Good Day Sunshine

As much as I love and appreciate the rain, it does put a damper on my walking. This week I of course had no such issues: we had some clouds, but also a fair amount of glorious winter sunshine. That allowed me to take two long walks: one through downtown and out to the waterfront, and one out to and along Woodside Road. As usual, I found a couple of interesting things worth sharing. Before I get to those, however, for the sake of accuracy I need to clean up and/or clarify a couple of things from last week’s post.

First up, my characterization of the work going on along Maple Street was based on a brief visit to the vicinity of the Docktown Marina parking lot. Maple Street between that point and the end where it reaches the freeway was restricted to one lane of traffic, and the street was somewhat muddy and was being patrolled by a street sweeper. Conditions being far from optimal for someone on foot, I elected to stay back and report based on my distant observations. This week, though, I came at the site from the other direction: I took the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing and then the Bridge to Nowhere, which leads to a well-defined path through the 1548 Maple Street project (formerly “Strada”) site. That path ends at Maple Street directly across from where the work on the county’s Navigation Center is taking place. Since the 1548 Maple Street site is elevated to protect it from sea level rise, I was able to get a great view of the Navigation Center site progress while staying out of the way of the workers. The work going on over there is pretty much as I described it last week, and requires no corrections — although they have made additional progress, of course. But my vantage point also let me see what was going on with the 1548 Maple Street site itself, and that’s where a correction is needed. In my previous post I had noted activity on the 1548 Maple Street site and stated that work on that site had recommenced. On this visit, I also noticed activity on the site. But this time I could see what they were doing, and after some time I came to realize that the work going on there probably isn’t related to the 1548 Maple Street project itself, but instead is in service to the Navigation Center project. I’ve now concluded that the county is using the 1548 Maple Street site as a staging area for soil deliveries. Then, as soil is needed (to raise up the Navigation Center site, also for protection against sea level rise), it is transported across Maple Street and added to the county’s site.

This explains why I saw activity on the 1548 Maple Street site, but could find no evidence that building permits had been issued.

The other correction I wanted to make to last week’s post is to something I threw in at the very end. In describing the site where the newly proposed 590 Veterans Boulevard project would be constructed, I referred to the business there as “B.S.L Auto Center” and described it as “a used-car dealer that prominently also advertises that ‘We buy gold’.” While that does indeed seem to be the name of one of the businesses that operates there, it would probably be more accurate to say that 590 Veterans Blvd. is home to Buy Sell Loan, a pawn shop that has a subsidiary business (“B.S.L. Auto Center”) that buys and sells cars. This week I went by (but not in; I’ll have to go in sometime and see what a real pawn shop looks like) and noted that their signs only make minor mention of the fact that you can pawn or buy cars:

However, note the beautiful old Rolls-Royce up on a display stand towards the left side of the image. Also note the bottom part of the sign that they have out by the street:

Anyway, I’ve walked by this place a number of times and never paid it much attention. They’ve got my attention now, though…

As for the 590 Veterans Boulevard project itself, I haven’t had time to properly study the project plans yet. Thus, I have little to add to my brief mention of the project last week, which was to say that the proposed project is “a 6-story, 95-unit multi-family development project to be built at 590 Veterans Boulevard (in the front) and 91 Winslow Street (in the back).” But I will include here some of the renderings from those plans. Here is one showing the Winslow Street side of the building:

Although this is the more interesting side of this project — for one thing it includes a small open plaza — the building’s leasing center and main lobby look out onto Veterans Boulevard. That side of the building seems to be a bit less interesting, architecturally:

The first two floors of the building will contain the 150-space parking garage, along with four two-story apartments, all of which will face Winslow Street. The building’s remaining 91 for-rent apartments will be located on the building’s uppermost four floors. Entry to the garage will be from Veterans Boulevard (you can just make out the door to the garage in the above rendering: it is on the left side of the building’s face).

The walk I took this week out to the Bay side of Redwood City was not only to get a better look at the projects along Maple Street, but also to check on something much more imminent: Towne Ford’s move out to the Boardwalk Auto Mall. Because I own a Ford vehicle (an older pickup truck) that I have had serviced at Towne Ford, I’m on their mailing list, and last Monday I got an email from them announcing their upcoming move to 1A Bair Island Road — one of the buildings comprising the Boardwalk Auto Mall. Accordingly, I began my walk by exploring their current location on El Camino Real to see if there was any hint that they are moving (none, with one exception I’ll get to later). Then, I headed out to the Boardwalk Auto Mall to see if I could figure out how they were going to squeeze in an operation as large as Towne Ford.

As it turns out, they don’t need to squeeze. Until recently, the Boardwalk Auto Mall consisted of dealerships for the following brands:

  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • Jeep
  • Lotus
  • Nissan
  • Ram
  • Volkswagen
  • Mazda

But not too long ago, it seems, that final marque was stricken from the list: Towne Mazda has permanently closed. And since Towne Mazda had an entire showroom building to themselves, there is now plenty of room for Towne Ford:

When I was there, the Mazda logo was still on the building, but the showroom was pretty much empty. And the lot in front contained not a single Mazda — although it did have a half-dozen or so Ford pickup trucks. Towne Ford will be operating from their “old” location (where they’ve been since the 1950s, if you can believe it!) through this Sunday, January 16. On Monday, the 17th, they intend to open their doors at their new Bair Island Rd. location. The move itself, of course, will take days (if not longer) and probably has already begun.

This is probably a good place to also mention that for a time Towne Ford’s Fleet Sales center was located on Maple Street, right about where the county’s Navigation Center is being built. They vacated that spot a couple of months ago, and the one thing I did learn when going by Towne Ford’s El Camino dealership site was that the Fleet Sales center is now located at 643 Bair Island Rd. — which is a multi-story office building about a block farther along Bair Island Road from the retail dealership’s new digs. I haven’t actually found the fleet vehicles (trucks and vans) yet, but then again I haven’t really looked for them. If I had to guess, I’d say that they are parked on the lot in front of the old Century Park 12 Theaters, just behind the Broadway Auto Mall.

Wandering around downtown I went by the building on Main Street where Towne Ford got their start. They did so in this nicely restored historic building at 935 Main St.:

935 Main Street, which sits adjacent to the recently renovated “Young’s Auto Parts” building, was purpose-built in the year 1920 to be a new car showroom and service facility (Redwood City’s first, it seems). From 1920 to 1926 the building’s tenant was one David M. Flynn, a Ford dealer. In 1926, however, Flynn sold the dealership to a local banker: Frank K. Towne. Towne operated the dealership in this building for four years, after which he moved to a location at the corner of Middlefield Road and Winslow Street. Then, in the mid-1950’s, he moved again, to El Camino Real.

The building in which Frank Towne got his start in the automobile business has had a number of occupants over the years. Redwood City old-timers will probably remember it as the home to Popik’s Furniture. Recently the building was restored, and today it is home to — what else — a technology startup. These folks — Level Home Inc. — make a very clever smart lock whose mechanism fits entirely within the deadbolt: you simply replace your existing deadbolt mechanism (but not the keyway or the interior knob) with their product, and suddenly you have a lock you can control from your smartphone, computer, or whatever, while retaining the look and functionality of the lock you have today. If you walk by their offices on Main Street, while I don’t believe they have a showroom, they do have a window display showing off the lock itself, so you can at least see what you’d be buying. Check out their website for all of the details. And if you buy one, know that you’ll be supporting yet another Redwood City business.

While I was in the area I looked in on the massive three-story office building being constructed at 1180 Main Street. The exterior is pretty much done. In particular, one of the things I’ve been curious to see — the building’s outdoor public “stair” that is designed to be a place to sit and take in the sun — is finally in place:

And around the other side, over by the intersection of Lathrop and Elm streets, I saw what I believe is going to be the little coffee hut associated with this project:

See that mostly gray metal container with the rainbow-colored end? That, I believe, is going to be the little public coffee stand. You’ll be able to buy a coffee (and, presumably, some light food items) and then enjoy the sunny outdoor space in front of this modernistic office building. That space includes a section of Redwood Creek (in a concrete channel), although it rarely flows with much vigor (there is often a trickle running through the channel, but only after a heavy rain is there a more substantial — and visually interesting — amount of water flowing there). Of course, one could take their coffee and go sit on the steps shown in the earlier picture; especially when the sun is shining on them, as it is in the picture, those steps may be a really nice place to enjoy a brief respite.

Elsewhere in Redwood City, the Veterans Memorial/Senior Center project is making solid progress:

And the Hallmark House Apartments building appears to finally be done (there appear to still be some building materials up on the pool deck, but the construction fences are gone, as are pretty much all of the work trucks):

I’m so glad that particular project is finally behind us. Now I can spend more time watching the even bigger affordable housing project being built at 353 Main Street:

I didn’t see any signs of activity when I was there on Tuesday; hopefully I was just there too late (I took the above photo just after 4 p.m.), and everyone had already gone home. Given that this large building will contain 125 affordable apartments, we need it to be completed sooner rather than later.

We had perfect walking weather this week — and next week looks to be more of the same. I intend to take advantage of our beautiful winter sunshine to again get outside and hopefully walk to and through some less-well-known part of Redwood City. I don’t know exactly what that’ll be, yet, but something always comes up. In the mean time, stay safe, and enjoy the sunshine.

8 thoughts on “Good Day Sunshine

  1. Pingback: Honoring Veterans | Walking Redwood City

  2. Since I take my Mazda CX-5 for service to Towne Mazda and I didn’t receive any emails of a new location, and I don’t find any information on their website, I wonder if they are closing up shop for good. I know sales of Mazdas have been slow, so I wouldn’t be surprised. The next closest locations are in Burlingame, Fremont, and Santa Clara.

  3. I’m hoping that we get some trendy third wave coffee shop in that little hut. Ritual coffee already has a cafe in a repurposed container in Hayes Valley. St. Frank in Menlo Park is in a similar building…and has a location in the Meta HQ… this project being leased by the CZ foundation has me hoping this ends up being another St Frank’s. At least that’s my guess.

    • I’ve seen the one in MP; I have to wonder how much business they do. This one, too, will be interesting to watch. They are right across from Main & Elm, but once the South Main Mixed-Use project gets underway (which may happen soon now that Towne Ford is on their way out) M&E will soon be gone (but will be resurrected, eventually, in the rebuilt Perry Feeds shed). That will leave the coffee hut at 1180 Main with no little competition, but it’ll likely take a year or two for all this to work out.

      • The St. Frank’s in MP does pretty good business. All the tables were occupied this morning with a pretty solid line to order. It took a while until it caught on, but now it seems to have a pretty dedicated local following. It’s some the best coffee (espresso) in the area if you’re a bit of a coffee snob (I am). I’m guessing their rent might have been somewhat subsidized at first; having a café was a community benefit requirement set forth by the city in order to get planning approval for the adjacent office building. Perhaps CZ foundation will subsidize whoever occupies the 1180 coffee hut as well – I have to wonder if they’re chipping in on the rent for Humphry SlocombeIt’s. With that said not sure how much demand the hut at 1180 Main will have prior to Elco Yards getting built.

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