Banking on Redwood City

For many years now I’ve been hearing rumors about the downtown Chase Bank building, at 2300 Broadway next to Courthouse Square. Each time I’ve done a bit of poking around and turned up no evidence of any activity. Over the years, nothing special has happened with that particular building: it remains a functioning Chase Bank branch. One day it likely will, however: that particular building sits on a particularly attractive piece of land from a development standpoint. Exactly when that’ll happen, though, is anyone’s guess. For the record, I just checked the county records for the parcel and it still appears to be owned by JP Morgan Chase Bank, so…nothing new to report here.

What would make this property especially valuable is if the only other parcel on the block also came available. That particular parcel at one time was a Wells Fargo bank branch, but these days is home to the San Mateo County Law Library (it sits directly across Hamilton Street from the County Courthouse). It occurred to me that perhaps the new County office building being constructed kitty-corner from that building might have room for the Law Library, but that does not appear to be the case.

In an earlier post I had noted that the fact that we were getting a Chase Bank branch in the old Max’s restaurant space at Sequoia Station might presage some future activity with our downtown branch. For that reason, and because I’m simply interested in any construction going on in Redwood City, I’ve been watching the build-out of the former Max’s space with great interest. Back in June, when I wrote about the project, I knew that the new tenant for the now empty space at Sequoia Station would be Chase Bank because it was clearly written on the building permit posted in one of the windows. The description on that permit, which was issued on June 25, read “Commercial Alteration – T.I.- Chase Bank – (N) ATM, int partitions, Finishes, MEP’s.” A later permit for signage was issued on July 1, and yet another for fire equipment was issued on September 11. But sometime between then and now, work on the project came to a complete halt. Somewhat unusually, the site was cleaned up inside and out and the building permit was taken down.

There has been no visible sign of any activity on the site for some time now. Except for the fact that there is still a port-a-potty and two storage containers in the parking lot adjacent to the site, I’d think that Chase has decided not to go ahead with the site after all. There certainly don’t appear to be any pending permits that would explain the halt. And the fact that the interior is so completely clean seems a bit unusual. Here is what it looks like inside there right now:

I’ll keep watching the site and will report on any further activity.

Two weeks ago I wrote about how Lane Partners, who built the four-story office/retail building at 2075 Broadway (at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Broadway), hoped to move Wells Fargo from their current location at the corner of Main Street and Broadway into the new building, after which they’d redevelop the site of the existing branch. At the time I wrote that it didn’t appear to be a done deal, after which a couple of people got back to me indicating that they had thought that the Wells Fargo move was a lock. I’m still not entirely sure, although if I had to bet, I’d bet that Wells Fargo will indeed wind up in the so-called Chan Zuckerberg building (the office portion of the building is being occupied by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative). But I thought I’d put forth a couple of facts, some of which argue in favor and some of which argue against:

  • In the October 14 City Council meeting, Lane Partners’ Mark Murray spoke about the Wells Fargo project. Regarding the move, his precise words were “We are also in contract to acquire the existing Wells Fargo branch at 1900 Broadway Street and hopefully relocate and drastically downsize that bank branch into 2075 Broadway Street.” Note that he says “hopefully relocate,” which indicates that at that time, at least, it wasn’t a done deal.
  • A friend with some connections to the existing Wells Fargo branch at Main Street and Broadway went in there this past week and let me know that the safe deposit boxes are being taken out, as if in preparation for a move. Note that Mark Murray mentioned that Wells Fargo, if they move, would “drastically downsize”; it is very likely that a new, smaller branch would not have safe deposit boxes (eliminating safe deposit boxes is apparently a trend in banking these days).
  • Lane Partners applied to go before the city’s Architectural Advisory Committee in order to obtain permission to deviate from the Downtown Precise Plan guidelines regarding “tenant space frontage length, number of entries for a tenant space, and store frontage regulations” in order to enable a 6,000-square-foot Wells Fargo branch within the building at 2075 Broadway. That certainly argues in favor of the move. However, the hearing, which had been scheduled for November 7, has been cancelled.

So far, the retail portion of the building at 2075 Broadway, which lies along Broadway and partly along Jefferson Avenue (the building’s lobby and the entrance to the underground garage also occupy part of the Jefferson Avenue side of the building) sits clean and empty:

I’ll be very interested to see the final layout of this building’s retail spaces. According to the city’s website, this building is supposed to have 26,729 square feet of retail space. And according to the design drawings posted to that same site, there was going to be a rectangular retail space on the ground floor corner that was about 13,000 square feet in size. But what I’m seeing right now is a much smaller L-shaped space that has a further chunk taken out of it for an elevator. The building was always going to have some retail space on the second floor; perhaps the developer chose to shift more of the retail space upstairs, and added the elevator for access. I’m willing to wait and see, but I sure hope that we get all of the promised retail space in this building. If Wells Fargo moves in and takes up 6,000 square feet of that space (as was mentioned in the Architectural Advisory Committee notice), that still leaves about 20,000 square feet of retail that should lie somewhere within this building. When Mr. Murray spoke at the City Council meeting, he referred to the building as “the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative headquarters, as well as the [he may have said “its”] new Community Center.” Thus, perhaps the additional retail space is defined to be a Community Center of some sort. An upstairs space, accessible by elevator, could certainly work as a Community Center.

Lastly, I’ll just note that the old Citibank building at 1390 Woodside Road (next to Bank of America, and close to Woodside Plaza) remains empty. That location is good, but the free-standing 5,500-square-foot building, which was built in 1975, may well need some significant remodeling in order to turn it into usable office or retail space. Perhaps that is why it continues to sit empty.

Enough about banks. While I was out walking this week I noted a couple of other things of interest. For instance, the developers on the Broadway Plaza project are doing a very neat and clean job. So far they’ve removed all evidence of the former shopping center (except for the CVS building, which will remain open for the time being) and are now, I believe, doing soil testing:

Don’t expect to see much in the way of real construction activity on this site for a year or so, as the soil — which is likely contaminated from when there was a factory on this site — is tested and remediated.

Although it isn’t at all visible from Main Street, good progress is being made on the 851 Main Street project. For the best view of the ongoing work, head over to Walnut Street, where the back of the four-story office/retail building will soon rise. Up until now, after preserving the facade of the historic building that once stood on this site, the main focus of the construction activity has been on the two-level subterranean garage that will act as the building’s foundation. This week there was a major concrete pour involving quite a few cement mixers that I believe will establish the top of the garage. Thus, soon we should see some above-ground activity as the building’s first floor is erected.

Just down the street, a project that I was beginning to despair of, the 929 Main Street project in the old Young’s Automotive space, is suddenly going like gangbusters. I took the following picture from the back, but just today I noticed that the building’s roof has been removed. Thus, the interior, which you can just see through the open windows and doorways in this picture, is no longer so dark.

I plan to be visiting this project much more frequently now. Progress from this point on will likely be quite visible from week-to-week, and I of course like to keep track of that progress.

There is a liquor license application up in the window of The Striped Pig, which has been closed for a couple of weeks now. The license indicates that the new venture will be called Nam Vietnamese Brasserie, which should give you some idea of what type of food they’ll be serving. Their license application is for an “On-Sale Beer and Wine – Eating Place” which tells us that this will be a restaurant that serves beer and wine, but not hard alcohol. As for the level of quality we can expect, well, the person listed on the license, Annie Le Ziblatt, used to be part owner of Bong Su in San Francisco, and currently is part owner of the highly regarded Tamarine in Palo Alto. I’ve had some wonderful meals at Tamarine, so if that restaurant is any indication of what we are getting, well, I’m very excited.

Finally, in early October I watched two gentlemen starting on our latest (small) downtown mural, and I finally took a good picture of the result:

You’ll find this on the wall of the Sequoia Hotel, on the Main Street side of the building between the lobby and the small grocery/liquor store. For all of the technology in my life, I’m somewhat old-school in that I still like sending and receiving mail via the Post Office. Thus, this one really appeals to me.

That’s it for this week. Hope you all had a happy Halloween! We had very few trick-or-treaters at our house, I’m somewhat sad to say.

5 thoughts on “Banking on Redwood City

  1. Pingback: We May Have a Winner… | Walking Redwood City

  2. Hmmm…I hope the ATMs are right on the street where someone can run by and grab your belongings. Although not a high crime area, we do have some junkies who live around and frequent the area.

  3. One interesting note on the old Citi Bank at 1390 Woodside. A permit application was submitted a year or so back to convert the building to a Starbucks (or perhaps only part of it given it’s size). Either way the permit expired and nothing came to be.

    I seem to recall there was some sort of provision that 2075 Broadway could convert a portion of the designated 2nd floor retail space to commercial/office use if any additional allowance for such use became available within the downtown precise plan. Or something like that…

    • > I seem to recall there was some sort of provision that 2075 Broadway could convert a portion of the designated 2nd floor retail space to commercial/office use if any additional allowance for such use became available within the downtown precise plan.

      Give that man a cigar! You are exactly right – thanks for reminding me. And as it turns out, it seems that they took advantage of the fact that W.L. Butler moved their headquarters from Franklin Street (which was in the Downtown Precise Plan area) to Spruce Street (where Main Street meets El Camino Real by Woodside Road; this is outside the DTPP area), all to free up land for the Greystar IV apartment building that is currently going up along El Camino Real. That net loss of office in the DTPP area allowed Lane Partners to eliminate most of their retail space. Certainly the upstairs retail is completely gone, as is much of the downstairs. Thankfully there are rules that require ground-floor retail along Broadway, or else it all might have been eliminated. But I’m sorely disappointed that a significant retail space on a prime corner in downtown Redwood City, which might have attracted a retailer that many of us might have wanted to patronize, has been lost, in favor of a relatively small retail space that will be wholly or partially occupied by a bank, it seems.

      • Thanks for the reply! I thought it was just the 2nd floor, that’s disappointing that a significant portion of ground floor retail was also lost. Interesting that it was the vacating of the WL butler building that allowed the change, I wouldn’t have put that together. I’d also really like to see more than just a bank. I’m still hoping the CZI subsidies a desirable/trendy restaurant/cafe space like Facebook does at their own campus…Id say a coffee shop but we’re over flowing with those at the moment!

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