As life science demand continues to drive commercial real estate activity across the Bay Area, a Southern California-based developer, LPC West, is looking to bring a waterfront parcel in Burlingame to life and expand the offerings this city and the broader Peninsula market has to offer. The proposal is to redevelop a roughly 3-acre site into a 13-story, 874,000 square foot modern structure that would enhance the City’s skyline along the water, however, the Planning Commission’s first impressions were not so great.
The property is located at 777 Airport Blvd., saddled between the Burlingame Soccer Complex and Anza Lagoon. The Gensler-designed project is looking to maximize the relatively small lot by creating a contemporary office building with 60,000 square foot floor plates suited for technology and life science tenants. The development is planning to add a garage with 920 stalls and 37 surface parking spots. In all, the property could be home to nearly 2,000 workers every day.
“This is an area, which the city has designated for focusing on commercial growth and encouraging a mix of businesses and high-quality office space,” said Marc Huffman, vice president of planning and entitlements for Lincoln Property Company during the presentation to the City’s Planning Commission earlier this week. “That effort has been highly successful and there is a number of new developments that have been constructed or are under way up and down Airport Boulevard, and we are excited to be part of that transformation of this district and help the city achieve its vision for the area.”
Indeed, Burlingame’s waterfront has had a massive amount of redevelopment underway in the last couple of years and that includes Burlingame Point developed by Kylli, which will deliver four Class A office/R&D/life science buildings totaling approximately 771,000 rentable square feet, a 33,000-square-foot amenity building and more than 2,300 on-site covered and surface parking spaces. This entire project was leased by Meta in 2019. The social media company then took another 520,000 square feet from landlords Lane Partners and Barings at their Peninsula Innovation Point located at 555-577 Airport Blvd., which will be redeveloped to allow for full utilization of that area. Finally, San Francisco-based DivcoWest and partner, Burlingame-based Woodstock, introduced to the city earlier this year its plans to develop Peninsula Crossing, a five-building project that looks to transform the presently underutilized 12 acres of space located at 1200 – 1340 Bayshore Highway. The location will be transformed by a collection of 200-feet tall structures that will reshape this portion of Burlingame and add roughly 1.46 million square feet of office and technology research space.
The Planning Commission had a number of questions and concerns primarily focused on some of the proposed benefits, including the ability of the public to enjoy the proposed plaza and have access to any retail opportunities located at the location. However, the Commission quickly zeroed in on the scale of LPC West’s proposal and specifically the height of the building.
One of the suggestions from the Commission was to ask if the project would allow for underground parking that would possibly lower the structure, however, the feedback from Marc Huffman was that this option was not feasible given the size of the lot and the existing footings in the ground.
A Commission member compared the building to the Doubletree Hotel, which would be the next tallest structure in the neighborhood, and the obvious distinction is that the proposed project would tower over that building.
Another Commissioner compared the height of this project to the Burlingame Point buildings occupied by Meta, which she stated had two buildings that are around 90 feet tall and two around 70 feet, which is considerably shorter than the 225 feet proposed for this development.
“The main thing is they have more of an organic shape to them,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair Jennifer Pfaff. This project looked like a big box to the Commission members, and all of them except Commissioner Sean Lowenthal were in favor of the project as presented.
While this meeting was not one where the Planning Commission voted or gave official feedback to the development team, it consisted of enough early design review feedback to help Gensler and LPC West take another look at the project, which will return for official review in the months to come.