By Jacob Bourne
In January a 2.34-acre site at 2645 South El Camino Real in San Mateo was publicly listed as for sale by CBRE. The property, which has been family owned since the 1930s, had previously received some private offers that didn’t come to fruition. Referred to as the Ah Sam Development Site, it’s in a strategic location within the San Mateo Rail Corridor Plan and the Hillsdale Plan Area. Currently zoned as Regional Community-Commercial, the location has strong access to two Caltrain stations, major Peninsula employers and a backbone of infrastructure that has been invigorated by Bay Meadows and other nearby developments. The zoning allows for a maximum housing density of 50 units per acre, structures up to 55 feet in height and a floor area ratio of 2.0. A potential developer will also have a density bonus option if below market rate residences are provided.[contextly_sidebar id=”Y0WSQPQ0R2LOfc52Z1TE6EDxYxAb6vrZ”]“This would be the culmination of San Mateo’s planning vision for the last 17 years,” said Bruce Paris, first vice president, CBRE. “The area is the nexus of what transit oriented development is all about, and being a block away from the Hillsdale Caltrain Station, this project would be the poster child for transit oriented development.”
The Ah Sam site is currently home to a boutique floral business that’s been owned and operated by the Leong family for three generations. Wanting to downsize their business, the owners’ decision to put the property on the market creates an opportunity for both residential and ground floor retail development. If pushed forward, the project would come at the heels of the recently approved Hillsdale Terraces, slated to add 74 condos and 15,880 square feet of retail just a half-mile south on El Camino Real. These added residences and businesses could be the final complementary piece to the high-density, transit oriented development puzzle that began with the nearby 83-acre Bay Meadows mega-development.
According to Paris, approximately 170 rental or for sale housing units and up to 10,000 square feet of retail could be accommodated within the Ah Sam project. These new residents, workers and shoppers would have access to numerous public amenities offered at Bay Meadows, such as the many acres of sustainably designed parks and plazas as well as fitness, shopping and entertainment options. The pedestrian-friendly streetscape fits into the pattern of intermodal transportation for the area, which has contributed to its transformation into a regional destination. The anticipated Caltrain grade separations and track electrification will further bolster the livability and value of the locale.
“San Mateo is one of the most progressive and forward thinking cities,” commented Paris. “During the 2007 crash all these developments and transit improvement projects got put on hold. In 2012 and 2013, it became clear that the funding was there for Bay Meadows, which is a major contributor to the general viability of all the activity. Bay Meadows really spurred all of this.”
The property lies within a greater transit oriented district roughly bounded by Highway 92 to the North, Highway 101 to the East, Hillsdale Boulevard to the South and El Camino Real. Plentiful dining, shopping and entertainment options are available in all directions surrounding the development opportunity site; more steadily arrive like the recent opening of Fieldwork Brewery in Bay Meadows and a whole new dining terrace coming ahead at the Hillsdale Shopping Center as part of the ongoing redevelopment process.
“It’s a high profile site geared for a well funded developer or off-shore buyer,” Paris offered. “The owner hasn’t accepted anything yet. There’s been various types of interest but nothing that’s met the owner’s expectations. This is the last TOD site in San Mateo.”