By Meghan Hall
The project team behind a substantial, 12-acre development at the center of Redwood City has submitted updated plans following both community feedback and City guidance. At the end of last week, Lowe and Eden Housing turned in a new planning application with a number of changes made since the project’s most recent May 2021 iteration.
The project, which involves the redevelopment of the Sequoia Station Shopping Center at 1057 El Camino Real, is described as a “once in a generation” opportunity in the community’s efforts to create a walkable, transit-oriented downtown. While the project has been formally pitched by Lowe and Eden, current property owners Safeway and Regency Centers Corporation are also stakeholders on the project.
“Our goal is to support the Transit District process by developing a transformational project that will unlock local and regional transit opportunities and deliver extensive community benefits,” explained Alan Chamorro, Lowe senior vice president of Northern California. “The proposed Sequoia Station redevelopment dedicates land to Caltrain, while delivering critical market rate and affordable homes, a beautiful new public realm and a modernized Safeway and CVS anchored shopping center for Redwood City residents.”
The original plans for the project were first submitted in 2019. At the time, the development included 225 housing units, 1.4 million square feet of office, and about 176,000 square feet of retail. The amount of open space within the project was listed as “undefined.”
Under the new plans submitted by Eden Housing and Lowe, up to 631 housing units will be provided–of which 254 will be affordable– while the amount of office space has been reduced to 1.23 million square feet. The amount of square footage designated as retail has also changed, decreasing to 170,000 square feet in order to accommodate a new, 10,000 square foot child care center. The retail space will now also include 25,000 square feet of “family-focused” entertainment space, as well as non-profit commercial space. About 90,000 square feet of open space is now planned.
A phasing plan reflecting the sequence of construction was provided, and will allow for the existing Safeway and CVS to remain open throughout construction, while flex and community space was also relocated. Plans have also been modified to provide the maximum build-out for parking.
The changes were the result of more than a dozen meetings with City officials and the wider Redwood City community.
“Redwood City has the potential to be a regional hub that connects San Francisco, San Jose, and the East Bay – while maintaining its identity and the integrity of surrounding neighborhoods,” the project’s website states. “Putting jobs directly on transit, enabling future rail as well as station upgrades, creating vibrant and walkable retail that connects to Downtown, and providing much needed affordable housing at Sequoia Station are all key to unlocking this opportunity.”
Project documents state that today, Sequoia Station exists as a car-centric, out-dated retail center with no public open space, limited outdoor dining and no neighborhood connection. The ultimate goal of the redevelopment is to make Sequoia Station a “place for all” by expanding Redwood City’s downtown core through active retail, mixed-income housing, and increased density.
The project also provides critical land needed to expand Caltrain into the area. In recent years, Caltrain has identified the future Redwood City station as its preferred location for a mid-peninsula transform hub. The land will also be used for a four-track expansion and grade separations to expand the system. The project team emphasized that if the redevelopment of Sequoia Station is not approved, Caltrain will either need to acquire the property itself, or move its plans for a transfer hub elsewhere–both costly and time consuming options.
There are a number of hurdles that the project team must clear before it can even begin to think about breaking ground. According to Redwood City’s Development Projects page, the application for Sequoia Station has yet to be deemed complete, and City officials are still reviewing the project for CEQA determination. From there, a public hearing and final decision must be made before the project can move forward.
Chamorrow added, “The Lowe and Eden Housing teams are very excited about the project’s evolution, which has incorporated years of public input.”