Signs of Life

Building projects, like most other projects, don’t always go as planned. When a building project is proposed and then approved, the developer then maps out how the building will get built, and by when. Sometimes everything seems to go smoothly, and the building is completed pretty much on time. But more often than not, it seems, things don’t go according to plan. Somewhere along the line there is a hitch. Perhaps some materials are not available when they are needed. Or, maybe a particular tradesperson (or, more likely, group of tradespeople) can’t do the work right when they are needed. Delays creep into the schedule, which then domino and throws off the remainder of the schedule, making the project take even longer than you might think.

Developers are not always a chatty bunch, and so it isn’t always clear exactly why a project is delayed. Usually we can only observe the project’s progress — or lack thereof — and speculate as to the reasons why.

Some projects clearly get off schedule, yet visible progress continues to be made. One of my favorites in this category is the good-sized apartment building that Greystar is building at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Franklin Street. This project received city approval back in early 2015, and, after the usual delay while the building plans were drawn up and permits were obtained, demolition of the buildings on the site got underway by early 2016. But it is now July 2019, and the building is still not complete. In the interim, Greystar managed to start, complete, and lease an entirely separate apartment building — Huxley — just a block from their as-yet completed project, and they’re well underway on yet another large apartment building next to that one, at 1409 El Camino Real.

The yet-to-be completed project at Jefferson Avenue and Franklin Street, which they’ve dubbed Elan Redwood City, is at long last in the final stages. They are “pre-leasing” the project, and interested persons can see images of the studio, one, and two-bedroom apartments as well as floor plans on their website. There is no pricing as yet, although if you are genuinely interested the leasing agent will presumably let you know what you might expect to pay. Once Elan Redwood City is open for visitors I hope to take a tour and find out what, if anything, sets this particular project apart from its sister projects. And perhaps then I’ll find out just why it took so long to complete.

Elan Redwood City may have taken a long time to complete, but I kept seeing signs of activity all along, and of course they are at long last about to cross the finish line. More frustrating to me are projects that start and then stall for long periods of time with no signs of life. One such project is the remodel of the building at 929 Main Street, the former home of Young’s Auto Parts. This project was approved back in October of 2017, and not too long after that signs went up on the building advertising for tenants for the reworked structure. In early 2018 the interior of the building was cleared out, non-bearing interior walls were removed, and the sheathing was stripped from those walls that needed to remain. Back in 2018 they seem to have received the necessary permits to go ahead with the remodel, but I have observed exactly zero activity since the interior was first cleared out. Until this week, anyway, when a large banner was added to the face of the building advertising Davidovits & Co. Contractors, who presumably will be doing the construction on this project. I peered inside and although there is little evidence of any activity, I get the feeling that someone has been inside — a feeling that I haven’t gotten from this project for well over a year now. I’m crossing my fingers that this project is finally about to get underway, since having a retail space such as this sit empty for so long is really hurting Main Street’s retail scene.

In case you don’t know, or have forgotten, the plan is to add a second story to the back half of the building. In front, above the first floor along Main Street, there will be a roughly 2,000 square foot terrace that conceivably could be used as an outdoor patio for a restaurant. Downstairs, at least, there will be a nice-sized retail space.

Another project that seemed to be humming along before coming to a screeching halt is the revamp of the former Pamplemousse site for its new tenant, Mademoiselle Colette. Mademoiselle Colette was originally hoping to be open by Valentine’s Day of this year, but that deadline was soon slipped to March 2019. At some point between mid-February and mid-March, though, all work on the site appeared to cease, and soon the words “Will be landing in Redwood City in March” were scraped from the front windows. Since then, there has been no visible activity. Again, though, until this week, when a liquor license application appeared in the window (an almost literal sign of life for this particular project):

Mademoiselle Colette’s existing locations (they can be found in Palo Alto and Menlo Park) have wine on their menu, so this is a necessary step before the place can open. I take it as an excellent sign that they will indeed be opening, albeit later than planned. Mademoiselle Colette, just so you know, will be selling house-made pastries and will be serving a variety of items for brunch and for lunch. It should be a solid replacement for Pamplemousse, and I expect it’ll be a very popular spot.

Although not a building project, regular readers of this blog know that I have a keen interest in the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing Project. That project, which will provide a pedestrian and bicycle path from the end of Main Street (near Sports Basement) underneath Highway 101 to the traffic circle by our Courtyard by Marriott hotel. In reality this project has probably proceeded according to plan, but from the vantage point of someone watching for progress — such as myself — it has seemed to go in fits and starts. But I made it a point to walk out to the project site this week, and I am delighted to report that work on the project is very much underway. From what I can tell — construction fences kept me from getting very close — forms are being built for the concrete walls that will line the walkway, and the floor of the walkway is being dug down towards its final level.

Next time I’ll take my long lens and see if I can get a better image of the work that is going on under there.

Incidentally, while I was examining the undercrossing project from the downtown side of the highway, I noted that Sports Basement, which I had always heard would be occupying not only the adjoining Toys ‘R Us and Babies ‘R Us spaces but the next-door Pacific Sales space as well, is finally laying visible claim to the space from which Pacific Sales once operated. Sports Basement has been in operation in the two larger spaces for some months, but only now are they painting the third storefront to match the other two:

In the above photo the trees make the work a bit hard to see, but there was a man on the cherry picker you can see towards the left side of the above picture who was applying the green paint that Sports Basement uses to distinguish the front of their enormous store.

As well, while I was on the other side of the highway I noted that Blu Harbor has finally made the boat slips in their enclosed harbor available for lease. As promised when this project was initially proposed, these slips are open to the public: you don’t have to live in one of the apartments out at Blu Harbor in order to keep a boat there.

In case you can’t make out what the sign says, the marina’s 64 slips range from 35’ to 40’ in length, and rates start at $11 per foot, per month. Water and electricity are available at each slip, although both are metered so I gather that you have to pay for your usage of each in addition to your slip leasing fees. There is a place where you can pump out your ship’s waste tanks, but I don’t believe that these slips provide a direct hookup to the sewage system. Note that live-aboards are not allowed: you can park your boat there, but you can’t live on it.

Back in Redwood City’s downtown, the block where the Lathrop House once stood — as you likely know, it was moved across the street to a space behind the historic courthouse — has been fenced off. I haven’t managed to observe anyone actively working on the site, but a small amount of demolition appears to have taken place:

Eventually a new county building will be built on this block — this block is part of the County Center complex — but first the handful of single-story buildings that currently occupy the block need to be torn down.

Incidentally, if I may, let me make a public service announcement. As I was walking around the block shown partly in the above picture, I happened to look down at the street and saw this:

In case you can’t tell what I was looking at, it is a construction nail, lying on the pavement in one of the public parking spaces adjacent to where the demolition is taking place. Although contractors typically do a good job of keeping the surroundings clean and clear, they are only human. If you elect to park close to one of Redwood City’s many construction project sites, do be aware of the hazards you just might encounter. Oh, and just FYI, I did pick up the nail and toss it through the construction fence where it shouldn’t pose any harm to the general public.

Although it hasn’t yet experienced any delays — how could it, when the project is still in the proposal stage — I did want to show the rather nice rendering that the developer has provided, showing how they anticipate the remodeled building at 55 Perry Street will look:

This building, in case you don’t recognize it, is in the parking lot behind City Pub, and faces the northern Caltrain parking lot. It looks something like this today:

The delay on this project, if you can call it that, is simply that this building has been sitting, boarded up and unused, for a number of years now. I’m excited to see that it may gain new life, with only a relatively minor remodel. When so many buildings like this are being torn down and replaced by multi-story office or residential buildings, it is refreshing to see someone largely preserving the structure and look of one of Redwood City’s older, if not historic, buildings.

Lastly, let me leave you with something that has nothing to do with development project delays. A handful of these delightfully artistic bicycle racks (I think you can lock bikes to ‘em — they are called “Bike Rack Murals,” after all) have appeared around downtown Redwood City, thanks to funds provided by the Redwood City Improvement Association:

There are a number of these, all different. Do stop and take a look next time you find yourself walking by one.

10 thoughts on “Signs of Life

  1. More info on our train station: The old Redwood City train station building was (if I remember correctly) where the NE corner of CVS is now. It burned down around 1980. The Samtrans station area was next door, where it is currently. An ‘old timer’ who vacationed in Emerald Hills in the 1920s-30s once told me that the old train station was originally on the opposite side of the tracks (where Box is now) but was moved for some reason. He also said there was an old movie theatre along El Camino near Yumi Yogurt/Orange Julius.

    • This is from memory and not looking at notes or anything. Think the “old” to me train station on the west side of the tracks, the one that burned down, had a Perry St. address. Also believe the current Caltrans parking lot has a Perry St. Address.
      Have seen an old picture of this early movie theater. The picture I saw made it look about a block or two east of ECR.
      Would love to play archeologist someday and dig up a few miles of asphalt and concrete.

  2. Pingback: Where the Action Is | Walking Redwood City

  3. Hello Greg,
    I was project manager on the bike rack mural project for RCIA. We used a model from Atlanta that has over 30 bike rack murals to date. This is a pilot project that hopefully will grow.
    Susie Peyton

      • That’s a nice looking train station. Too bad it isn’t still around. Maybe if they move the station to north of Broadway (I’ve heard specula and rumors, but nothing definite) they could reproduce it.

      • Thank you, thank you for the SPRR station pictures. My Grandfather supervised a SP paint crew. They painted everything along the RR right-a-way from Santa Barbara to SSF. The Peninsula was so busy/crowded, they parked the paint crew RR cars on a siding at Coyote, south of SJ, next to 101, “blood alley”. My Grandfather taught me to paint at the Palo Alto station, the outside walls near the then baggage area. Thanks again.

  4. I always enjoy your posts. I also wondered what had cost the delay on Young’s Auto Parts building. I have felt the same way that this building is on a prime location and being empty this long makes me sad. I know a lot of citizens criticize the way Redwood City had grown and I can’t disagree. At the same time knowing that more options are coming to enjoy over the weekend just few blocks away from home, makes me happy.

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