Longfellow’s 263,042 SQFT Life Sciences Project Pushes Ahead in Millbrae

Longfellow Real Estate Partners, Millbrae, Flad Architects, Finn Capital
Rendering from Flad Architects

By Catherine Sweeney

Longfellow is one step closer to making its life science development in Millbrae a reality. After a meeting with the Millbrae planning commission on Monday, the life science investor and developer received conditional approval on the 263,042 square-foot project. The project is set to break ground this fall, with completion anticipated in 2024.

“We are particularly excited to be in Millbrae, with the transit-oriented nature of the TOD district. It’s quickly becoming a key life science cluster, and we are excited to bring life science and further bring innovation into Millbrae,” said Peter Fritz, senior director of development at Longfellow. 

The 2.07-acre project site is located at 210 Adrian Road, adjacent to the Millbrae Transit Station, and is currently developed with an 85,000 square-foot self-storage facility, which will be redeveloped with the planned six-story life science tower. In February, Longfellow announced it had acquired the site for $80 million and would plan to start construction on the new development by 2023. 

Plans for the site call for a research and development building with associated laboratory and office spaces. The building would also include a three-level parking garage with space for 459 vehicles. 

Designs for the project come from Flad Architects, and also call for a number of amenity spaces throughout, including flexible laboratory and office options, landscaped outdoor areas and a rooftop terrace. The proposed building massing for the project also creates space for an expansive plaza that would also be used as public open space.  

“Our proposed design followed the design principles for the [Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan’s] goals for urban vision,” Phillip Ra, of Flad Architects, said. “We focused on pedestrian oriented design. We designed for bicycling and mobility. We activated the ground plane through public spaces and retail amenities, and we created open areas that are protected from the prevailing winds.”

The building is designed using a mix of opaque materials to provide future tenants with sound resistance from the nearby transit station. However, by utilizing insulated glazing, the project simultaneously incorporates a layer of transparency that allows for natural light. Other materials, including the textured corrugated metal elements along with reinforced concrete add a visual character to the design that compliments the Millbrae transit station as well.  

“Through the cemented segmentation’s materials, this material created texture and sound control as well as solar control along this west facade at the garage screens below, and then the screens above, we introduced planted wall panel systems to both create warmth as well as control sound,” Ra said. 

The project also is designed to incorporate pedestrian-friendly areas, with proposed city sidewalks and pedestrian paths. In trying to create an open environment for the public, the project incorporates the acquisition of a 5,985 square-foot parcel along Harriet Tubman Way. The property was owned by the Bay Area Rapid Transit and is awaiting approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). 

As part of the project plans, the parcel would be merged with the main development site and be used to create better circulation for both cars and pedestrians along Harriet Tubman Way and the property frontage near the BART right-of-way. 

While the project overall received the green light from the City of Millbrae Planning Commission, Longfellow would have to return for an additional meeting to discuss other potential options for the project should the transaction not receive approval from the FTA. 

“We believe that this proposed design is going to be an innovative center and help expand the life sciences hub of Millbrae,” Ra said. “Flad Architects have done several of these types of buildings throughout the country and we can say that this is one of the few projects that is very urban and takes on the advantage of being in an urban site. It will really become the gateway to the life sciences world at this site.”

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