By Meghan Hall
Redwood City’s waterfront — specifically the Inner Harbor — has long sat underutilized and undeveloped, despite its easy access to the San Francisco Peninsula and Silicon Valley. A new 131-unit townhome development located at 1548 Maple Street, originally proposed by Watt Communities and to be delivered by San Francisco-based Strada Investment Group, became the first project approved by the Redwood City Council in the spring of 2018. The project will reconnect the City to its waterfront through several public works and infrastructure projects as well as provide much-needed housing for middle-market buyers.
Strada purchased the 8.35-acre waterfront development in June 2018 for $20.5 million from Los Angeles-based Watt Communities. The site is located within the formerly proposed Inner Harbor Specific Plan, which details specific standards and guidelines for the development of the 100 acres that make up the Inner Harbor.
“We thought the opportunity to have a vacant site to do a modest density project was important, and the City years ago had amended the general plan to permit residential here,” explained Michael Cohen, a principal from Strada working on the project. “This is the first project under that, and this kind of single-family attached townhome provides an interesting addition to the housing stock. It’s more well-suited for first-time homebuyers.”
The approved plans would construct 131 four-story for sale, market-rate townhomes spread throughout a multitude of different buildings on the site. The units will range from 1,439 square feet to 1,985 square feet and include two-car garages. 88 two-bedroom and 43 three-bedroom residences are currently part of the project’s plans. The development will provide a welcome addition to the residential real estate market, as it will provide additional inventory for middle-market buyers. Such developments are not often found in the Bay Area’s hottest urban centers, where high-density, mixed-use projects dominate the market.
According to its March 2018 Silicon Valley Research Report, real estate sales and marketing firm Polaris Pacific, states that annual multi-family completions of new apartment complexes have greatly outpaced condominiums between 2012 and 2016, with condominium development only catching up within the past year. The report breaks the Silicon Valley into districts. District Two — which includes Belmont Burlingame, San Carlos, San Mateo and Redwood City — currently has 955 apartments under construction and 1,030 approved. The same area has just 213 condominiums under construction and 152 approved. The disparity in supply has meant that condominium units are snapped up quickly.
“The Inner Harbor Specific Plan did envision housing for that portion of the area, and so it does activate a really underutilized portion of land,” explained Lisa Costa-Sanders, the project planner for Redwood City. “What was also brought up in public meetings is the need for smaller housing types, and it adds to that inventory of townhome-style units.”
As part of the plans, Strada will also be responsible for several infrastructural mprovements to the site to increase the public’s accessibility to the development and the water. Strada will provide a pedestrian and bicycle extensions of the San Francisco Bay Trail along the creek, which will connect to an underpass near U.S. Highway 101 and Woodside Road.
Strada will also extend Blomquist Street from Maple Street to Redwood Creek and will eventually link to a vehicle bridge connecting the development with the nearby One Marina Homes subdivision. The construction and maintenance of a new waterfront park with launching points for non-motorized crafts such as kayaks and paddleboards are also included in the plans.
“The developer did a great job with community outreach and addressing pretty much all of the concerns raised by different community members,” said Costa-Sanders of the City’s decision to approve the project. “They adjusted the plan and provided Bay Trail access.”
With the project approved, Cohen says site preparation will begin within the next 30 days, since the entire site will be raised several feet in order to accommodate rising sea levels. Cohen estimates that the earliest phases of the project will be completed in about 12 months.
“We worked very collaboratively with city planning staff and policy makers to make sure we were delivering the kind of project Redwood City wanted,” said Cohen. “We stayed middle of the fairway, and so I think that we were achieving all of those objectives and additionally new, affordable housing. I think it made for a relatively straightforward process.”