Opening Soon

Before I get going on the main subject of today’s post, a question from one of my readers made me realize that I had not said anything here about the sale of the recently completed Elan Redwood City apartment complex to Stanford University. This is one of the hazards of writing for multiple outlets: just after the sale I had written a column about it for the San Mateo Daily Journal, and because of that I just assumed that I had written about it here. For completeness sake — this blog has become a rather nice record of the transformation that Redwood City has undergone since I started it, back in 2013 — allow me to say a few words about the sale here. If you already know all about it, feel free to skip this; I’ve put a horizontal line to mark where this subject ends and the “real” post begins.

Elan Redwood City is a 175-unit apartment building that was built by Greystar Development at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Franklin Street (across from the Sequoia Station shopping center, and over the railroad tracks from the main branch of the Redwood City Public Library). The building contains five residential floors over two above-ground parking levels. The project was approved in October 2014, and demolition of the handful of small buildings on the site began in November of 2015 — but various delays caused the project not to be completed until mid-November of 2019.

Back in June, Stanford University quietly negotiated a purchase agreement with Greystar. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, Stanford began leasing the apartments (now called The Cardinal Apartments), giving precedence to staff employed at its Redwood City campus and to postdoctoral scholars. In addition to setting the lease rates somewhat below what is typical for our market — studios start at $2,413, one-bedroom units start at $2,725, and two-bedroom apartments start at $2,972 — Stanford plans to work with Redwood City to designate 37 of the units as deed-restricted, below-market-rate housing for very-low- and low-income households. That will make those units available only to households earning up to 50% (very low) and 80% (low) of San Mateo County’s Area Median Income. Given that, in its prior incarnation, all of Elan Redwood City’s apartments were to have been rented at market rates, this is a real net positive.

The fact that priority will be given to people working at either Stanford’s Redwood City campus, which is only about a mile and a half from The Cardinal Apartments, or its main campus means that many, if not most, of the building’s residents will have a simple commute. The close proximity of the building to Redwood City’s Caltrain station, coupled with the fact that Stanford runs free shuttles from the Redwood City and Palo Alto Caltrain stations to its Redwood City campus and its main campus, respectively, enables building residents to easily get to work without a car.

Add to that the fact that this apartment complex is right across the street from Sequoia Station and Redwood City’s Whole Foods Market, plus the fact that it sits within easy walking distance of downtown Redwood City’s many restaurants and its thriving theater district, and there is a real chance that many tenants will forego automobile ownership altogether.

It isn’t all wine and roses, however. The fact that Stanford’s properties are largely exempt from property taxes seemingly extends to this building as well, meaning that Redwood City (and San Mateo County, of course) likely won’t be collecting their usual share of those taxes. Hopefully the relatively reasonable rents, the 37 affordable units, and the likely very low number of cars that will be driving to and from this building each day makes the sale worth the loss of some tax dollars.

I had planned on taking a relatively short walk this week, but somehow such walks often turn into long ones, as was the case this week: I put in 9.6 miles on Wednesday. Once I’m out there I keep discovering new things and thinking of things I should check in on. For instance, I was headed downtown but thought that as long as I was at it I should take a peek at something that reader Kris had mentioned to me:

Previously this building, which is located at 2504 El Camino Real (at the corner of Center Street, just across from the main entrance to the Target shopping center) was until recently a furniture store called Sofa Creations (before that it was an automobile body shop called Street FX Collision Center). This new business, “Wild & the Barre,” isn’t yet open, but it appears that it will be a Yoga/fitness place of some sort. Unfortunately their website doesn’t seem to be up yet, so I can only guess. However, if you are into this kind of thing, keep an eye on this storefront: it appears that this new Redwood City business will be opening soon.

I was delighted to see that two currently empty restaurant spaces on Main Street are both being made ready for new ventures. In the old Striped Pig location at 917 Main Street, Nam Vietnamese Brasserie should be opening in just a couple of weeks.

I’m sorry to say that I’m a relative newcomer to Vietnamese cuisine. I am not a complete novice, however: my wife and I recently enjoyed some take-out from May’s Vietnamese Restaurant, at 2088 Broadway in Redwood City. I’d heard good things about May’s, and I have to agree: my meal was terrific (and my wife loved hers as well). May’s doesn’t seem to have a website (Nam does, except that it has no real content as yet), so you have to do some searching to find a menu. We used the one we found on Zomato.

I’m looking forward to giving Nam Vietnamese Brasserie a try, both to see how it stacks up to May’s and also to help support the merchants and restaurants on Main Street.

Right next door to Nam’s space is a storefront I’ve been watching ever since Aly’s on Main closed in June of 2018. Not long after they closed, a liquor license application for a new restaurant called Mezes was posted in the window. But after months of inactivity, I began to think that the folks behind Mezes were never going to get their act together. They apparently did, however: the outside of the space has been painted, the interior has clearly been remodeled, and there is a bunch of restaurant equipment up close to the front window, apparently waiting to be installed. Surely it shouldn’t be long now…

Over on Jefferson Avenue, I am positively delighted to report that Redwood City’s latest Habitat for Humanity project (612 Jefferson Avenue) has finally, truly broken ground. Habitat held one of those ceremonial groundbreakings quite a while ago (the kind with representatives from the city wearing hard hats and holding fancy shovels that is really just a photo-op), but since then the site has sat, completely untouched. That changed this week, however. On Tuesday I noticed a backhoe and a small tractor had been parked on the site. And then on Wednesday, I watched as those two pieces of heavy equipment got down to business:

I wrote all about this project back in early 2017 (see Habitats and History), when it was first approved by the Planning Commission; if you want to know all of the details, see that post. But in short, this tiny lot will soon gain a six-story building, with five stories of living space over a ground-floor parking garage. It will sport 20 for-sale condominiums, all of which will be affordable. Habitat for Humanity projects typically save on building costs by having future homeowners put  “sweat equity” into the project: they, along with outside volunteers, swing hammers, paint, and do other relatively low-skilled tasks. Because this is a high-rise building, I’m curious how (or if) that will work here. I’ve always wanted to volunteer to help with a Habitat for Humanity project, so now that they’ve actually gotten started I need to find out if I can help out in any way. If not on this project, it appears that Habitat for Humanity is considering yet another somewhere else in Redwood City (I need to find out where), so perhaps on that one.

Also underway is the transformation of the two connected buildings that previously housed Elgin’s Auto Supply and Machine Shop, at 53 and 55 Perry St., into a single-story office building.

55 Perry was originally built back in 1929, as Sequoia Laundry & Dry Cleaners, and has been identified by the city as a “Historic Resource to be Preserved.” Thus, the plan is to largely preserve the historic facade (but gut the interiors, which are not historic) and turn the two buildings into office space. The building would remain as a single-story building, although it would gain a rooftop deck. Ultimately, the reworked building should look something like this:

I did manage to get a peek inside the building while I was there. It’s a really great space. I’m delighted to say that the developer plans to preserve the roof trusses you can see in the following picture:

This building has been sitting empty for too long. I am so glad to see that this long-empty building is finally getting some attention, and will bring a bit of life to the otherwise fairly quiet Perry Street.

Incidentally, if you haven’t ever driven (or walked) along Perry Street (it extends for a single block between Broadway and Brewster Avenue, paralleling the Caltrain tracks on the west side), do make it a point to go by: there are several really terrific murals on the backsides of the many businesses that front onto Broadway here. I’ve written about them before, and there don’t appear to be any recent additions, but they remain a pleasure to look at. If you’ve never seen them, here is a somewhat out-of-date photo of a couple of them (there are more than just what is in this photo):

I bring these up because Redwood City is about to get another alley full of murals. The “Youth Mural Alley Project” will be having its grand opening on Sunday, January 26, at 4 p.m. The murals will be posted (rather than being painted on the buildings, it appears that these murals will be painted on boards of some sort and then mounted on the walls) in the small, little-known alley that runs along the side of the Sequoia Hotel between Main Street and the Main Street Parking Lot. For years that alley has been a dirty, uninviting place, but recently it was cleaned up, the walls have been painted, and “bistro lights” have been strung up in such a way as to brightly illuminate what previously was a dark alley at night:

I’m really looking forward to seeing what this place looks like with the art installed. Hopefully it will help encourage even more people to wander over to Main Street, which hopefully then will encourage more retailers (note the long-empty storefront just to the right of the alley).

I’m always delighted when I can report on so many things that will soon be opening in Redwood City. Such upbeat news works to counter the occasional closures that we, like many cities around the country, experience from time-to-time. Our latest, of course, is the Pier 1 Imports store in Sequoia Station. We don’t have to take that particular closure personally; it’s just a tiny part of an effort to stave off bankruptcy by the parent company. But I’ll note that Pier 1 is having a store-wide 30% off sale at the moment, in case that catches your interest. This particular closure frees up a nice-sized retail space; I for one will be interested to see who takes it over. Perhaps the Chase Bank that had been slated for the now-empty Max’s Cafe space elsewhere in the center will end up there…

8 thoughts on “Opening Soon

  1. Pingback: Center Change | Walking Redwood City

  2. Here in San Jose we lived reasonably close to a 19 acre shopping mall (of the 50s) that will ultimately be developed and will include the ever popular 1-2 stories of retail and/or parking with an additional 3-5 floors for residences on top. The emphasis here (and elsewhere) is to encourage the use of public transportation and hopefully less auto use/ownership. The plans often only provide a single parking spot. My question is; Have there been studies to see just how many ‘autos’ are owned by tenants in a retail/residential structure in Redwood City after the building is occupied, say 2-3 years down the line ?

    • I don’t know of any, although I haven’t really looked. I’ll ask around. Anecdotally, the large new apartment buildings that have been built here over the last couple of years are seeing significantly less cars than expected; the garages are emptier than they thought, and there are fewer cars going in and out on a daily basis. The younger generation really does seem to be spurning car ownership. But that is based on a couple of specific instances in our downtown, and they do not a study make. It seems like someone must be looking at this, so I’ll look around and ask our traffic coordinator.

  3. Hello –

    Do you know what is happening on the site that was previously occupied by Bonsai Restaurant on the corner of El Camino and Loyola in Atherton! It has been empty for about three years and there is a dilapidated shell of a building there … a real eyesore! Thank you.


  4. I’ve heard those stories, too, and together the shape of the two Oakwood Blvds sure does look like a track. But I haven’t found anything yet that proves that it ever was. Then again, I haven’t really tried too hard to dig into this, so I’ll put it on my list and see what I can come up with.


  5. Hello Greg,

    I recently discovered your website and truly enjoy your blogs.
    I have a question for you.
    I live on West Oakwood Blvd and from what I have heard over the years it was once a race track
    going back to the late 1800’s. Mr. Selby trained his horses on this 5 furlong track and they even held the county fair at this location. Other people have said it was once a dog race track.
    Tried doing some research at the county archives with no success.

    If you have any information it would be greatly appreciated.

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