Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Greystar

Longtime readers of my blog may recall that I watched the construction of Franklin 299 from the very beginning, with great interest. While I was attracted by the project itself, I paid little attention to the developer, Greystar. They started to get my attention, however, when they proposed and then received approval for Greystar II, a smaller project just across Wilson street from Franklin 299. Then, when they purchased the property formerly occupied by Redwood Trading Post and its next-door neighbor, Redwood Car Care for yet another apartment project, I really sat up and took notice. And when they proposed yet another project, this one on the block adjacent to the Redwood Trading Post site, I decided that it was time to pull these projects together and write about all of them in a single blog post. This post.

So just who is Greystar, anyway? The company was founded back in 1993 in Houston, Texas. Their principal business—and what they started out to do—is managing residential properties. They are currently headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, with at least one local office in San Francisco, on the 36th floor of the One Market building. When they began they had 9,000 units under management (all apartments, I presume). Today they are acknowledged to be the first property management company to have 400,000 individual housing units under management. As the company grew they added investment and development arms; these days Greystar not only manages their existing portfolio (which is worth some $13 billion, according to them) but also acquires existing properties and builds new ones.

These days Greystar employs some 11,000 people. They have properties in 37 US states and two cities outside the US: Amsterdam and London. In the greater Bay Area they appear to own and manage roughly 38 properties, in places ranging from San Francisco to San Jose, and from Pacifica to Pleasanton and Dublin. I counted nine in San Jose and five in San Francisco, plus properties in numerous cities and towns in between. They don’t appear to have any properties in San Carlos as yet, but I did note that they own apartments in both Belmont and San Mateo.

Focusing on the development side of the business, Greystar has built some 99 properties worldwide, for a total of (about) 28,000 apartments. Here in Redwood City there are four that Greystar has built, has under construction, or has proposed. And in nearby Menlo Park they have a fifth that is rapidly nearing completion. I’ll go over each of these five, beginning first with a map showing the four Greystar-related properties in Redwood City. Note their close proximity to one another:

[click the above map for a larger version]

As it turns out, starting with Franklin 299 Greystar has been working on these properties in a counterclockwise fashion. That is, after completing Franklin 299 they broke ground on 103 Wilson. Then, once that project was well underway, they began demolition of the buildings on the 1305 El Camino site. After that, assuming that they receive city approval, 1409 El Camino will presumably get underway (currently a couple of the buildings on the site have been fenced off, although at least one major tenant remains).

Franklin 299 is in the “completed” file. This 305-unit apartment complex, which was approved by the city in October 2012 and which broke ground about a year after that, wrapped up and began leasing in late in 2015. The six-story building occupies most of the block upon which it sits, but wraps around three parcels containing a small apartment building, a private residence, and a light industrial building. Curiously, although it was built by Greystar, a company with a strong background in property management, after completion Greystar sold the project to TIAA Global Asset Management for $213 million, or about $698,000 per apartment. For the record, TIAA Global Asset Management is the same outfit that bought the recently built apartment building at 333 Main Street. They purchased that one for $83 million, or about $629,000 per apartment (333 Main consists of 132 apartments). In any case, although Greystar built Franklin 299, it no longer owns it.

Once Franklin 299 was in the final cleanup stages (and was actively leasing), Greystar turned its focus to the next-door property at 103 Wilson Street (also known as “Greystar II”). The 1.14 acre site, which at the time was occupied by a small block apartment building, a single-family home, and a couple of light industrial buildings, was rapidly cleared and made ready for construction. Today the grading appears nearly complete, and forms for the perimeter walls and supporting columns are being put into place.

Note that, due to the high water table in the area, this project won’t have an underground garage, unlike most of the recent projects in Redwood City. Once complete this five-story building will boast 175 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, all market-rate. One bedroom units will dominate the mix: of the 175 apartments, 20 will be studios and 43 will have two-bedrooms. As with Franklin 299, none of the apartments in 103 Wilson will be affordable.

Continuing counterclockwise around our map we come to Greystar’s next project: “Greystar III,” at 1305 El Camino Real. Once Redwood Trading Post had relocated to Veterans Boulevard, and once Redwood Car Care had settled in to their new digs on Hurlingame Avenue, a chain-link fence went up around Redwood Car Care. Shortly afterwards the windows on the Redwood Trading Post building were boarded up, and a couple of weeks after that the entire property was surrounded by construction fencing. Just recently demolition began on the site. I walked over there to check on their progress, and saw that the Car Care building was completely gone, as was the small building across the parking lot from Redwood Trading Post:

I took the above picture (which mainly shows the Redwood Car Care site, but also shows that the Redwood Trading Post main building was still standing) about a week ago. Presumably the site is completely clear by now. Soon Greystar will begin construction on the seven-story, 137-unit apartment building that will occupy the site. Of the apartments in the building, 24 will be studios averaging about 568 square feet in size. 78 will be one-bedroom units (776 square feet, on average), and the remaining 32 will be two-bedroom apartments about 1142 square feet in area. Keeping with the theme, none of the apartments will be geared towards low-income tenants; all will be market-rate. Curiously for a building on El Camino Real, this building will have no retail on its ground floor: facing the street will be the building’s lobby, its leasing office, and its fitness center. Behind those will be a large part of the building’s parking garage, the remainder of which will be in the one below-ground level. Entrance to that two-level garage will be found in the back corner of the building, off Wilson Street.

Greystar IV, which hopes to sit next to Greystar III (but separated from it by Diller Street) along El Camino Real, is still in the proposal stage. Currently home to the Sequoia Veterinary Hospital, Treadmill Outlet, Speed & Color Body Shop, and a couple of miscellaneous buildings, the site also encompasses the Redwood City offices of W. L. Butler Construction, Inc., at 204 Franklin Street, which is directly across from Franklin 299. Butler hopes to build new quarters on the block behind Harry’s Hofbrau where Broadway Cleaners sits, and had already received approval for an eight-story, 91-unit apartment building on their current office site. However, Greystar’s project would encompass and supplant Butler’s. Greystar IV as proposed is also an eight-story apartment building, but of course given that it would extend all the way from Franklin to El Camino Real, it would be much bigger. In total it would have 350 apartments—35 of which would be affordable at the low-income level!—along with 6,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor facing El Camino Real.

On July 7 the Greystar IV project went before the Architectural Advisory Committee. The city has yet to determine whether the project may have any adverse effects not identified in the Downtown Precise Plan’s EIR (Environmental Impact Report). It is next scheduled to be reviewed by the Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers. That should be a lively meeting! I, for one, certainly plan to be in attendance.

Update: The July 19 Planning Commission meeting has been canceled.

So those are the four projects Greystar is involved with in Redwood City. But as I mentioned earlier, Greystar has been working on yet another project for some time now in nearby Menlo Park. So near by, in fact, that they are literally across the street from some Redwood City businesses. The project, at 3645 Haven Street, is composed of six three-story apartment buildings that add up to a total of 146 market-rate apartments.

Parking is within each building, at ground level; since this development is out close to the bay (just north of Marsh Road, on the bay side of Haven) the water table makes underground parking garages tricky. If you drive (or walk!) over there you’ll have to look carefully to separate this project from another, much larger, apartment complex that is also under construction. Greystar is located down closer to Marsh Road, and sits across from the Carlsen Porsche dealership. The neighboring project, which is not being built by Greystar, sits just to the north and is called Anton Menlo. Anton Menlo will contain 394 apartments, 15 of which are being set aside for tenants in the Low Income bracket and 22 of which are reserved for tenants whose income is classified as Very Low. You can tell this project apart from the neighboring Greystar project by its height: Anton Menlo’s buildings are four stories, while Greystar’s are only three:

In the above photo, the two buildings to the right are Greystar’s, while the somewhat taller ones to the left are Anton Menlo’s.

Greystar’s development arm seems to have found their happy place in our part of the Bay Area. Whether or not the Greystar IV proposal at 1409 El Camino Real is approved, Greystar will have made an indelible mark on Redwood City. From the outside—I have yet to go inside—Franklin 299 seems to be a pretty nice place, and the renderings for Greystar II (103 Wilson) and Greystar III (1305 El Camino Real) look nice enough. I’ll be interested to see the final products, and to see how they affect the look of the city from one who is walking Redwood City.