L’Chaim (To Life!)

When I first saw the latest development proposal on Redwood City’s Development Projects webpage, I was puzzled by the name, which is “Redwood Life.” To be more accurate, though, the project’s name is “Redwood LIFE”: the second word is an acronym for “Lab and Innovation Focused Environment.” While I don’t actually believe that they came up with the phrase “Lab and Innovation Focused Environment” and then realized that the acronym was LIFE — more likely, they started with the acronym and came up with the phrase — it certainly is an appropriate moniker for a life sciences campus, which this new development is intended to be (and the existing campus partially is already).

Once I got past the name, the next thing that that caught my eye is that the proposed project is for Redwood Shores, not far from the Oracle campus. We don’t see many project proposed for Redwood Shores, although to be fair, just a couple of weeks ago Redwood City’s Planning Commission approved a proposal for a five-story office building and a five-story parking garage to replace a handful of single-story buildings at the corner of Twin Dolphin and Shoreline drives. As for this new project, though, it is a complete rethinking of an existing office campus, currently called Redwood LIFE, as indicated by the sign in the above image.

Having gotten past the name and the location, my eyes bugged out when I saw the size of the proposed project: 3.39 million square feet in 16 buildings on an 84 acre site. That is one massive project — bigger than Redwood City has seen for many, many years. Indeed, since the construction of Redwood Shores itself, the only project I can think of that comes close is the Pacific Shores Center, out at the end of Seaport Boulevard. (Pacific Shores Center, which began construction in the 1990s, consists of about 11 buildings on 106 acres of land. The existing Redwood LIFE buildings were also built around that same time, so I guess I should count that project, too.)

On the existing Redwood LIFE campus today there are 20 buildings that over time would be torn down and replaced with (up to) 16 new buildings, one of which would be a 150-room hotel. The new campus would be built out in four separate phases, and thus would take quite a bit of time to complete. But doing so would keep the existing office campus from being completely disrupted for the several years that demolition and construction would take.

Here is a map showing the location of the Redwood LIFE property, which I’ve highlighted in pink (click on the image for a version you can zoom in on):

For orientation, the little white bit in the lower leftmost corner of the map is a small portion of the Oracle campus.

The project site is to the northwest of Marine Parkway, and separated from that road by a wide grass strip (which also helps to separate it from some nearby homes). Bridge Parkway curves around the property, and Island Drive cleaves the site in two. The grayish squares within the pink area shown above represent the buildings on the site today. There are four with an Island Drive address (900, 975, 1100, and 1300 Island Dr.) and 16 with a Bridge Parkway address (800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000, 2200, 2400, 2600, 2800, 3000, 3200, 3400, 3600, and 3800 Bridge Pkwy.)

From the outside, the existing buildings appear to all be one, two, or three stories tall. For instance, the following picture shows three of the five buildings in the triangular chunk of land; these happen to be 1000 Bridge Pkwy. (on the left) and 1400 and 1200 Bridge Pkwy. (on the right):

Here is 1600 and, peeking out from behind on the left, 1800 Bridge Pkwy:

I was curious to note that some of the existing buildings are in the process of being remodeled; presumably those would be demolished in a later phase, and thus the remodeling work won’t go for naught. Of course, approval for a project of this size, assuming that it is granted, will take at least a year or two (or more), so any remodeling — which is likely being done at the behest of a current or future tenant, to make the space better suited to their needs — won’t be a complete waste regardless.

Finally, here are a couple of buildings at the far northeast corner of the property (3200 Bridge Pkwy on the left, 3400 Bridge Pkwy in the middle, and 1300 Island Dr. on the right):

If you look closely, you’ll see that 1300 Island Dr. is also currently being remodeled.

As for what the developer wants to construct, here is their description of the project from the preliminary plans they submitted to the city:

Located on approximately 84-acres between Belmont Slough and Marine Parkway, the Redwood LIFE project will transform the existing 20-building office park into a premier life sciences campus that thoughtfully engages its location and community. The Redwood LIFE project envisions the carefully sequenced development of research and development space (laboratory and office), a hotel with 150 keys, and several amenity spaces serving the campus and community — creating a vibrant 3.39 million square foot campus across four reconfigured parcels. Over the course of development, the existing 1990’s-era buildings will be demolished and replaced with up to 16 new buildings. Parking will shift from existing surface parking to a thoughtful mix of above-grade garages and podium parking, thereby allowing for a significant expansion of the site’s open spaces, for both passive and active use. Access to the waterfront will also be enhanced.

The buildings on the existing campus are pretty widespread, with lots of grass and trees. Also, a lot of asphalt: a large percentage of the existing site is occupied by parking lots. One nice aspect of the new project is that parking will be moved to standalone above-ground parking garages and to garages within some of the new buildings, freeing up more land for other uses. Some of that land will be occupied by the new buildings, which on an individual basis appear to be larger than the individual buildings that are there today (I don’t yet have the sizes of the existing buildings, so it is hard to say for sure, but the existing buildings total to about 1 million square feet, vs. the proposed 3.39 million square feet in the new development). Certainly, the new buildings will be taller than what is there today: nearly all are to be five or six stories tall (there is one four-story building in the mix). The tallest, a six-story building, would be 118 feet to the top of the walls surrounding the rooftop equipment. To put that in perspective, the developer shows that building relative to the Oracle towers, the tallest of which is 215 feet (also to the top of the walls surrounding the rooftop equipment).

As for what the new buildings might look like, well, the developer did include some attractive renderings that give us some idea of how the resulting campus might appear (but of course take these with a grain of salt; the project is very preliminary at this point and likely will change in the upcoming months and years):

The above view is looking north. The road you see is Island Drive.

This second rendering is also looking north, and shows one of the project’s many attractive outdoor spaces. Although I don’t expect to ever work there, I assume that the outdoor areas will be open to the public. If so, I look forward to walking along some of the development’s many paths someday.

That’s about it for Redwood LIFE, at least for now. So far, we have the big picture but none of the interesting little details. Those, however, will likely come over the next couple of months. As they do, I’ll be keeping an eye on them. And if I discover anything truly interesting in those additional details, you just know that I’ll write about it.

Elsewhere in the city I continue to see signs of progress on a great many projects, both in Redwood City and in San Carlos. I’ll be writing about those in the next couple of weeks, but I did want to let those of you who haven’t already heard that the large project formerly known as South Main Mixed-Use finally has an official name, “ELCO Yards,” and a website to go along with it: https://elcoyards.com. This project was approved by the Redwood City Council last November, but has yet to break ground — although some recent infrastructure work in the area that resulted in some of the area’s streets being torn up for a time may have been done in service of the project. In any case, I wanted to direct your attention to the new website since it has lots of detail on the various aspects of this six-building office/housing/retail/child care center/etc. project. Plus, the experience of using the website is just neat: someone spent a great deal of time on this thing. The renderings are amazing, and simply by scrolling you get a neat fly-through of the future development. All of what is shown, of course, will replace Towne Ford, Hopkins Acura, and a number of buildings behind those properties, all the way to the Caltrain tracks.

A short film at the end of the long scroll ends with “revving up in 2021,” so I presume that construction on at least part of this project — which, I believe, will be done in phases — will be getting underway in the next couple of months. Given that the most recent public meeting on the project was with the Architectural Advisory Committee (on January 21, 2021) and concerned the two multifamily residential buildings (A and D), I would guess that those are the buildings that will be started on first. In case “buildings A and D” don’t mean much to you, building A would occupy the entirety of the block where Hopkins Acura is located today (part of the block is also used by Towne Ford), and thus would have some frontage along El Camino Real. Building D, on the other hand, would be located on the block behind it, and would have a large amount of frontage on Main Street. Building D would occupy most of, but not quite all of, the block where the Main & Elm Restaurant is located today (the Main & Elm building would be torn down, but the small single-story building at the corner of Main and Elm streets would remain, to sit in the shadow of this new seven story building). Both buildings would be separated from the remainder of the project by Beech Street, and would be separated from each other by Lathrop Street.

7 thoughts on “L’Chaim (To Life!)

  1. Pingback: One of These Days… | Walking Redwood City

  2. With respect to the Redwood LIFE proposal… one way to imagine the scale is to compare the size to the Oracle campus. I found a reference on the web that the Oracle footprint at Redwood Shores is roughly two million square feet. This LIFE proposal is 3.3 million? Wow.

  3. Regarding ELCO Yards, I wonder if they found space to incorporate a roller rink. I had heard that there was a push to reincarnate the old Redwood Roller Rink, but I don’t see it in the website. My guess is that it didn’t make the final cut.

    I also wonder if Hopkins Acura and Towne Ford have found a new location? I bought my MDX at Hopkins in 2008, so I would be sad to see them leave. I used to drop my MDX off in the morning for service, walk to downtown to pass the time, and then walk back to pick up my car when it was ready.

    • > Regarding ELCO Yards, I wonder if they found space to incorporate a roller rink.

      The old Redwood Roller Rink building will go away, but last I heard the large space on the ground floor of building B (labeled “E1 – The Nest” on the ELCO Yards website) was not only sized for a roller rink, but that Greystar, the developer, had been in talks with a potential operator of a roller rink. Things could change between now and when that building is complete, but we may indeed get one within this new development.

      > I also wonder if Hopkins Acura and Towne Ford have found a new location?

      I wonder that, too. In the past I’ve had Hondas that I got from Honda Redwood City, which was walkable from my house (making service visits really convenient). Primo Honda (which was Honda Redwood City, but is now in San Carlos) is still kinda walkable, but much less convenient. But I no longer own a Honda; now my wife and I have a Chevy Bolt, which we got from Boardwalk Chevrolet. Once the Highway 101 Pedestrian Underpass project is complete, that dealership, too, will be walkable, at least for me (although, the car, being electric, requires almost no service…). I had heard at one point that both Towne Ford and Hopkins Acura would be moving out to the Boardwalk dealership area, but I take that with a grain of salt; there just doesn’t seem to be enough room. But I’m guessing we’ll soon know…

    • Greystar (the ELCO developer) lied multiple times to the public and Council during the approval process. They are a mega-developer with a horrendous reputation that is well deserved. Just Google “Greystar complaints”. They made empty promises regarding the roller rink (nothing in writing) and only providing green space the size of Courtyard Square despite an 8-acre site and projected profits of $1B+ over the lifetime of the project. Council got rolled on this project and the developer is laughing all the way to the bank. Developers LOVE Redwood City and it shows.

  4. That elcoyards website is amazing! Thanks for sharing. I use that part of Main Street to get to downtown. Will definitely avoid it once construction is well underway.

    It is a shame they are leaving that small building near Main/Elm. You would think they could incorporate it, too, but maybe someone didn’t want to sell.

    • I agree about the small building near Main & Elm; I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the talks between Greystar and the owner of that building.

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