Get Ready for the Big One

As you may have heard, after two long meetings the Redwood City Council voted unanimously to approve the South Main Mixed-Use project, a huge project that will involve rebuilding six blocks that lie immediately outside of the Downtown Precise Plan area (plus one small building at the corner of El Camino Real and Jackson Avenue). I’ve written about this project before, but now that it has been approved, those of us who live in the area will need to start getting ready to adjust to the changes that this project will bring. Although construction isn’t likely to start for a year or two, some changes are likely to occur a bit sooner than that.

The six blocks that the South Main Mixed-Use project will primarily consist of are largely occupied today by Towne Ford and Hopkins Acura, along with the long-closed Redwood Roller Rink, a small self-service car wash, and the Main & Elm restaurant (Towne Ford’s showroom is just the tip of their presence in these six blocks; they also have a number of storage lots and support buildings scattered throughout). Here is a map showing those six blocks, plus one small triangular parcel, highlighted in purple:

[click the map for a version you can zoom in on]

As you can see, two of these blocks front onto El Camino Real. The properties are intersected by a number of streets, including Beech Street, Lathrop Street, and Main Street. A small segment of Cedar Street divides two of the blocks, but that segment will be abandoned and absorbed into the project. Today it dead-ends into the Caltrain tracks, and only serves the small self-service car wash on one side and the “Perry Feed and Fuel” shed property on the other (which is largely used by Towne Ford to store excess inventory). The following picture shows the intersection of Main and Cedar streets; Main is in the foreground, and the stub of Cedar that will be abandoned is close to the right side of the image. Note the car wash hidden among the palm trees in the center of the photo; it and the old roller rink building, which lies directly behind the car wash, will be torn down as part of this project. The Perry shed property is just outside of this picture, beyond the right edge.

Swinging my camera to the left, here you can see the two blocks of Cedar Street that will remain. As you can see, this particular parcel, which is bounded by Cedar, Lathrop, Beech, and Main Streets, is almost entirely taken up by Towne Ford.

That small triangle near the bottom of the map is separated from the nearest part of the project by a small segment of Shasta Street; that segment, too, will be abandoned and absorbed into the project. The following picture shows that small parklet:

The Perry shed is directly behind the large palm tree; the segment of Shasta that will be eliminated runs between the parklet and the shed.

I don’t know in what order the developer (Greystar Development) will tackle the various elements of this massive project, but I’m guessing that the closing of these two short street segments will be one of the earlier tasks that the developer will undertake. That will allow Greystar to consolidate the three parcels (the two large ones between Main Street and the Caltrain tracks, plus the triangular parklet) into one large parcel where two large office buildings and a new version of the Main & Elm restaurant will be built. In general traffic will not be affected since the major through streets won’t be altered much (although they all will be cleaned up and upgraded over the course of the project).

One street change that will occur affects Beech Street. Beech Street, where it reaches El Camino Real, will be bent such that it lines up with Lincoln Avenue on the other side of El Camino — although an island in the middle of El Camino Real will prevent cars from going straight through as a way to keep this project from adversely affecting traffic in the residential areas on the other side of El Camino. Beech Street today separates the showrooms of Hopkins Acura, on the north side, from Towne Ford, on the south side.

Where Hopkins Acura stands today there will one day be a seven-story apartment building. Towne Ford’s showroom will be replaced by a four-story commercial building that will have office space on the upper floors, plus a large “family friendly” retail space (the developer is currently in talks to house a new roller rink there) and a childcare center on the ground floor.

Given that these two automobile dealerships are being replaced, they’ll have to move. That is definitely something that will happen sooner rather than later, although I expect that the effort to relocate them will take some time. Hopefully they will remain in Redwood City, likely in a slimmed-down form. At one time I had heard that they could be squeezed in with the other Boardwalk auto dealerships, but I’m not sure where they’d fit. Then again, given the changes that the auto industry is experiencing, perhaps our local dealerships will move more to a model such as you see in many parts of Europe, where the dealerships are small with few vehicles on site. There, I believe you order your vehicle and it is brought in from either the factory or some remote storage location. Of course, finding a place to store vehicle inventory in our area is getting much more challenging, too, given that all of the sites where dealerships typically store their cars — various parcels within this project’s six blocks, the site of the old Century Park 12 theaters (for which a developer has plans for a large housing and fitness center project), and the city-owned parcel along Maple Street on the other side of Highway 101 (which will likely be turned into a new public park in the next five to ten years) — are all slated for other purposes. The folks who own these two dealerships, though, have had lots of warning that this project was coming, and so must have some ideas. I for one will be very interested to hear, or see, what those ideas are. Whatever they turn out to be, I expect that these dealerships will be moving sooner, rather than later. So that’s something to watch out for.

I mentioned that the Main & Elm restaurant will be moving. Bob Lutticken, the owner of Main & Elm, has apparently already signed a letter of intent to occupy the recreated Perry Feed and Fuel shed. The original tin shed, which although old enough to qualify as historic, has no notable history. It is not salvageable and thus will be torn down and then recreated in a form that, while echoing the shed, will be functional as a restaurant with a generous amount of outside seating. While I don’t know what the timing will be on the construction of the new restaurant building and the tearing down of the current Main & Elm, I presume that Main & Elm will be allowed to hang around as long as is reasonably possible. There certainly will be a gap between when Main & Elm’s existing location is closed and their new one is opened, a gap that I would think would be between one and two years in length.

One other building of note that will be torn down, likely sooner rather than later, is a small city-owned apartment building at the corner of Beech and Main streets:

This 23-unit apartment building was purchased by the city back in 2009 as affordable housing. The building is contaminated, however, and requires extensive rehabilitation. Because of this, only four of the building’s apartments are occupied, for a total of 11 residents. Instead of trying to salvage what is there, Greystar will be purchasing the building from the city and tearing it down. The existing tenants will be relocated elsewhere for the duration of the construction project, after which I believe they will be offered space in the affordable units within the project’s three new residential buildings (in total the South Main Mixed-Use project will contain 540 apartments, 147 of which will be affordable at levels ranging from Extremely Low to Moderate). This turns out to be something of a win-win, then: the city not only gets a nice chunk of change for a building that they otherwise would have had to pay to rehabilitate, plus the building’s 23 affordable apartments will be more than made up for by the apartments that Greystar will be constructing.

In total project is a big one, one that we need to be somewhat prepared for. When construction begins those of us who occasionally (or regularly) find themselves heading to, or passing through, the area will need to alter our ways. Although the result will be a major upgrade for a part of the city that is significantly underutilized, the disruptions caused by the construction process will affect our traffic patterns for the duration. Plus, the closing of Main & Elm, and the relocating of Towne Ford and Hopkins Acura will also take some getting used to for those of us who patronize those businesses. We’ll adjust, however, as we always seem to do with the seemingly ever-present construction projects that Redwood City has been witnessing over the last several years. And in the end, we’ll have an upgraded set of streets, a new restaurant, a new childcare center, and, very possibly, a new roller rink in addition to the new apartments and office space. That’s something to look forward to, I should think.

In case you haven’t heard, Redwood City recently instituted an electric leaf blower rebate program: Redwood City residents who currently have gas leaf blowers and are willing to trade them in are eligible for a rebate of up to $250 (the rebate is for half the pre-tax sales price of the electric blower you buy, up to a maximum of $250). This is a significant rebate, one that is intended to encourage a lot of residents to get rid of their noisy, polluting gasoline-powered leaf blowers and replace them with more environmentally friendly electric versions. I unfortunately already have an electric leaf blower (that I rarely use) and thus do not qualify, but if you do, consider taking advantage of this offer. In order to obtain the rebate you have to turn in your gas-powered blower to the city, show a utility bill proving that you are a Redwood City resident, and present the original receipt for the electric blower — which you must have purchased between November 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Note that the rebates are being offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and that there is a finite pool of money for these rebates. Thus, don’t delay; depending upon the popularity of this program you could lose out simply by waiting too long. Full details, including the form you must fill out in order to apply for the rebate, can be found on the city’s website, here. Oh, and spread the word.

2 thoughts on “Get Ready for the Big One

  1. The small apartment building at 1306 Main, corner of Beech was at one time the Locker Family Home. My grandfather, Charles Locker built it around 1910. He was a local carpenter, built several RWC houses, the old Congregational Church way back when it was on Jefferson. My Mom, her sisters & brother all lived in the home. I remember seeing the house when I was little. Age 73 now. They grew all their own produce. Had chickens, goats, a well, small water tower. Grandma Locker passed in 1949, Charles before her. The family rented out the house for a few years & eventually sold it. Then the apartment building was built there. I am the only Locker descendant left of my generation. I moved to El Dorado Hills from RWC in 2004. My Mom, her sisters, brother all went to Sequoia HS, as did my kids, grandkids.
    If you are interested I have a few pictures of the family house at 1306 Main. But the pics have people in them! Sally Buckley

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