Getting Started

I’ve been closely following the progress of the Habitat for Humanity project going up at 612 Jefferson Ave. This is an unusual project for Habitat in that it is a high-rise building (six stories) on a tiny downtown lot; most of their other projects are townhouses and the like. I’ve written about the project on several occasions, but if you want more details on the building itself, the post that probably has the most useful information is from back in March of 2017, and is called Habitats and History.

Since the project was announced I’ve been wondering if it would follow Habitat’s traditional “sweat equity” model. Given the high-rise nature of this building, I presume that more of this project will be done by professionals, rather than the future homeowners. But just this week Habitat announced that they are taking applications from potential homebuyers for this project’s 20 condominiums, and before they get into the somewhat detailed list of requirements, they say this:

Applicants must meet our income and credit guidelines, in addition to other requirements, such as being willing and able to perform up to 500 hours of sweat equity (volunteer hours) on the construction site, attending workshops, and volunteering in other Habitat programs.

So buyers will be expected to help build this project and/or another Habitat project. Fortunately, Habitat has other projects in progress around the Bay Area and so they can direct the available labor to whichever project needs it at the time. Although surely this project will rely on professionals to perform tasks that have safety implications — which to my mind is pretty much everything involved with putting together the basic structure and then putting on the exterior walls, windows, and roof, I imagine that tasks such as pulling wires, running plumbing pipes, framing interior walls, putting up drywall, and finish work could be done with mostly volunteer labor (by the future homeowners as well as others) once the basic structure of the building is in place.

In any case, Habitat has started accepting applications for the building’s 20 condos — which range in size from one bedroom to three bedroom units — but only for a limited time: until October 23 at 5 p.m. If you or anyone you know are interested, spread the word (and quickly!). The relevant information and a link to the application can be found at http://habitatgsf.org/jeffersoninfo/.

Finally, here is a week-old picture of the site, showing their (almost) current progress:

What you see here is the building’s ground floor level, which will contain the building’s parking garage (with its entrance towards the left) and its small lobby (with its entrance toward the right), along with the bike parking area, the trash room, stairways and an elevator, and a couple of utility rooms. The upper five floors, which will each consist of four condominiums, will be constructed on top of what you see above.

The Habitat project is in its beginning stages; I imagine that these particular projects take quite some time to complete. Redwood City has another high-rise housing project underway that is much farther along, Greystar’s huge apartment building going up at 1409 El Camino Real. While the project still has a way to go, this week I noticed that the building now has a name — “Highwater” — and a rough completion date of early next year. Perhaps more importantly, the project’s website is up. Although that website currently doesn’t sport a wealth of information, it does have links by which people who might be interested in leasing one of the building’s apartments can join their “VIP list” and thereby get notified when additional information is available.

That website also has a list of “hotel-level” services that are provided, and from them it is clear that this is a high-end development. Not only will they be providing “daily pastries at coffee & espresso bar” (whether those are free or not is not stated), the building apparently will have a concierge who will reserve golf tee times, buy tickets (for theaters and sporting events, presumably), make entertainment and dining reservations, make spa reservations, and even help you plan for your pet care needs. The building of course has the expected list of high-end amenities, among them a fitness & yoga studio, a bike shop, a “pet spa,” and community and individual working spaces. It also has a pool, with a bit of a twist: the pool is located on the building’s top floor, and is up against the building’s front face. From the pool deck, at least, if not from within the pool itself you should have a great view not only of El Camino Real but also of Redwood City’s western hills.

Finally, the units themselves have the high-end appliances, wood floors, quartz countertops, and waterfall islands you would expect in a high-end apartment. Plus, the units on the “penthouse” floor (the eighth floor) go even farther, adding features such a 21-bottle built-in “wine cellar” (I assume this is a wine fridge) and, in certain units equipped with a Smart Hub, Wi-Fi-enabled washer and dryer (the other units also have individual washers and dryers, but I gather that they aren’t Wi-Fi enabled).

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to tour this place once it is done; it sounds quite nice. I am curious about the pricing, though; that level of luxury surely doesn’t come cheap. This building has apartments ranging in size from studio all the way up to three bedrooms. Note, however, that there are only five three-bedroom units, and that three of those (one each on floors two through four) aren’t super large, at 1,315 square feet (the remaining two, one each on floors five and six, are a more reasonable sounding 1,715 square feet). Even though I expect leases on these three-bedroom units to be very dear, I also expect that they’ll get snapped up rather quickly: families looking for apartments with enough bedrooms have not had many choices up until now. Fortunately, developers seem to have gotten that message, and a couple of the projects in the future pipeline look to be addressing this need.

“Early 2021” is not far away. If I get a chance to tour this building, expect to see more from me on this particular project then.

One project that finally seems to be getting started is the large mixed-use Broadway Plaza development, planned for the site at the corner of Broadway and Woodside Road. Demolition of (most of) the old shopping center took place more than a year ago, and since then the site has sat mostly idle. That was part of the plan, though. Before the existing shopping center was built, much of this site was the location of a “shim and oil seal manufacturing facility” (originally the National Motor Bearing Company, which then became Federal-Mogul Corporation Bower Bearings). According to the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR):

Federal-Mogul operated at the site until 1970 and used chemicals including oil, fuels, cleaners, pesticides, paints, etc. Chemicals used included methyl ethyl ketone, vinyl chloride, PCE, and toluene. In 1966, based on a chemical inventory, methyl ethyl ketone and methanol were the only solvents stored on site in quantities greater than 1,000 gallons.

Given all that, the developer built a year-long soil testing and remediation step into the process. But that year has passed, and suddenly there is real activity on the site. Not a huge amount, yet, but enough to pique my interest, at least:

In truth, so far most of the work appears to involve ensuring that the needed utilities are up to the job. Although there is some heavy equipment on site, and some piles of soil and a bunch of what appear to be underground utility boxes, at the moment most of the activity is actually taking place immediately adjacent to the site, along Bay Road and at one of the rear driveway entrances to the property:

This part of Bay Road (between Woodside Road and Chestnut Street) is pretty torn up right now, but fortunately that particular block doesn’t seem to get a lot of traffic, so it isn’t much of a bother. Hopefully they won’t be doing much, if any, utility work out on the much busier Broadway at some point.

For now, the developer is focusing on what they’ve termed “Phase 1”: the project’s three residential (with some retail) buildings. Those buildings will be placed towards the Chestnut Street end of the property. Once they are complete, and once the existing CVS drugstore down at the Woodside Road end has moved to its planned new home across Woodside Road, the drugstore will be torn down and the office buildings will be constructed. (While there I took a look across the street at where CVS is supposed to go, but there is nothing going on over there as yet.) The Sobrato Organization, this project’s developer, expects to complete Phase 1 in the spring of 2023. With Phase 2 occurring after that, expect construction on this site for quite a few years yet.

Although they haven’t yet started their move, Chain Reaction Bicycles is, as I expected, indeed going to be moving across El Camino Real and down the street a bit, to the old Aaron Brothers Art & Framing building. When that move will occur, though, appears largely up to the city. A sign in the window of their current shop notes that

Covid-19 set our moving date back; originally was April 1st and presently awaiting final permitting from the city for buildout. In the meantime we’re still here but wanting to move ASAP!

Hopefully the city gives them their green light soon, so that they can get going. The delay seems to be affecting their business: they have another sign out front indicating that until they move they are unable to schedule major repairs. Then again, I was interested to see a third sign in their window noting that there is a shortage of certain bicycle types, due to unprecedented demand. That sign goes on to state that “we have over 1200 bikes arriving, 200 of which are pre-sold.” So business at this popular Redwood City bike shop doesn’t seem to be all bad…

Chain Reaction may be managing to deal with our current economic situation, but not every Redwood City business is. The latest, I am sad to say, is Brick Monkey2, on Theatre Way. They are currently having a going out of business sale, and have priced everything in the store at either 50% or 75% off. I don’t know if this closure is due is a lack of foot traffic due to the Century Theatres being closed (they are now open again, incidentally) to a lack of foot traffic generally, or simply to some other aspect of our current economy, but there you have it. But if you’ve ever been tempted by any of the items in this terrific boutique, now seems to be your last chance to get them at a bargain. Don’t miss out…

On the subject of Brick Monkey, the original store, which was located at 2400 Broadway (across from Mademoiselle Colette), closed just over three years ago, and the storefront has remained empty ever since. Finally, though, a new venture has been approved for the space, so it may not be empty for much longer. What is going in is as different from Brick Monkey as you can get: Contender eSports, an electronic gaming establishment.

Contender eSports is a franchise operation. Our local operator plans to install 47 gaming stations into their main space. Players of all ages will sit at dedicated gaming consoles, rented by the hour, and either play individual games or take part in multiplayer video game competitions.

In addition to the basic concept, Contender eSports will have a small private party room and a parent lounge (parents must accompany kids younger than 14). If you want to have, say, a birthday party or a corporate team-building exercise at Contender eSports, they plan to be able to accommodate those as well.

That’s it for this week: another round of projects getting going, and businesses coming and going. The story of Redwood City, it seems…