Man About Town

In anticipation of next week not leaving me with much time to gather useful intel — what with Thanksgiving, and all — I took two separate walks this week, one into Redwood City and one into San Carlos. I had spent a lot of time updating the spreadsheet I use to track projects in San Carlos, and took the walk to visit a number of projects and ascertain their status. But I’m going to leave San Carlos for next week; this week I thought I’d take you on a short loop through parts of Redwood City in order to update you on the status of some of the more interesting projects here at home.

From my home in the vicinity of Sequoia Hospital (that is, near the intersection of Whipple Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas) I first headed over towards Red Morton Park in order to check on the progress of the Veterans Memorial/Senior Center project. On the way, though, I walked by the Orion Alternative Elementary School (formerly, John Gill Elementary) campus, wanting to check on the building being constructed to house the RCSD’s Mandarin Immersion program. This rather impressive building, which is located on the Avenue del Ora side of the campus, is really taking shape:

I hope I get a chance to tour it someday. It’s a pretty impressive addition to this historic campus (where my kids got their start in Redwood City’s public school system, I should note).

Over in Red Morton Park, now that the site for the new Veterans Memorial/Senior Center building has been cleared and groomed, work appears concentrated on digging for the building’s foundation, as well as doing some underground utility work. These guys were doing something with some large pipes:

And from a different angle, you can see how a good portion of the site has been dug down a couple of feet, presumably in anticipation of the building’s foundation:

After checking on this project, I took a quick spin around the Magical Bridge playground, and noted little to report. It did remind me of something that I had noted some time ago, however, that I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned:

Apparently, some of the planters around the playground (that are fenced off, by the way; this particular planter, for instance, is inaccessible by children, in case anyone was wondering) use a soil mix that incorporates sequestered carbon from organic waste. The process to create this soil mix, which the manufacturer claims is zero net energy, takes waste products and turns them into healthy soil. By doing so, they are keeping biosolids out of our landfills, while preventing tons of CO2 from being released into our atmosphere. While the soil company — DEN Soils — is headquartered in South San Francisco, the biochar (which is the main ingredient in their soils) is produced right here in Redwood City, by our sewage treatment plant in Redwood Shores (that would be BioForceTech Corporation, at 1400 Radio Road). All in all, this looks like a fascinating product, one that is worth supporting if you have a use for it (they seem to sell small quantities, in sustainable packaging, from their website).

From the playground I headed through to the east side of the park, and exited via Vera Avenue. But not before taking a peek into Arroyo Ojo De Agua which, I was delighted to see, is still running. Presumably, all of that rain we received a week or so ago is still making its way into our creeks and streams:

Lately this particular part of my trip has become a regular feature of many of my walks; it not only enables me to check up on the Veterans Memorial/Senior Center project, but also lets me check up on two sites of interest along Vera Avenue. The first is a ten-unit townhouse project being constructed at the corner of Vera Avenue and Adams Street:

As you can see, the project is moving along nicely, and should be wrapping up in a month or three. I find myself particularly attracted to this project, for some reason. Certainly, I like the size of the units, which are large: the amount of living space within the units ranges from 1,990 to 2,081 square feet — and that doesn’t include the two-car garages, which range from 450 to 490 square feet. Each unit has its laundry room, plus one full bathroom and a “study” on the ground floor, adjacent to the garage. The second floor contains the public spaces (living room, dining room, kitchen) and a half bath, while the top floor contains three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Each also has a deck, accessible via a door off of the kitchen, that looks out over the central driveway separating the development’s two five-unit buildings. I also like that this development is just one block off of El Camino Real, making it easy for the future residents to get to transit, shopping, and the like.

Just down the street is another site I’ve been watching for years now. Unfortunately, progress towards rebuilding the five small side-by-side duplexes that used to be located here is just about as slow as I’ve ever seen. Every once in a while I see a small sign or two of activity, but nothing substantial. With this particular project, I have to wonder why the developer doesn’t just clear off the lot and start all over. After all, the only thing that remains of the original buildings are their foundations, and those seem to be in very poor shape indeed.

In case you are curious, you’ll find the above site at 112 Vera Ave., just behind the Firestone tire shop on El Camino Real.

Once I reached El Camino Real, I jogged over to Maple Street and followed it down to the large office project being built at 1180 Main St. I walked around three sides of the project (the fourth side, Lathrop Street, is closed for construction and thus inaccessible at the moment), taking pictures of the latest progress. Here is a view of the bridge across Redwood Creek that leads to the entrance to this new building:

The exterior of the building itself looks largely complete; much of the ongoing work is now focused on the grounds around the building, which includes that entry bridge. Workers are also finally building the wide staircase that will lead up to the second floor along the Maple Street end of the building:

I observed work being done on the pathway that will run between the building and the Caltrain tracks. That pathway will be open to the public, although I’ll be curious just how much use it’ll get. Certainly, I’ll use it from time to time…

Here is one final view of the building, from the Elm Street end (I took this picture standing in the driveway for the Main & Elm restaurant):

You can just make out the entry bridge from this angle. When the project is complete, behind where that temporary construction fencing in the foreground is located today, there will be a bicycle storage area and a “coffee hut” made from a shipping container — at least according to the plans.

I next headed down Main Street. There, the large office building at 851 Main Street is just about wrapped up, at least from an exterior viewpoint. I presume that the interior is still being fitted out for the new tenants. I did manage to get a peek inside the retail space (which can be divided into two, depending upon who ends up leasing it) behind the historic facade, the windows of which are entirely covered with paper:

I was pleased to note that the east wall of the historic building — the one with all of the windows along the back of the retail space — has been preserved by the builder, as promised. Although that particular wall no longer provides a view outside — it has now become an interior wall separating the retail space(s) from a hallway containing restrooms for the retailer’s use — it is nice to be able to see the back wall of the automobile showroom originally built for Clifton Motors (a Chevrolet “agent”) back in 1922. The building’s historic front wall was able to be preserved in place during construction, but that rear wall, along with the wall along the building’s north side, had to be carefully removed during construction and then replaced once the two-level underground garage upon which this all now sits was finished.

From 851 Main St., I then started to loop back towards home. On the way, I dropped in on the County complex, to get some updated pictures of the county’s “COB-3” (County Office Building #3) project. There they’ve erected two steel structures that presumably are some sort of structural supports for the building (or perhaps they will be the elevator shafts?); I can’t wait to see how these fit in with what will mostly be a wooden structure. As you can see, they were also building forms for one of the most complex foundations that I’ve seen in a long time:

The site is a sea of wooden forms right now, although they’ve already poured some of the concrete and removed the forms over by the large red crane (which was being used to erect the second of the two steel tower-like structures; you may be able to just make that structure out behind the crane).

Ultimately this is going to be a really neat looking building (in my opinion, anyway). I’ve written about it before (see my post Timber! from last April), but as a reminder here is a rendering of what the building should look like when completed:

The five-story, 200,000-square-foot building will have lots of glass — providing lots of natural light — but will otherwise be mostly made of wood — even for the structural elements — using a technique called “mass timber” construction. The wood will of course also be heavily used for the interior of the building. Here is a rendering of the interior of what I’m guessing is the central, inset portion of the building you can see in the previous photo:

The chamber where the County Supervisors meet will be in this building, so we members of the public should be able to see into a least part of this new building once it is completed. It also will contain a number of offices for the County Supervisors along with a variety of county departments.

This all-electric building is designed to be a model of sustainable construction. High-efficiency LED lighting will supplement the large amount of natural light that the building will receive. An “air-source heat recovery chiller plant” will provide heating and cooling, in conjunction with heat-pump water heaters. And solar panels on the building’s roof, in conjunction with a large photovoltaic panel installation on top of the new county garage out towards Veterans Boulevard, should make the building “net zero”: over the course of a typical year it should produce as much power as it uses.

When you also consider that mass-timber construction is substantially more efficient and Eco-friendly as compared with conventional stick and steel construction (the building should qualify as LEED Gold), this will undoubtedly be a showpiece building that San Mateo County (and, by association, Redwood City) can be justly proud of.

From County Center, it was a mostly straight shot up Marshall/Broadway/Hopkins Avenue towards home, a walk that I enjoyed without gathering much in the way of reportable information. Hopefully, though, what I found on the main part of my walk has proven interesting enough, at least for this week. Finally, let me close with a “Happy Thanksgiving!”, since my next post won’t come out until the day after. From your roving Redwood City reporter/man about town, I hope you enjoy the brief and simple holiday.