Into the Great Beyond

As you presumably know, I take one, two, or even three walks each week to explore Redwood City and to find things to write about. My weekly walks vary in length: some are as short as three or four miles, and some are as long as twelve. Every once in a while, though, I really push the envelope, and take a really long walk. Two weeks ago I did just that, exploring “the great beyond” — our northern neighboring cities of San Carlos and Belmont. I regularly write about the many projects going on in Redwood City, but of course we aren’t alone in experiencing a development boom. San Carlos has quite a bit going on as well, and even sleepy little Belmont is seeing its share of large development projects these days.

Given the way that both San Carlos and Belmont are laid out, I cannot hit all of their projects on a single walk, but given that a number of them lie close to, if not directly on, El Camino Real, by simply walking up that street and making a few minor deviations I am able to hit many of the big ones. San Carlos also has two or three large ones along Industrial Road, but once I got to Belmont I opted to cross over Highway 101 and come back on the east side, so I didn’t get close-up looks at them this time around. I do walk the length of Industrial from time-to-time, though, so I’ll do a better job with this projects in a future post.

The first project I checked out while on my walk north is the mixed-use building going up where Zest Bakery used to do business. Zest closed their doors in January 2020, but it took until mid-2021 for the building to be torn down. Work on the new building’s foundation was well underway by late 2021, and now the building’s exterior, at least, is pretty close to complete:

This four-story building, when finished, will contain eight condominiums (one of which will be affordable at the Moderate income level) on its upper three floors and a commercial space on the El Camino side of its ground floor. The eventual retail tenant will share that ground floor with the building’s internal parking garage, which will be accessible from the alley at the building’s rear (the above photograph shows the back and north sides of the building).

Further north, I checked in on the project going up at 993 Laurel St. You may know this as the single-story, ivy-covered building where Headlines salon used to be located (Headlines moved to 680 El Camino Real in San Carlos). This project has been in the works for quite some time; the sign indicating that the building was to be replaced was up for years (I have pictures of it from back in 2020, but it may have been up even longer than that). Whenever it was, the project to replace the existing building with a three-story mixed-use (office and retail) building with an internal parking garage got underway last May. On my most recent visit, the site looked like this:

By now, I expect that the ground-floor concrete has been poured, and the building is starting to creep skyward.

Moving on, I next stopped in at the long-empty site on El Camino Real just north of San Carlos Avenue where Applewood Pizza once had their San Carlos location. This project, too, has been in the planning stages for seemingly forever; it was approved in January of 2019, but it wasn’t until September of 2022 that the site began to be cleared. Since then, work has been making steady progress: the building’s ground floor is really starting to take shape:

This project, which not only replaced the Applewood Pizza building but the small adjoining building as well, will result in a four-story condominium building with small retail and restaurant spaces on the ground floor. On the three upper floors there will be a total of 24 condominiums, two of which will be sold at below market rates (one at the Moderate level, and one at Low). Seventeen of the condominiums will have two bedrooms, one will have three, and the rest will be one-bedroom units. This building, too, will have an internal parking garage; it will have space for 35 cars. Because the space available for the ground-floor garage is fairly small, though, cars will be squeezed in using a combination of tandem spaces, mechanical stackers, and about a dozen regular spaces (some of which will be ADA spaces, while some others will be for guest parking).

The above project being towards the northern end of San Carlos, I soon crossed the border into Belmont. After passing Harbor Boulevard, I came to the Firehouse Square project. The most visible part of this project, at the corner of El Camino Real and O’Neill Avenue, was completed some time ago and consists of a 66-unit affordable apartment building with a fair amount of ground-floor retail space. This project, for those who don’t know, was constructed on the site of Belmont’s second firehouse; a portion of that former building was preserved in the new one and is still visible along O’Neill Avenue:

So why was I paying a visit to a project that was completed some time ago? Because the project has a second phase, one that is currently underway along Fifth Avenue, which parallels El Camino Real one block to the west. This second phase will result in the construction of 15 market-rate townhouses which, as I observed when I paid the site a visit, are coming right along:

(Note the completed portion of the Firehouse Square project at the far left end.) These townhouses, as you may be able to tell, sit right behind the Iron Gate restaurant, and are thus very close to the intersection of El Camino Real and Harbor Boulevard. This is a terrific location: it’s an easy walk to the Safeway shopping center, for one thing, and getting to and from the freeway from here should also be easy. The fact that they are separated from El Camino Real by a handful of retail buildings along that street should help keep the noise down, and the fact that they face into what appears to be a single-family residential area means that the views out through the windows should be nice. All in all, I expect these to be attractive, high-end units that surely will draw interest from the buying public.

Not looking to buy? Just head east, over El Camino Real and over the Caltrain tracks, to come to one of Belmont’s truly massive residential projects: Artisan Crossing, at 1325 Old County Rd. (at Old County and O’Neill Avenue). Here is what this 250-unit apartment project looks like if you approach it from the south:

This particular building has an interesting front facade, which is located at the corner of Old County Road and O’Neill Avenue:

By shearing off a corner of the building, it has left a triangular plaza at the corner. That plaza will be open to the public, unlike the rooftop deck you can see taking shape above it. That will be for residents and their guests only.

Of the building’s 250 for-rent apartments, 15%, or 38 of them, will be affordable at some level.

Further north along Old County Road I came to the next project on my Belmont list. This one, also a residential project, is not quite as large as Artisan Crossing, but large nevertheless:

There, at 815 Old County Rd., you’ll find a five-story, 240,000-square-foot building under construction. This building will contain 177 for-rent apartments (27 of which will be affordable at some level) with enough space in its underground garage for 200 vehicles.

This particular project is a bit tricky to photograph; as you can probably tell, it sits on a “flag lot” that is located behind a MidPen Housing residential building. The driveway leading to the lot is the only frontage the site has on Old County Road. Because I could not enter the project site, and because immediately next door is a large apartment complex, sight lines are limited. But as you can see, the project is making great progress. I expect it’ll be complete either late this year or early in 2024.

That did it for Belmont, but there was a nearby project in Redwood Shores I needed to check in on. From where I was, it was a relatively simple matter to backtrack to Ralston Avenue, which I followed almost all the way to the freeway. Rather than attempt the freeway crossing on foot using Ralston Avenue itself, I took advantage of the cycling/pedestrian overpass just slightly north of Ralston. That dropped me into the Belmont Sports Complex, from which it was a relatively easy task to make my way over to Twin Dolphin Drive.

The project I was aiming for is taking place at the corner of Twin Dolphin and Shoreline drives. It will replace a handful of single-story brick office buildings with a modern, five-story office building and free-standing five-level parking garage. This project received the green light from the Redwood City Planning Commission back in March of 2021, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the site ever since. Until now, I’ve seen no signs of activity by the developer. This time, though, I actually saw evidence of the project getting underway: the construction fences surrounding the parcel were being erected and the trees that will remain were being protected as I watched.

As you can see, there isn’t much to look at yet, but I expect demolition to get underway quickly (if it hasn’t already). And the resulting building will be quite different from what has been there up until now:

I’ll have more on this project in the future, once construction really gets going.

I came back to my part of Redwood City by skirting the San Carlos Airport and then taking the paved path paralleling the freeway to Whipple Avenue. Before getting to the airport, though, I passed by the old Hotel Sofitel (which then became the Pullman Hotel); it seems to have yet another incarnation, now being called the Grand Bay Hotel San Francisco (what’s wrong with calling it Grand Bay Hotel Redwood City?). When I got to the airport, I went right by the building being transformed from a Burger King into a Starbucks. For those of you Starbucks lovers, it shouldn’t be long now:

Although I mentioned earlier that I didn’t get a good look at the San Carlos projects being built along Industrial Road, because some of them sit up close to the freeway I did get a fairly good look at two of them from the other side. First up is the project at 777 Industrial Rd., which is the conversion of the former Honda dealership building into a life science research and development building:

The steel structure is pretty much complete; soon it should start looking like an actual building again.

After I passed the new Alexandria Center for Life Science buildings (which have a handful of tenants, as indicated by the signs on the freeway side of the buildings), I next got a glimpse of the three-story office building that is rapidly nearing completion at 1091 Industrial Rd. (at Industrial and Brittan Avenue):

This photograph, in reality, doesn’t give an accurate indication of the progress this project is making. For one thing, a lot of progress has been made in the couple of weeks since I took the above picture. Plus, the lower floors, which are mostly blocked from view by the freeway center median, already have their exterior surfaces applied; only the topmost floor still needs to be enclosed. Until I can take a better picture from the Industrial Road side, though, take it from me: this project is zooming right along. Oh, and the resulting building is shaping up to be quite attractive…

That did it for the walk that day. For those of you keeping score, I believe I hit 20 miles that day. I don’t expect I’ll be doing too many walks that are quite that long — but then again, I’m due for a walk out to the tip of Redwood Shores, and getting out there and back is also about 20 miles. For a while, though, I plan to stick closer to home. Likely I’ll keep my walks in the ten-mile range. Which is good enough exercise, and which allows me to range all through the main part of Redwood City.

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