Menlo Park Planning Commission Recommends Approval for Meta’s 1.6MM SQFT Willow Village Project

Willow Village, Menlo Park, Menlo Park Planning Commission, Menlo Park City Council, Meta, Signature Development Group, Peninsula Innovation Partners LLC

By Kate Snyder

Meta’s Willow Village project in Menlo Park has taken another step forward toward completion with the city’s planning commission sending the project to city council with a recommendation for approval. The proposal is a 1.6 million square foot campus for office, retail and residential space along with community amenities like a town square, dog park and other public open space. Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on the project during its Nov. 15 meeting.

The project developer is a joint venture between Signature Development Group and Peninsula Innovation Partners, LLC, on behalf of Meta Platforms, Inc. The Willow Village project is located at 1350, 1399 and 1401 Willow Road. 

The planning commission discussed the project in two meetings in late October and early November, ultimately voting to recommend approval to city council, though with several conditions, such as that the applicant should include a guarantee of operation and not just construction of the amenities, like the proposed grocery store, that the grocery store rent subsidy should be for 60 months instead of for the proposed 24, that the construction schedule for community amenities is somewhat equal to the construction schedule for the office space and the parking rather than lagging behind and that $10 million in addition funds be earmarked for the planned shuttle or other connectivity programs.

Despite the conditions for recommendation, commissioners were excited about the project. Commissioner Andrew Barnes made the point that if the project doesn’t come to Menlo Park, it will likely go somewhere else, and that community will reap the economic and social benefits he believes will come with the proposed development.

“I believe in the economic vitality which it brings to Menlo Park, which is needed. I’m a firm believer that jobs are good. I’m a firm believer that this office will get built somewhere. It will get built in Redmond City, it will get built in Fremont, or it will get built in Menlo Park,” Barnes said. “We have an opportunity for an owner/user to build here in Menlo Park so we get the benefit not only of the economic vitality but we get the community amenities that run with it and all additional jobs that run up and down the job train that come with the employment associated with this commercial space. Because we will get the traffic one way or another. If it’s built in Redmond City, it’s going across the Dunbar Bridge, if it’s built in Fremont, we’re going to get that.”

The proposal for Willow Village has been years in the making and gone through several periods of design reviews, revisions and discussions. The project at this point includes up to 1.25 million square feet of office space, up to 1,730 multifamily units, including 312 below market rate units, of which 119 would be age-restricted for senior housing, up to a 193-unit hotel and associated retail/dining and up to 200,000 square feet of retail/non-office commercial uses, including a grocery store, pharmacy services, entertainment and restaurant uses, according to project information.

Publicly accessible open space would include an approximately 3.5-acre park, 1.5-acre town square, a dog park and a two-acre elevated linear park, which would extend over Willow Road providing access at the Hamilton Avenue Parcel North. The greater master plan focuses on redevelopment of the former Menlo Science and Technology Park at 1350-1390 Willow Road, 925-1098 Hamilton Ave. and 1005-1275 Hamilton Court.

There was some discussion during the Nov. 3 planning commission meeting about the feasibility of the proposed elevated park and whether that would be too costly. Commission Chair Chris DeCardy said he believed the cost allocated to the elevated park would be better served elsewhere, but Commissioner Henry Riggs came to the park’s defense, saying that he believes it’s a significant asset to the project and would be used as a community space as well as a way to cross Willow Road. Both commissioners, however, agreed that the project in total would be a benefit to the community.

“I cannot help but appreciate this project as an architect,” Riggs said. “I’ve rarely been so impressed with a project and design terms.”

During its next meeting, the city council is scheduled to review and determine whether to adopt resolutions and introduce ordinances to approve the project. Among the possible action items related to the project are certifying the Final Environmental Impact Report, amending the city’s zoning map and adopting the development agreement between the city and the project applicant, according to information from the city. Public comments will also be taken during the meeting. 

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