By Meghan Hall
The Cordilleras Mental Health Facility is getting a facelift after nearly 70 years, a transformation that will allow the medical facility to provide top-tier care for some San Mateo County’s most vulnerable residents. Through a partnership with major development firm Skanska, the new 121-unit facility will bring the San Mateo County Health System and the County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Department into a new era in mental health care.
“San Mateo County proposes to replace the existing Cordilleras Mental Health Center with new facilities that will transform the campus, and enable the San Mateo County Health System, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) to provide state-of-the-art care for the County’s most vulnerable mentally ill residents,” project documents state. “The new facility will be a center for client wellness, rehabilitation and recovery in a serene natural setting, that will be designed to encourage the engagement of the larger community in the process of recovery.”
The original Cordilleras Mental Health Care Center is located on a 20-acre property at 200 Edmonds Road in Redwood City, Calif. Initially, the center served as a tuberculosis hospital and then later adapted in 1978 to serve as a treatment center for those with mental illnesses. Its 117 beds contain a licensed locked Mental Health Rehabilitation Center (MHRC) with 68 beds, and an additional 49-beds that serve as an Adult Residential Facility for those with long histories of mental illness. Documents on file with the County state that as is, the property is “poorly suited” for behavioral health care and that significant systems upgrades are required for the facility.
New plans for the $90 million project indicate that the center will four smaller, MHRC buildings with 16 beds apiece, and one larger residential facility—to be designated as a Supported Housing Unit—housing 57 beds.
“The County intends to replace the existing facility with multiple new residential facilities that create a smaller scale, homelike setting that will be more conducive to patient treatment and recovery,” the project team explained in its plans. “In multiple, smaller residences treatment can be tailored to address the needs of individual clients in a more natural environment.”
A Campus Center containing a 3,000 square foot multipurpose room, an art room, chapel, conference center, administrative offices and other supportive spaces are to be included in the plans. The new development will also take advantage of the surrounding acreage, with communal gathering spaces, sheltered outdoor spaces, community gardens and sports courts planned.
The overall design of the project—put together by Canon Design— is centralized around several themes, including a focus on wellness, the promotion of respect and community building, healing through nature and striving for recovery. A continuous loop road will wrap around a central green space, which will bridge the creek at the west end of the property. Three separate and detached MHRC buildings will be placed into the hillside toward the south, with the remaining MHRC to the north. Drop-off will be located independently for each MHRC.
The four-story Supported Housing Unit will be located at the Eastern part of the property and will contain many of the community spaces on the first floor. The multipurpose room, which will be detached, will be connected to the Supported Housing Unit via a covered walkway. Together, these components will act as a welcoming pavilion on site and foster future community engagement.
“The plan for the new Cordilleras campus seeks to preserve the beauty and serenity of the existing natural environment and to protect the existing creek, while providing a safe, attractive setting for patient care and community engagement,” documents state. “…The design will thoughtfully integrate various programs into the surrounding environment and work with the existing site’s natural beauty to better connect clients to nature.”
The new facilities are arranged on the site so that the existing building can remain in operation throughout construction. Build-out will occur in a single phase, followed by the demolition of the old facility and final site improvements. Construction began on the project in November of this year, and delivery is expected in December of 2023.