It’s Alive

Growing up, I loved to watch the old Universal monster movies: Dracula, the Wolfman, and, of course, Frankenstein. Not having seen any of them in many, many, years, I may or may not be correct in remembering that Dr. Frankenstein actually yelled “It’s alive!” when his monster opened his eyes. But I imagine that he did. That phrase always leaps to mind whenever a project that I’ve long given up for dead suddenly shows signs of life. Such is the case this week with one particular Redwood City project: a project that I have given up for dead on multiple occasions, and yet keeps coming back.

The project I’m referring to is the five-story hotel planned for 1690 Broadway, which currently is the site of the very tired 18-room Garden Motel:

The Garden Motel is easy to miss; although it sits at the corner of Broadway and Beech Street, just across Beech from a 7-11, it is shielded from both streets by thick foliage. That would change, however, if the project actually gets built. The owners of the single-story motel you see above hope to replace it with this:

If this looks familiar, it is because I’ve written about this project on multiple occasions. Although some of the details have changed over the years, the basics are pretty much the same. This time I see only two changes of real note. First, the hotel has a new brand: previously, it was to be a Holiday Inn Express, whereas now it is to be a Hyatt Place. Second, the hotel’s 91 parking spaces were previously accommodated entirely within a single ground-floor level, through the use of mechanical stackers. Now, the garage is to be spread across two levels, with one level being located below ground. The plans show 72 standard parking spaces in that garage, with the remaining 19 vehicles being parked by a valet in whatever free space can be found.

Otherwise, the hotel remains very much as it was in its previous design: 112 rooms on the second through fifth floors, and a breakfast area and a meeting room or two in the lobby, located on the Broadway side of the ground floor.

This project was originally proposed in mid-2017, and received Planning Commission approval in October of that same year. After more than a year and a half of no visible activity (although presumably much was going on behind the scenes), the project was again submitted, with some changes, for approval in 2019. It received that approval in March of 2019, after which a couple of years went by, again with little or no visible activity on-site (a bit of work utility work appeared to have been done on Beech Street, and construction fences went up around the property for a time, but people never stopped occupying the existing motel’s 18 units). Enough time went by, in fact, that the project’s approval expired. (Project approvals only last for two years — three if they request an optional one-year extension — by which time they must get underway. If a project doesn’t get underway in that time, it has to go through the project approval process all over again.) So in April of 2022, the project, essentially unchanged from when it was previously submitted, was again submitted to the Planning Commission for approval. That particular submission wasn’t approved, but then again I don’t believe it was actually denied, either: I’m pretty sure it never actually went before the Planning Commission again. Until now, anyway. The project, with the changes I noted earlier (and probably a few other relatively minor ones) is currently scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, May 16, where I presume the odds are in favor of it being approved yet again. Perhaps the third time’s the charm, and this time it’ll actually get built…

I was fascinated to see that a small project is being proposed for a site at the corner of El Camino Real and Harrison Avenue. This is on the same block as Redwood City’s Whole Foods Market, and would be an update of a building that I hadn’t realized was historic:

[photo courtesy of Google Street View]

The building housing Roy’s Drive-In Cleaners was built for that purpose in 1941, and until about a year ago it was still owned by the family that built it all those years ago. Now, though, the current owners have ideas. The first step for this project is to go before the Historic Resources Advisory Committee, something it was supposed to have done just yesterday (Thursday, May 11). However, that meeting was canceled, so I’ll have to wait to find out just how important a part of Redwood City’s character this little cleaning business’s building really is. Especially since although the project is a proposed modification and expansion of a building that is to be preserved, the rendering looks, to my eye, like very little is actually being preserved:

As you can see, the existing dry cleaning business would be replaced with a restaurant (and possibly offices upstairs?). At least the outline of the sign would still be recognizable…

Turning to some projects that are actually underway right now, last week I went by the seven-unit townhouse project at 31 Center St. That project continues to make steady progress:

I also dropped by the eight-unit townhouse project at 955 Woodside Rd., which last week looked pretty much ready to have its concrete foundations poured:

Speaking of pouring foundations, that same day I took a peek into the giant hole that will be the underground parking garage for two of the buildings that will make up the ELCO Yards project: the buildings along Main Street between and Chestnut Street and the dog park. That project, too, seems to be close to a large concrete pour:

Over on Broadway, the equipment used to dig and drill a large part of the Broadway Plaza site has been moved over to the Woodside Road end (which remains paved for the moment) and it appears that they may be draining the site:

Note the white PVC pipes.

I’ve also been keeping a fairly close eye on the small parking lot behind the historic courthouse that anchors Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, ever since I attended the kickoff for the Taube Family Carriage House and Automobile Gallery. Lately there has been a fair amount of activity on the site, but although I keep an eye on the relevant building permits, it doesn’t appear that the project itself has as yet received any. From what I can tell, what is going on is simply some preparatory work that will be needed in order for the project to get underway: PG&E is relocating a large transformer that presumably stood where the new building will eventually go:

There is some work going on at the other end of the old courthouse building as well, between the courthouse and the historic Lathrop House. That doesn’t appear to be PG&E’s doing; if I had to guess, I’d say it had something to do with the historic Lathrop House, which is located over at that end of the property:

Back on the subject of the Carriage House, the city’s system does show a permit application, but that only came in last month. Given how long it is taking to get a permit approved — the city is dealing with a lot of them right now — I don’t expect it’ll be approved for many months. But that permit application is a sign showing that the project is indeed very much alive. And that’s a good thing: this new building should be a nice addition to Redwood City’s small collection of history museums.

Lastly, the city just issued an update on the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming Project. To no one’s surprise, the project really was delayed due to our “unusually wet and cold winter season.” Although the project isn’t due to be officially completed sometime between the end of June and the end of summer, most of the paving work should be done later this month. That work includes pavement grinding, repairs, overlay and speed humps. The project also includes irrigation and landscaping work, which, if it hasn’t started by now, should be underway next week. It also includes final pavement striping and “minor signal work” (at El Camino Real and Hopkins Avenue, surely); this will likely be done sometime this summer.

If you’ve driven Hopkins Avenue lately, you know it is quite a roller coaster at the moment. While that will improve as the pavement is done, don’t expect the new roadway to be billiard-table flat: to some extent the dips that we are experiencing today will remain (likely to a lesser degree). Although those dips seem to help slow traffic down, they aren’t being left in place for that reason. Instead, they are needed to “address accessibility requirements.” From the city’s latest project update: “sections of the roadway at certain marked crosswalks required grade adjustments (flattening of the “crown”) in order to provide gentler slopes to meet ADA guidelines. As a result, there will be mild “dips” in the finished paving along the roadway.” And the city went on to add that “[these dips] will become increasingly common as we retrofit our streets to be accessible for all residents.”

At least the project is still alive…