By Meghan Hall
With its close proximity to Silicon Valley and San Francisco, San Mateo’s office market continues to grow as companies vie for space in one of the Bay Area’s most popular locals. A new project located at 108 E. 3rd Avenue in the heart of San Mateo’s historic district will add not just additional retail space, but much needed office space to a portion of San Mateo’s downtown dominated mostly by small retail.
“A core component of the Downtown Plan is to establish our downtown as a social, cultural and economic focal point of the City with a range of uses,” explained Rendell Bustos, a planner with the City of San Mateo. “The project would combine retail and offices on a prominent corner within the historic district of the downtown, which is important for the downtown and all of its visitors.”
The project, proposed by Menlo Park-based Lane Partners, is predominately surrounded by retail and restaurants. A Walgreens sits just across the street from the site, and Gateway India and ABC Bakery and Café are the site’s most immediate neighbors. Just behind the site is a Bank of the West and Central Park Bistro. 180 E. 3rd Avenue is also just a five minute walk from the San Mateo Train Station and San Mateo Central Park. The site is also located between Highway 82 (El Camino Real) and US Highway 101.
Lane Partners submitted its pre-application plans in June of 2018 believing that now is the best time to redevelop the site due to the site’s valuable location.
“We believe projects located adjacent to public transit and amenities will continue to outperform the overall market, and we believe San Mateo is well positioned to benefit from this trend,” said Marcus Gilmour, principal at Lane Partners.
Gilmour continued to explain that companies operating within the office market will seek locations that are easily accessible to public transportation, restaurants and shops.
Current plans for the Architectural Technologies-designed project would demolish the existing single-story building, previously occupied by custom framing and arts supply company Aaron Brothers and construct at 17,027 square foot three-story building, which also includes one basement level. The building would be mixed-use and include 3,505 square feet of retail on the ground floor and 15,214 square feet of office space at the basement level, as well as second and third floors. A rooftop deck is also part of the proposal.
The current plans call for Lane Partners to add Welle Circular bike racks outside of the building, since the developer has no plans for on-site parking. Also, Lane Partners has requested to pay Central Parking and Improvement District fees in lieu of the parking element.
When asked why Lane Partners chose to bypass parking, Gilmour explained that there was simply no space for parking on the 7,000 square foot site, and that adding parking would require the developer to create curb cuts on either 3rd Avenue or Ellsworth Street, which would limit pedestrian access. Gilmour added that the site’s proximity to public transportation would effectively eliminate the need for automobile parking.
“We believe most of the people that eventually will occupy this project will take advantage of Caltrain—especially post-electrification—for their commute to and from work, thus reducing the need for project parking,” said Gilmour. “We continue to see Caltrain-adjacent projects up and down the Peninsula that are over-parked, as most of the workforce would prefer to utilize public transportation versus dealing with the increasing traffic and congestion issues on the freeways.”
Bustos said that the City’s Planning and Public Works staff will be evaluating Lane Partners’ request for no-off street parking based on the area’s availability and other development applications currently in the pipeline. Bustos did not comment on whether or not the City would grant Lane Partners’ request.
Gilmour estimates that Lane Partners will receive comments back on its second preliminary application from the City in a few weeks, after which they will hold a community outreach meeting to garner public feedback.
“The public’s input on this project will be very valuable because of the project’s prominent location,” said Bustos. “This is another very important project that is either within or on the perimeter of downtown.”
Because Lane Partners has only submitted a pre-application, the public’s feedback on the development will be considered prior to the submittal of a formal application. Gilmour stated that they expect the project to take about 15 months to build a warm shell and that it is expected to cost between $20 and $25 million, but a completion date or project cost has not yet been determined as the project is still moving through the approvals process.
Gilmour hopes that the latest iteration of the project will garner positive feedback from the City and community, since it will support small businesses and local companies looking to expand within the City of San Mateo.