The Pause that Refreshes

The phrase “the pause that refreshes” is associated with Coca-Cola, and growing up I thought I remembered seeing ads (for Coke, presumably) that used that phrase. However it was apparently dreamed up back in 1929, and although variants of the phrase have been used since, I’m not sure that particular phrase has actually been used to advertise Coke in my lifetime. Coca-Cola ads have a certain magic, however: they survive on old trays or signs often found in antique stores, and of course their ads show up in old magazines. Presumably I saw it in at least one of those places — but likely more than one, since the phrase is pretty well embedded in my brain. But this is all an aside; I’m borrowing the phrase for the title of this week’s post, in which I thought I’d talk about a couple of development projects that took significant pauses at some point, but have since gotten back underway.

Construction projects can pause for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’ve reached the stage where they need to obtain additional permits (a project might need a demolition permit to take down an old building, and then need one or more separate construction permits to actually build whatever they are building). Perhaps they need to obtain additional financing. Or, perhaps a given project has been sold to a new developer, who needs to take stock and possibly even rethink the project. Lots of behind-the-scenes activities can cause a project that visibly had been cruising along to suddenly come to a halt, only to resume after some period of inactivity. Because I primarily observe projects by paying them periodic visits, I only see the ebb and flow of activity without usually knowing what is controlling the pace.

One such project that took a long break was the so-called “Strada” project at 1548 Maple Street, on the land adjacent to the (mostly former) Docktown Marina. That particular project, which will result in 131 three-story townhouses (with optional rooftop decks!) along Redwood Creek began, after demolition of the buildings that serviced the marina, by raising up the property in order to protect the development from sea level rise. The process of hauling in the huge amount of soil that has been needed in order to raise the (roughly) eight-acre site by some 14 feet was expected to take a year or so, and began in early 2019. But early this year visible process ground to a halt and from all visible appearances the site sat idle until recently. Whether the halt had something to do with COVID-19, or whether it was a planned step in order to allow the soil to settle, I don’t know. But I do know that when I visited the site again recently, work had very much resumed. Once again bulldozers were pushing the soil around, continuing to form the site into a solid platform upon which the townhouses can be built. And now, the walking/cycling path that formerly skirted the edge of the property has been relocated so that it now cuts through the middle, seemingly following what will eventually be one of the main roads through the complex.

In the above photo, the path extends between the two rows of construction fencing you see at the very right edge of the image. The large flat dirt area that makes up the bulk of the image is where a long row of townhouses, all of which will face onto the creek, will be built. Look carefully along the edge where the dirt ends and you can see a couple of Docktown Marina’s former floating homes (against the left edge of the image, and next to the bulldozers) that are presumably slated for demolition. As for the condos you can see, those are part of the One Marina condominium complex, which is located on the other side of the creek.

This new path is a nice place to walk; not only does it feel safer, but because it cuts through the parcel and runs along the top of the raised portion, it is a much better place from which to view the ongoing activity. Plus, there aren’t any homeless encampments along this section.

The terraforming part of the project now appears to be largely complete. Here is a view of one end of the property; I took this picture from Maple Street:

As you can see, the land has been raised up quite a bit. I’d love to know how many truckloads of soil they had to haul in for this. If I’m calculating it correctly, raising eight acres of land up by 14 feet would require about 180,000 cubic yards of soil…

One reason I keep walking over to the bay side of Highway 101, in addition to monitor the progress on the Strada project, is to see how the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing is coming along. That project has gone very slowly: it has been underway for more than two years now. Of course, its proximity to a waterway — Redwood Creek — could have resulted in a lot of extra red tape that needed to be dealt with throughout the construction process, and may explain why there have been so many points during this project’s lifecycle in which it seemed to come to a complete halt for months at a time.

While the project is by no means finished, on the same day I was exploring the Strada project I took a look at both sides of the undercrossing project and was glad to see plenty of activity. The southwestern side, which is where Main Street turns into the Kohl’s Plaza parking lot, is looking really good, with the concrete pathway now extending all the way to the edge of the freeway:

On the other side of the freeway, between it and the Marriott hotel, the retaining walls on the northwestern side of the path appear to be complete:

It appears that the retaining walls on the creek side have yet to be finished, and as you can see the rest of the concrete pathway needs to be poured, but this project is finally getting close to wrapping up. Hopefully it’ll be complete and open to the public by the end of the year. When done, it will greatly simplify, shorten, and make safer the process of traversing between the bay side of the freeway — where an increasing number of people are living — and downtown for both pedestrians and cyclists. This of course will not only be a boon for those living on that side of town, but also for those of us who want to be able to walk or bike out on the bay without having to drive over the freeway.

In a completely separate part of town, another project that halted for a very long time — so long that I actually thought that the incoming tenant had changed their mind and pulled out of the project — was the Dunkin Donuts (or just Dunkin’, now) store at the corner of Woodside Road and Central Avenue. But suddenly, after months and months of no visible progress, they’re open:

I don’t know if we needed another doughnut store in Redwood City, but that’s their call to make. And in any case, their name change reflects the changes that they are making to their business: they seem to be de-emphasizing doughnuts and placing more emphasis on coffee and tea, bagels and muffins, snacks and wraps, and sandwiches. I guess that I, for one, need to change my mental image of Dunkin’.

I’ve written plenty about Hallmark House and the years-long pause that it experienced, but it has been making good progress for a couple of months now. However, because it abuts the building where Dunkin’ is located, I had to take some photos of their progress:

This project is moving very quickly now, with visible progress being made every time I go by. At this rate the building’s 72 affordable apartments (all but one are one-bedroom units) will be back online soon and contributing to the city’s inventory of badly needed affordable housing. Incidentally, since someone is likely to ask, according to the city, rents for the one-bedroom apartments will range from $1,330 to $1,605.

Many projects go rather smoothly from start to finish, without any real pauses. Others, however, appear to grind to a halt and stay that way for long periods of time before resuming. The aforementioned projects are by no means the only ones in Redwood City that have experienced such pauses, but they are all clear examples of ones that took long visible pauses before recently resuming.

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