redwood City, and noted that Dock C at Redwood City’s Municipal Marina was being refurbished to accommodate 18 live-aboards. Finally, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Veterans Memorial Senior Center building project was released to the public.

As the end of summer approached, our calendars turned to the page for September. Things were relatively quiet in Redwood City during that month. Our completely rebuilt Burger King, on El Camino Real at Hopkins Avenue, opened for business. And the somewhat controversial Pink Pantherz Espresso place, in the old Caffino spot on El Camino Real down by the Ferrari dealership, opened as well. Perhaps because good things come in threes, Ghostwood Beer Company (in the former Backyard Coffee space, on Brewster Avenue at Perry Street) also opened in September. In development news, the empty Village Bottle Shop — at the corner of El Camino Real and Whipple Avenue — and the adjacent Royer Realty office were both refurbished and advertised as “startup space.” At the time the plans for the 504 El Camino Real project, which was to replace both of these buildings, were still up on the city’s website, but by the end of 2018 that project had been withdrawn.

Continuing in September, the remaining downtown park sites advanced to the design phase.

In October we got the very good news that Hallmark House apartments, on Woodside Road, would resume rebuilding sometime in 2019. This 72-unit low-income apartment building has been sitting empty since 2013, when a fire caused the building to be evacuated and then tagged as uninhabitable. We also learned that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, for which the four-story building at 2075 Broadway is being built, has temporarily leased space in the relatively new building at 601 Marshall Street.

November was the month that everyone will remember for the horrendous air quality, thanks to a couple of horrific fires to our north and east.  On a happier note, demolition was completed and construction began on the 33-unit townhouse project that is now well underway at the corner of El Camino Real and Hopkins Avenue, where Honda Redwood City had been operating at the beginning of the year. The former Redwood City Underground Pub, on Broadway close to El Camino Real, was sold and rechristened “Hub Redwood City.” And three underutilized adjoining buildings on El Camino Real below our Target shopping center began to be remodeled into what will eventually be the Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital. Lastly, the restoration of Redwood Creek got underway, with one small section between Veterans Boulevard and Main Street having been largely cleared and replanted with new trees.

At long last, we come to December. Regular readers of my blog know that this is the month when Bottle Shop, at 2627 Broadway, opened for business. As well, just in time to capture some of those holiday shopping dollars, Sports Basement opened in the old Toys ‘R Us and Babies ‘R Us spaces where Main Street approaches Highway 101. And on the other side of the highway from Sports Basement, construction fencing went up around the site of the 1548 Maple Street project.

As you can see, 2018 was a busy one for Redwood City. A number of construction projects got underway, and a couple of planned projects fell off the radar. Numerous restaurants and bars opened up, making Redwood City even more of a destination than it was at the beginning of the year. And the downtown parks project made steady progress. Although we likely won’t actually be able to enjoy a new downtown park for many years to come, I’m encouraged that the project continues to move ahead and am hopeful that the City Council will be able to find some coins in the couch cushions to pay for it. In the mean time, though, I’ll content myself with the Magical Bridge Playground, which finally broke ground over at Red Morton Park this year, and will hopefully be open to kids of all ages and abilities either late next year or early in 2020.

Here’s hoping that Redwood City has as good and productive a year in 2019 as it did in 2018 — if for no other reason that it keeps me writing…!

One thought on “Looking Back

  1. Greg, you are a treasure for Redwood City and I appreciate your diligence in following the process of making this the best city between San Francisco and San Jose!

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