COVID may not be entirely done with us, but life is returning to something approximating normal, at least in our household. My wife and I recently planned a couple of trips between now and the end of the year that will involve me doing something I haven’t done in well over two years: boarding an airplane. And last night marked another milestone in our reentry into society: we went to a theater for the first time since the COVID lockdowns began. And not just any theater: we went to Redwood City’s own Fox Theatre, to attend the first installment in their new speaker series.
For some 15 years my wife and I, along with some friends, attended the Celebrity Forum Speaker series at Foothill College’s Flint Center. We saw some amazing speakers, including Joe Biden (years before he became president, of course), plus many, many other speakers from all walks of life. It was educational and enlightening, and well worth the cost. Unfortunately, that series came to an end in 2019, not because of COVID but because the Flint Center was deemed not to be earthquake-safe, and thus needed to undergo a multi-year renovation. Of course, COVID would likely have derailed it anyway, but as it stands that particular speaker series is now in the history books. But a related series just kicked off right here in Redwood City, with a terrific speech on Thursday night by noted travel writer and PBS travel show host Rick Steves.
We were a bit nervous to take this step back towards normalcy, but we’d been told that not only were masks required, so was vaccination: that they’d be checking our vaccination status at the door. As it turns out, mask wearing was sporadic (although we wore ours), and not everyone had their vaccination status checked (ours was). But I still felt pretty comfortable, and the overall experience left me feeling as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’m now looking forward to the remaining five speakers in the series. If you’d like to join in, there is still a fair amount of room for additional attendees; the theater was probably only about half full. Do check out the lineup, and purchase tickets online at the Fox Theatre website. Note that you can also purchase tickets by phone, although the box office remains closed.
For another activity worth checking out, the big “tent” is up on Courthouse Square and Putt’n Around Mini Golf is back in business! The city calendar only shows it lasting through April 3, so although it might actually linger longer than that, I wouldn’t count on it. If this sounds like something you and your family would like to do, the cost is reasonable — $9 for adults and $6 for youth 11 and under — and it looks like fun. My wife and I are planning to give it a go; if we do, I’ll likely report about the experience here.
One effect from COVID that has lingered here in Redwood City are the temporary “parklets” and street closures that the city instituted to help our various dining establishments operate safely during the pandemic. The results proved so popular that the city is giving serious consideration to lengthening the term of the program, which is currently set to expire on July 5, 2022. This includes continuing the closure of the 2000 block of Broadway. The City Council will be considering the issue at one of their May 2022 meetings, but before that occurs the city will be holding a Q&A session in which we members of the public can provide feedback for consideration by the council. If you have strong feelings about the parklets and street closures one way or another, or simply want to know more about what the city has in mind, the city’s Q&A session will be held via Zoom at 1 p.m. on March 31. I’ve already signed up: you need only provide your name and an email address to which the Zoom link will be sent. Interested? Click this link to be taken to the city’s sign-up page. And whatever you do, make sure to continue supporting Redwood City’s many fine merchants and restaurants! If you, like me, continue to be wary of catching COVID — or if you simply want to enjoy our outstanding (a little too outstanding, considering the season and our drought situation) weather, there are plenty of great restaurants with outdoor seating.
On the development front, the latest addition to the city’s Development Projects web page is a new 68,000-square-foot three-story (sort-of) office and lab building being proposed to replace the one story office building currently located at 1200 Marsh Road. I say that the building is “sort-of” three stories because the design calls for two stories of office space elevated above a ground-floor parking garage. Like the building being constructed at 1390 Woodside Road (by the Bank of America next to Woodside Plaza), at ground level there will only be a small (1,500 square feet, in this case) lobby providing access to the upper floors, plus an exit stairwell, trash enclosure, and utility rooms. Otherwise, the ground floor will be a building-sized parking garage. Between the parking spaces beneath the two office floors and the surface parking spaces surrounding the building, there should be enough room to park 193 cars, plus some number of bicycles and motorcycles.
The location is a bit of an odd one; most of us have probably passed by it many times without ever realizing it was there. The triangular parcel sits up against the southbound Highway 101 offramp to Marsh Road, and is surrounded on one side by Marsh Road and on the remaining side by … Marsh Road (it splits here; both arms are named Marsh Road):
I spent some time trying to get good photographs of the existing building and only partly succeeded. Between the fencing, the landscaping, and the concrete channel containing Marsh Creek that runs alongside Marsh Road, it’s hard to get a good view of the building. This is about the best I could do:
Being completely surrounded by roads, a somewhat taller building on this site won’t have much impact on its surrounding neighbors. There are houses along this part of Marsh Road — they were right behind me as I took the above picture — but as you can see they are a fair distance from the office building. Really, the only impact will likely come from an increase in the amount of traffic making its way to and from this building. All vehicular access will use the bridge that currently spans the Marsh Creek channel, which lines up with Hoover Street (as you can see if you look closely at the map shown earlier, the driveway and bridge are represented by a faint gray line that looks like an extension to Hoover Street — which otherwise dead-ends into Marsh Road — and leads to the existing parking lot). This is that bridge today:
Not knowing how many cars currently (well, in normal times) go to and from the existing building, it’s too early to say what the increase in traffic volume will be during commute hours. But that will be revealed as this project goes through the approval process, in the form of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
As for what the building should look like, as is typical the architect provided a couple of nice renderings showing what it should look like from various viewpoints. For instance, for those heading southbound on Highway 101, as you reach the Marsh Road offramp you would see something like this:
Or, for those traveling eastbound on Marsh Road towards Highway 101, it would loom up from out of the bushes like this:
And for those heading south on Rolison Road and making the bend onto the narrower arm of Marsh Road westbound, it would look like this:
Note the bridge across the creek channel; that is the one that exists today, that I showed in an earlier photograph.
There isn’t much to say about the interior of the building’s upper two floors, since the plans show them as pretty much wide open, except for bathrooms, elevator shafts, and stairwells. Whomever leases the building would design the interior to best suit their needs, so the developer — in this case, The Tan Group, which is a Palo Alto-based commercial real estate firm — would initially only construct the building’s shell and basic infrastructure.
The 1200 Marsh Road project is only at the proposal stage, so it’ll be some time before any construction gets underway (assuming the project makes it to that point). But other projects are of course underway in Redwood City, although for some of them the signs of activity are a bit subtle. Just today (Friday), for instance, I observed AT&T taking down their cables from the poles that run through the ELCO Yards project:
This is one of the very first steps in the demolition of the numerous buildings that occupy the six blocks where ELCO Yards will be constructed. I imagine that those power poles will come down entirely, with all of the utilities placed underground, so that no wires are visible in the final development.
A somewhat more visible sign of this project’s progress is the underground utility work that is taking place on El Camino Real at Jackson Avenue (between Tacos El Grullense and The Record Man); that work is apparently being done in preparation to build the project’s six-story affordable apartment building that will take the place of the old Precision Tune Auto Care building:
As will undoubtedly become a regular thing for me, I again this week walked over to the bay side of the freeway in order to check on the progress of the two substantial projects being built over there. I was surprised to see that the portion of Maple Street leading from the Docktown Marina parking lot to where Maple Street dead-ends into the highway (behind the police station, at the LifeMoves shelter) has been closed off, and that a temporary road has been constructed through the middle of the 1548 Maple Street project parcel to provide access for both the shelter and the Silicon Valley Clean Water pumping station (which is in the process of being completely rebuilt). This temporary road is quite impressive. While I was there it was being used by a variety of vehicles, including cement mixers heading to the pumping station project. I was pleased to see that a wide bicycle/pedestrian pathway was also constructed alongside this temporary road, with concrete barriers providing some protection from the cars driving by:
From the still-open part of Maple Street I was able to peer over the fencing to take a picture of the activity that was taking place in the closed-off section:
As you may recall, there used to be a tall concrete block wall along the right side of Maple Street here, a wall that presumably kept the soil from the greatly raised development site from spilling out onto Maple Street. That wall has now been completely removed. I’ll be curious to see what happens next; presumably this edge of the raised site will now be contoured to angle down over the closed portion of Maple Street, which has been abandoned and will be absorbed into the final project. But it’ll take another visit or two to confirm that, so stay tuned…
That’s about it for this week, but I’ll leave you with one last photograph: a pretty view of Redwood Creek, the 1548 Maple Street project site (towards the right edge of the image) and what’s left of Docktown Marina — which is looking pretty barren these days — taken from across the creek. Have a good week!