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Downtown Redwood City Is Open for Development

Developers already are showing interest in an office complex, but other options abound.

With Redwood City's downtown plan in effect, city staff has highlighted a 2.75 acre block that is ripe for development, according to Downtown Development Coordinator Dan Zack.

And developers are knocking.

The city back in January, which serves as the blueprint for the downtown area. And unlike in 2007, when for not sufficiently analyzing the potential shadow impacts on nearby buildings, this go-around did not face any legal challenges, Zack said. Now, the city council must direct staff on how to pursue development in the area designated as “Block 2,” bordered by Jefferson, Middlefield and the Caltrain tracks.

“We’re in the driver's seat,” Councilmember Rosanne Foust said. “I don’t want to limit this to one, two or three developers. Let’s see what folks come up with.”

For starters, development company Hunter Storm began negotiations with city officials for an exclusive contract to purchase the land as soon as the council approved the downtown plan. Developer Ed Storm said he believed an office building would be the best use of the space, to bring in businesses that would also supply more foot traffic to neighboring retail stores and restaurants. Storm said his company has already been speaking with three prospective tenants for its proposed 25,000 sq. ft. building.

Hunter Storm has purchased and developed four office buildings in Redwood City:

  • Old Republic Title Building at 601 Allerton
  • RWC Technology Station at 500 Arguello Street
  • Veterans Plaza at 1400 Veterans Blvd.
  • DPR Headquarters at 1450 Veterans Blvd.

“We’re just hoping we can get a commitment from the city that they’ll move forward with making a decision,” Storm said.

But city staff presented numerous opportunities at the city council meeting, including a hotel with a venue that could host large events. The ballroom at the in Redwood Shores has a maximum capacity of 400 people.

“The window for development in the hotel market is very cyclical,” Zack said. “And now it seems to be open. Many hotel developers are showing interest.”

Councilmember Ian Bain suggested development such as a bowling alley. With the and Palo Alto Bowl, the closest bowling alley is in San Mateo. Bain said he reached out to the corporate offices of Lucky Strike, a high-end bowling alley chain, but they weren’t interested yet.

“However, if something were in the works, they might change their tune,” he said.

City staff said the development should welcome travelers into downtown and provide more synergy between the Sequoia Shopping Center and the downtown.

“Right now, they turn their backs toward each other,” Zack said.

One aspect of the property that would need reconfiguring is the 211-space Middlefield parking lot. Developers would have to work parking lots into their designs, Zack said.

“We can have a design contest, get developers’ creative juices flowing,” Councilmember John Seybart said. “We can get some chefs in to test the area.”

Mecala April 26, 2011 at 03:42 PM
I like the idea of developing small convention center or event venue spot. Right now it is challenging to find event venues that can host large groups of people at a reasonable price in Central San Mateo County. Since Redwood City is the county seat, it makes sense that a visitor or convention center be located here. Many of the local corporations, schools and residents in Redwood City, Redwood Shores and the immediate surrounding area would welcome the opportunity to host conferences and special events if a proper venue presented itself. Right now, in order to save on cost, we have to settle for using gymnasiums and tired-looking, old-fashioned clubs. Venues like Hotel Sofitel and Pacific Athletic Club may offer the look and feel that is desirable for events, but often the cost is prohibitive. We need a middle ground.
Zeke Mead April 26, 2011 at 05:39 PM
What about the bowling alley just south of Woodside Road? I don't think another bowling alley would be the best use of space. For that space specifically, I would think a large residential unit (with retail on ground floor and parking below) like the newer ones on Maple and ECR would be best. We need people living downtown to help support the existing businesses, use existing transit and take pressure off of developing marshland. I know we couldn't fit 10,000 people in there, but it could go a long way to proving the model.
Jason Seifer April 26, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Office space is ideal dues to its proximity to Caltrain and to bring more people into downtown. It's a perfect spot for development.
Reality Check April 26, 2011 at 07:47 PM
Office buildings are completely dead space outside of business hours -- so an office building wouldn't be the best thing for the virtual center of the heart of Redwood City. Walking alongside long stretches of empty buildings kills potential downtown buzz/energy. Visit SF's financial district after hours or on weekends sometime. The place is a dead zone, with the shops that are there not even bothering to open since the surrounding buildings are dead without the officeworkers being there. Then visit the Union Square area during the same hours. It's buzzing and alive! Why? Retail, restaurants, shops, entertainment, public spaces and lots of hotels sprinkled throughout. It's a destination pretty much at all hours. P.S. The not-so-secret secret about bowling alleys is that they're doomed. Interest in bowling is minimal. Very narrow appeal and low hours of utilization. They do not and cannot generate the kind of revenue and activity to justify and sustain a premium location as being discussed. Mel's Bowl on El Camino is not long for this world either. Look at all the prime land it (and it's big parking lot -- which sits vacant most of the time) occupies ... it's basically a matter of time before that parcel gets redeveloped. If I am not mistaken, I believe I recently read some reports that such plans are already being made.
Jonelle Preisser April 26, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Another Reality Check Don't forget housing in the downtown development. I believe this was promised during the approval procedures. I agree about office space being dead space at night--some would be ok, but the workers will need a place to live. Better downtown than on our precious, shrinking wetlands.
Adrian April 27, 2011 at 07:32 AM
Wow development in dwntown re: bowling alley mayority of young adults from redwood city love going to the bowling alley in san jose ca called (300bowl) its an outgoing place yes downtown redwood city does need more entertainment to keep everyone local night life in palo alto is great might get good ideas from their
Cliff Keith April 28, 2011 at 12:08 AM
I think it should be developed as was approved with the General Plan when the Police Station, that once sat on the property, was tour down. It was designated as a 3 story parking garage. This was because of all the Redevelopment done over the past decade that was going to be in need of additional parking. With a well designed parking structure including funded monthly parking capacity Redwood City could have a "cash cow" to offset their current deficit. Let's think of revenue for our city properties and leave development for private properties and the "for profit" enterprises. Enterprises that creates tax revenue for Redwood City. What do you think? Has parking been easy for you when you go into that district?
Kaia Eakin May 02, 2011 at 12:36 AM
I would like to see housing in the downtown, perhaps on this spot. And, I like Dan Zacks idea of a possibly a Hotel. I agree that offices create dead space at night and it is true that the financial district of downtown San Francisco is dead on weekdends and evenings versus Clement Street in the Avenues which is hopping after hours because it's surrounded by residential. Dan Zacks makes a good point that a Hotel would provide a magnet and make the downtown less separated with Sequoia Station. I do not like the idea of a municipal parking lot. As planning professors from UC Berkely note, all successful downtowns have parking problems. San Francisco has horrible parking problems and it's the 4th greatest tourist attraciton in the United States.
COH August 25, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Um. Mel's has been closed for over a year (at your posting) and is now being developed as an apartment complex.
COH August 25, 2012 at 11:09 PM
You've obviously never been to a Lucky Strike lane. Bowling will never die if it's done right. Mel's was in serious need of upgrades for years, and was a very busy place anyway. I'd love RWDCY to have a bowling alley.

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