From One End to the Other

This week I took two long walks: one down into North Fair Oaks in order to check on the progress of the county’s Middlefield Road Improvement Project, and the other up into Belmont and then over into Redwood Shores to look over the site of what then was Redwood City’s latest project proposal: a new office building to be located at 1 Twin Dolphin Drive.

The Middlefield Road Improvement Project has been in the works for some time, but now is truly affecting life along that street from just south of the Redwood City border all the way down to Fifth Avenue or so. If you don’t need to use that particular section of roadway, I recommend avoiding it:

From Pacific Avenue — which is just south of the railroad tracks at Redwood Junction — down to Fifth Avenue, the county plans to:

Move all overhead utility lines underground, replace sanitary sewer lines, and […] change the roadway configuration to 3-lanes (one travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane between Pacific and 5th Avenue) with parallel parking, bike lanes and wider sidewalks. [The project] will also include installation of amenities such as benches, street trees and landscaping, streetlights, trash receptacles, bike racks, street art, and public WiFi along the project corridor. Improvements will also be made at the Fair Oaks Clinic/Redwood Junction driveway at the railroad crossing including the installation of traffic signals.

This is a huge project, and given that this entire section of Middlefield Road, unlike the section that Redwood City recently renovated, is entirely lined with restaurants, shops, and other small businesses, one key to the project’s success is maintaining access to those businesses while the project is underway. That certainly complicates things, as I saw when I walked the length of the project this week.

For now the southbound lanes have been fenced off for construction, and one of the two northbound lanes has been repurposed as a single southbound lane. On the southbound side, the sidewalks are being torn up, along with part of the street:

Fortunately for both pedestrians and cyclists, a temporary lane has been set aside down the center of Middlefield Road for them using both plastic and concrete barriers:

This temporary corridor not only makes it easy to walk (or ride) along and avoid the construction, it allows the casual passerby to get a good look at the demolition and eventual construction. From the walkway, I could see a number of temporary bridges spanning the current area of construction and allowing access to the individual businesses:

These temporary access points are particularly important given that there is no street parking available on this side of the street at the moment; customers will have to park elsewhere and walk to their destination. As for the small parking lots associated with businesses such as the above, and the handful of automobile repair businesses that can be found along Middlefield Road in this part of North Fair Oaks, wooden bridges won’t suffice. For them, steel plates are required:

The county estimates that this $21 million project will be completed sometime this winter. Until then, I don’t plan on driving along it. I will, however, continue to walk through the area in order to monitor the project’s progress. Especially given the generous walking path the county has temporarily constructed. But I can’t wait for the project to be completed so I can see the final result. It should be a significant improvement for the area, and, hopefully will serve as a huge boost to the area’s many merchants.

One small aspect of this project is something that has me jealous: the benches they plan to put in. I walk all through Redwood City, and find it surprising how few places there are to stop and take a short rest. There are one or two benches along Redwood City’s recently revamped section of Middlefield Road, but pretty much all of the benches I find both there and throughout the city are at bus stops. I don’t make it a habit of resting at bus stops; I don’t want a bus driver to see me and stop, thinking that I’m waiting for a ride. Redwood City’s lack of benches (other than in its parks, of course) was really driven home as I took this week’s second walk, which involved walking through San Carlos. That city seems to have plenty of really comfortable benches, such as this one, on Laurel Street:

The plaque on the above bench, incidentally, says to me that the cost of the bench was donated. Just in case Redwood City cites a lack of funds as its reason for not putting benches along its many well-traveled walkways…

While walking along Laurel Street I noted progress on a number of projects that are underway in that city. One that I had given up on, but that has finally gotten started, is the 21,540-square-foot, three-story mixed-use building (retail and office) that has long been planned for the corner of Laurel Street and Morse Boulevard, at 993 Laurel Street. Formerly the location of a hair salon called “Headlines,” when I paid the site a visit this week the building had been torn down:

After zig-zagging through the downtown part of San Carlos to check on a number of projects, I ducked beneath the tracks at Holly Street and then resumed walking north along Industrial Road. Across from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation facility, I noted that the building that formerly housed San Carlos’s short-lived Orchard Supply Hardware store seems fully occupied (although not by retail businesses), as are the smaller storefronts adjoining it. What really caught my attention, though, is the new (to me) tenant across the parking lot from the OSH building:

This is now the home of Auto Vino, a car storage & event venue (with an emphasis on wine, as the name indicates). Their 15,000-square-foot climate-controlled automobile storage facility is just the place for short- or long-term storage of exotic and expensive cars. Auto Vino not only dusts the cars once each week, they also connect them to a battery tender and maintain pressure in their tires so your car is ready to go whenever you are. Their event venue is adjacent and open to the garage, providing a wonderful backdrop for your special event. And they seem to have periodic wine tastings in their “open-air outdoor wine garden,” which they also use as a seating area for their friday lunches (reserve a slot now!). All in all, this is a fascinating business, and San Carlos seems lucky to have them.

Speaking of interesting car-related businesses in San Carlos, as I continued up Industrial Road I soon encountered this place:

This is the home of San Francisco Sports Cars, a dealership for high-end and classic cars. They have everything from high-end Ferrari’s to a 1947 Buick Woody wagon and a 1965 Chevrolet Nova (in fantastic condition, it appears). If only I could afford one of these beauties! I was about to also say that I would need a place to keep my new purchase, but if I could afford one of these cars, I could probably also afford to store it at Auto Vino…

Upon reaching Belmont, I completely circled around the Artisan Crossing project to get some in-progress photographs of this 250-unit apartment project, which is being built on Old County Road between O’Neill Avenue and Karen Road. The underground garage took some time to build, but construction of the four-story residential building (with a 3,000 commercial/community use space) is now well underway, with the first floor and part of the second framed up:

Above is the view from Karen Road. The main entrance, which will be at the corner of Old County Road and O’Neill Avenue, looks like this these days:

Directly across the Caltrain tracks — and somewhat visible from where I took the above pictures, even given that the tracks are raised up on an earthen berm through Belmont — is the Firehouse Square project. The main portion of that project — the multi-story building at the corner of El Camino Real and O’Neill Avenue that will contain 66 affordable apartments and 3,750 square feet of commercial space — looks to be nearly complete. Construction activity already appears to be shifting to the project’s 15 market-rate townhouses that will be constructed on Fifth Avenue. In any case, here is what the project looks like today when viewed from El Camino Real:

From Firehouse Square, I walked east on Ralston Avenue and crossed over Highway 101 using the overpass. I then made my way over to the corner of Marine Parkway and Twin Dolphin Drive, where the project proposed for 1 Twin Dolphin Drive is slated to be built. At first, I had to wonder, since the view from the corner looks like this:

I couldn’t believe that someone was going to tear down this five-story office building just to build a different one. Then, however, I took a closer look at the buildings in the area and realized that the tall building in the center of the above picture is actually located on Marine Parkway. Instead, the building currently located at 1 Twin Dolphin Drive is actually the tiny little one up against the right edge of the above photograph. This one:

This building apparently was a bank at one time: the “wing” that sticks out to the left is a drive-through that, if you look closely, has its access blocked off by planters.

In any case, a developer is proposing to replace that little building, along with the three-story building next to it (that you can partially see in the above picture) with this:

If that isn’t impressive enough, take a look at what the proposed building looks like from the other side:

Note how the existing building at 100 Marine Parkway, that I originally thought was the subject property, will indeed remain, at least for now.

As for specs, this is how the project is described on the city’s website:

a “five-story”, (maximum building height of 87′) life sciences building including approximately 197,763 sq. ft. of office and research/development uses, and a two-story parking podium containing 415 parking spaces, which will utilize a valet-assisted parking program. An additional 225 surface parking spaces are to be provided onsite as well.

I’ll go more into the details of this particular project — and now, the one being proposed for a site directly across Twin Dolphin Drive from this one that just popped up on the city’s website — if and when it comes up for review by the city. For now, though, the project application is not yet complete; the project is months (if not years) away from being reviewed by the city.

The commercial portion of Redwood Shores is suddenly an area of interest for local developers. It’ll be interesting to see if there really is interest for all of the office space in the handful of large office projects that are being proposed there. And it’ll be interesting to see how the City Council looks upon these projects. Never a dull moment in Redwood City, it seems…