Discover Redwood City

I would have walked over there anyway, given all of the ongoing activity east of Highway 101 in Redwood City these days, but as it turns out I had an appointment on Wednesday morning to take one of our cars over to the Boardwalk Auto Mall for servicing, so rather than begin my walk as usual from my front door, I dropped the car off and began my it from the service center. On my way to the dealership, thanks to the sight of a crane sticking high into the air, I knew that I was going to want to spend some time over at the site of the county navigation center project, and indeed I ended up doing just that. The work crews were craning some of the final modular units into place, and I stood for a long time at the intersection of Blomquist and Maple streets to watch the action:

This was the best spot to watch the module being lifted off the semi-trailer upon which it had been transported to the site: the semi was parked on the newly extended Blomquist Street, adjacent to the three-high stacks of residential modules lining that portion of the street. However, this new module was being dropped onto the backside of the navigation center site, where, as you can see, the crane was also parked. Since I could not see that spot from where I took the above photo, once the module came off the trailer I high-tailed it around to the temporary walkway running through the adjacent 1548 Maple Street project site. The crane, which by now has lifted many, many, of these modules, was too quick for me, though; by the time I got to where I could see the module again, it had already settled into position:

Work is rapidly finishing up on this project, and for good reason: the county has until March 31 to relocate all of the residents of the old LiveMoves Maple Street Shelter, located just a stone’s throw from this new project. Most, if not all, of those residents will presumably be moved into the navigation center, and thus the center needs to be fully up and running by the end of March. With the county aiming to complete this project by mid-March, they’ll have about two weeks to move folks in from the old shelter.

Once the old shelter has been emptied out, the city will do hazardous materials abatement on the one-story building. After that — by late summer or early fall — the company building the 1548 Maple Street project (who already extended Blomquist Street from its intersection with Maple Street out to the LifeMoves shelter) will tear down the old shelter and extend Blomquist Street all the way out to Redwood Creek. For now, that is where that street will terminate; a separate, follow-on city project would construct a new bridge over the creek and extend Blomquist all the way to the roundabout in front of the Boardwalk Auto dealerships. That follow-on project, though, is at least a year away from entering its design phase, and tentatively has a construction completion date of December 2028. Thus, don’t expect to be driving over the creek east of Highway 101 anytime soon. For now, we’ll have to make do with the “bridge to nowhere” that makes that hop; although not suitable for cars, it is great for pedestrians (I use it all the time) and cyclists.

I eventually wandered back over to and through downtown Redwood City, where I again found myself drawn by the sight of a crane towering high into the sky. And when I got to that one — to the site of the ELCO Yards project — I was delighted to see not one, but four cranes. One of the four was an under-construction tower crane; two mobile cranes of varying sizes were being used to construct it.

If you’ve never watched a tower crane being assembled, it’s a fascinating process. It takes time, though. For instance, here is a photograph I took on February 1, when the concrete foundation for this particular tower crane was being pumped in (via the green metal arm):

That concrete had to set, after which the vertical segments of the crane were lifted into position by a smaller, mobile crane (presumably, the larger one in my earlier photograph; I wasn’t around to watch that part of the assembly process). When I got to the site on Wednesday, the central tower was in place, and the control cab had just been set into position. I could see a couple of workers up there: it appeared that they were mostly just waiting for the next piece of the crane to be lifted up to them, although some may have been bolting that cab into position. Although I didn’t have all day, I did spend about an hour just watching them getting the next piece — which was a large section of the platform upon which (I think) the crane’s boom would later be mounted — fully assembled and made ready for lifting:

While I sat waiting, a semi-trailer with the crane’s lifting motors backed in next to me; I presume that those were next to be hoisted to the top of the tower, although I couldn’t stick around to watch that (as of today, Friday, the tower crane appears to be fully assembled).

As one who built a lot of things from an Erector Set as a kid, the process seemed somewhat familiar, but of course on a significantly larger scale. This particular tower crane is located at the northern end of ELCO Yards parcel E, which is the triangular one bounded by Main Street, the Caltrain tracks, and Chestnut Street. It stands roughly where the Redwood Roller Rink once was. I don’t believe that it can reach all the way to the southern end of that particular parcel, but for some time now there has been yet another large mobile crane located near the intersection of Chestnut and Main streets; that crane will likely remain to provide full coverage over the entire span of the parcel.

I’m curious to see if a tower crane will be used on any of the ELCO Yards project’s remaining four parcels. Probably not, given that they are all smaller than this one, and thus can probably be serviced by a large mobile crane standing beside the parcel under construction. We’ll see soon, though, since the other parcel under active construction at the moment is parcel B, at the corner of El Camino Real and Cedar Street. It will be the next to require a crane of some sort.

Very close to parcel B, but across El Camino Real and down a couple of blocks, is the future site of the Redwood City Discovery project, which is often referred to as the “Record Man project.” It has that informal name, of course, because it will take the place of the Record Man building, along with the next-door, now-empty building that used to house Cycle Gear (who has moved several blocks down El Camino Real, just a block or two south of Woodside Road) and the Happy Donuts building. These ones:

This new project will consume the remainder of the block along El Camino Real, and stand immediately adjacent to the six-story, 39-unit affordable housing project now under construction as part of the ELCO Yards project:

I was interested to note that in addition to replacing the three buildings shown in the earlier photograph, the project will also replace one residential building that sits behind Happy Donuts, facing Madison Avenue:

This residential building, which looks like a single-family home at first glance, is actually a four-plex; look closely and you can see multiple entry doors and, on the left face of the building, four addresses.

If this project seems familiar, I’ve written about it before. However, that was an earlier incarnation, before sanity prevailed and the building’s design was toned down somewhat. After a couple of rounds of redesign, the project was unanimously approved by the Redwood City Council at its January 23 meeting (after having also been given a unanimous stamp of approval from the city’s Planning Commission).

The project, as approved, should result in the creation of a six-story, 130-unit apartment building. When completed, the building should look something like this (note that this rendering also included the under-construction apartment building with which Redwood City Discovery will share the block; that building is on the far right, partially blocked by the tree in the center island of El Camino Real):

Of the building’s 130 apartments, 105 of them will be studios. There will also be 14 one-bedroom units, eight two-bedroom units, and three with three bedrooms each. Most of the apartments will be leased at the prevailing rate, but 26 of them (20%) will be deed-restricted as below-market for 55 years. Those affordable units will be distributed throughout the building, and will be a mix of sizes: 21 will be studios, three will be one-bedroom units, one will have two bedrooms, and one will have three bedrooms.

The rendering shows trees up on the roof: that roof will not only contain some 1,700 square feet of solar panels, it will also have a rooftop deck with outdoor kitchen, seating, an area for outdoor games (ping-pong or some such) and a fair amount of planting to give the deck some privacy. That privacy is presumably needed since this building will sit directly across El Camino Real from the Huxley and Highwater luxury apartment buildings, both of which are taller than this new building.

The building’s ground floor won’t contain any retail space, but to give it some visual interest and thus make the building more interesting to those of us who will be walking by, eleven ground-floor apartments will be located on the ground floor facing El Camino Real, and all eleven will have exterior entrances and small “stoops” protected by planters and gates. A twelfth unit, I should note, will also be located on the ground floor but will face onto Madison Avenue, and four more will face onto the walkway that will run behind the building (parallel to El Camino Real). These five other ground-floor apartments will have exterior entrances, but no stoops — their front doors will apparently be at ground level.

Here is another rendering showing a closer view of the building’s ground floor on the El Camino Real facing side:

The building’s main entrance, which opens onto the lobby, will face El Camino Real. It can just be made out in the above rendering: the doorway appears to have a white surround. There will be a secondary entrance facing Madison Avenue, although that one, I believe, will be for residents only. Entrance to the building’s parking garage will also be located off Madison Avenue, in the far back corner of the building:

This rendering also shows another interesting feature of the building: the fact that as it gets away from El Camino Real the building steps down to a single-story. This was done in large part to keep the building from looming over, and shading, the house that is located on the adjacent Madison Avenue property as well as some apartments that are located behind today’s Record Man building.

On the subject of the building’s parking garage, it will be a single-level underground garage with room for 110 cars and 22 bicycles (an additional 44 bicycles will be accommodated inside the building on the ground floor, and the plans appear to show wall-mounts for individual bicycles in many of the apartments themselves). In order to squeeze in so many cars, mechanical stackers will be used that allow three cars to be parked in the space normally needed by one. The garage will also have some amount of EV charging, although just how much isn’t clear.

Because the project will be occupying a handful of parcels along El Camino Real plus one along Madison Avenue, the resulting parcel is L-shaped. Accordingly, the building itself is also somewhat L-shaped. And where the two legs of the L meet, tucked away from the nearby streets, there will be a patio and community garden (where “community” refers to the building’s residents; it won’t be open to the public). Thanks to yet another rendering by the building’s architect, we can get some idea of what this private space might look like:

This rendering also reveals that the rooftops on the stepped-down portions of the building will have plantings.

All in all, this is a pretty nice design. I was especially interested to note that the developer intends to use modular construction to rapidly assemble this building on-site. Thus, although the usual work will need to be done in order to bring utilities to the site and to dig and construct the building’s underground garage and foundation, after that the building should rise relatively quickly. Many of the building’s apartments are identical to one another, meaning that they may be able to be built in assembly-line fashion. Regardless, it appears that individual apartments will be constructed, presumably complete with windows and doors, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and all of the electrical outlets and built-in light fixtures, in an offsite factory and then trucked to the site where they will be assembled, using a crane, into the final building in much the same way that the county’s navigation center has been. So although it won’t go up overnight, it should take considerably less time, at least on-site, than did, say, either of the two conventionally built apartment buildings that stand across El Camino Real. Certainly, I’m looking forward two watching the process. It’ll be time to get out my camp chair again! But not for some time; I don’t expect this project will break ground until next year.

I hope you all enjoy the site of a construction crane, since it appears they’ll be dotting the Redwood City skyline for quite some time to come…

The developers of the mixed-use project planned for 1125 Arguello Street — where the A-1 Rental place used to be, on Arguello just south of Whipple Avenue — will be holding an “in-person Community Open House” to show off their current plans for the project. It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about this project (almost two years!), so I’m interested to note that the project is still very much in the works. It hasn’t yet been approved by the city, so don’t expect demolition or construction anytime soon, but anyone interested should check out the project website ( and/or sign up to attend the in-person open house, which is scheduled for Thursday, February 23, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the project site.

As a reminder, or in case you haven’t read my prior writings on this project, the project will consist of a four-story office building (totaling about 300,000 square feet), 33 affordable for-sale condominiums, and a public childcare center assembled from the two historic homes currently standing at the corner of Arguello Street and Whipple Avenue. Unless the plan has changed, the office building will be constructed using mass-timber construction, much as how the county’s new office building on Marshall Street at Middlefield Road is — an aspect of the project that is particularly exciting and seems appropriately fitting for a building in a city named after a type of tree…

Although you won’t find me there — I’m not at all into this kind of thing — Redwood City’s (and, indeed, the Peninsula’s) first legal cannabis dispensary is opening its doors tomorrow, February 11, at 9 a.m. Called “Embarc Redwood City,” you’ll find them online at and in person at 1870 Broadway, in the building just across Broadway from the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market:

Of course, Embarc may be the first, but it won’t be the only cannabis dispensary in Redwood City: the City Council approved four such businesses, as I recall. I’ve been monitoring the construction of this one, which is being built out at the corner of Broadway and Hamilton Street:

It’ll be interesting to see how these businesses do.

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