By Meghan Hall
Redwood City officials have formally approved a major mixed-use development that will bring both additional residential and commercial space to the rapidly growing El Camino Real corridor. The project, proposed by Charleston, S.C.-based developer Greystar, has been in the works since 2018 and would redevelop more than eight acres on six blocks just outside of downtown Redwood City.
Located at 1601 El Camino Real, the existing properties have been primarily used in auto sales, repair and warehouse space. Given its history, Greystar has dubbed the project “ELCO Yards.”
“With food, drink, and wellness amenities throughout four architecturally unique buildings with adjacency to Downtown, ELCO Yards promises to be the place where creativity and innovation are ignited daily,” the project’s website states.
Greystar was guided by a few main goals, according to presentations by the developer and project documents. Conforming to existing zoning, maximizing the production of affordable housing, and delivering on key strategic initiatives such as transportation and childcare, were critical. Greystar maintains that the project, while large in scope, will provide many community amenities that would not otherwise be possible if all six parcels were developed separately.
“[ELCO Yards will enhance the vibrancy of Redwood City as a mid-peninsula urban center by providing a pedestrian-friendly community space that includes housing and workplaces, public open space and greenery, and neighborhood retail,” states project documents.
The version of the project approved by the City Council would bring 570,000 square feet of housing comprised of 540 multifamily units. 147 of those units will be designated as affordable. The residences will be a mix of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units ranging from about 400 square feet to more than 1,150 square feet.
Additionally, an 8,500 square foot child care facility, as well as 28,000 square feet of retail uses have been included in the plans. 19,000 square feet of that retail will be designed to accommodate a large-family friendly use. After receiving community feedback, Greystar hopes to use that space as a skate rink for the community. 40,000 square feet of public open space, including a creek walk and expansion of Lone Palm Park, are also planned.
“This project is what the City wants to see, as it is consistent with the zoning, the General Plan and the El Camino Corridor Plan,” explained Greystar’s Senior Director of Development Jonathan Fearn in a presentation to the City Council. “…It is also where a project like this should really go: close to transit, close to residential uses, and close to downtown and active uses.”
The project has come a long way since its initial proposal in 2018. Originally, Greystar submitted an application that would include just 249 residential units and 590,000 square feet of office space. However, community feedback expressed a desire for more residential and more units that could accommodate families. Greystar subsequently turned Parcel D of the project from office into residential, adding 249 units to the project and reducing the amount of office square footage by tens of thousands of square feet. The number of three-bedroom units also offered were tripled as plans for the project evolved.
“This has really been a three-year lesson in listening, and we recognized early that while we do have expertise, we are by no means the experts on how this project should be shaped moving forward,” said Fearn. “…The project has evolved substantially.”
Based on a recommendation from City Staff, the Council voted unanimously to approve the project. Included in the staff’s vote was certification of the final environmental impact report, as well as approval of the project’s planned development use, planned community and architectural permits.
The City Council also approved a purchase and sale agreement; Greystar plans to purchase 1306 Main for $8 million. The lot is currently owned by the City and is home to a number of affordable housing units. The majority of the units are currently vacant, and once the sale of the property to Greystar is finalized, the developer will replace the 38 affordable units at its own cost as part of the larger project.
Construction of the project is expected to kick off in 2021, and brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield has been hired to lease out the project.