By Meghan Hall
Cupertino, Calif.-based The Sobrato Organization has been at the helm of a flurry of construction in the South San Francisco Bay Area, from its 560,000 square foot proposal for San Jose’s Block 8 to its plans to build a 300,000 square foot office building in Menlo Park. Yet, the development firm is also nearing the final stages of the approval process for a mixed-use development in Redwood City. In November, the Peninsula city released its Environmental Impact Report for Sobrato’s Broadway Plaza, which would construct 520 for-rent residential units and 420,000 square feet of office space just outside of the city’s downtown core.
“Our portfolio as a whole is more concentrated in the South Bay in the Santa Clara/San Jose/Mountain View area,” said Robert Hollister, president of real estate for Sobrato. “So generally, we have been looking to add to our portfolio. Redwood City has been a target for us for a long time.”
The project will develop the Redwood Plaza Shopping Center into a 15.3-acre project that will be comprised of six buildings and also include 26,000 square feet of retail, a 10,000 square foot child care facility and more than 2,000 public parking spaces. 1.6 acres of public open space and a 15,000 square foot CVS store are also included in the development. Of the 520 units for rent, 30 will be reserved for very low-income residents, with another 90 set aside as low affordable units. Sobrato has partnered with Foster City, Calif.-based MidPen Housing Corp. on the affordable housing portion of the project.
Studio T SQ. Inc. will design the housing portion of the project, while Form 4 Architecture is in charge of designing the office buildings in the development.
Sobrato first turned its sights to Redwood City about six years ago, according to Hollister. The nature of the zoning in Redwood City, and its location a little bit further north on the Peninsula, were appealing to Sobrato and were factors in the company’s decision to pursue development in this city.
“The nature of the zoning there, being mixed-use, where the zoning encourages you to do more with a mix of uses than a single use, it’s unusual to say the least in the Bay Area,” explained Hollister. “For us that is a great fit, because of the nature of our portfolio.”
Sobrato is known for constructing for-lease apartments and for-lease office developments, although mixed-use developments are a product type that Hollister said Sobrato will continue to pursue more frequently in the future. According to Hollister, the benefits that mixed-use developments provide are appealing to developers.
“As a general principal, we have been trying to do more mixed-use developments,” he said. “It helps mitigate the impact of job creation on housing stock when you do mixed use. And frankly, it creates a much more vibrant, interesting urban environment, so that both products are more valuable when they’re put together. That’s a really unique opportunity to get with 15 acres, 11 with that zoning.”
Sobrato first began assembling the project site back in 2014, and the developer negotiated with six different property owners in order to acquire the necessary land for the site. Acquiring the properties and finalizing the deals took roughly three and a half years, according to Hollister. The last of those negotiations, however, have yet to be finalized. Sobrato has negotiated a land swap with CVS, trading its current site at 1301 Broadway for a new, two-acre site at the corner of Woodside Rd. and Bay Rd. That contract should close toward the end of next year, said Hollister.
“We’re starting to get to the point where the project is coming together, so we can start construction,” said Hollister. “We’re privately owned, and we have a multi-generational perspective, so if something takes a few years longer to get it right, it’s fine. We’re not trying to turn money back to investors as fast as possible; we’re trying to improve the quality of life for people of all shapes and sizes.”
The 45-day public review period that begins with the issuance of the City’s Environmental Impact Report comes to a close today. Hollister said that the City Council will review the project in the coming months with approval of the project hopefully coming in the spring, in either March or April of 2019. It will be another six to twelve months before the project can officially break ground, however, due to complicated environmental remediation required before Sobrato can proceed. Once the project breaks ground, construction will proceed in three phases, with the residential coming first and office following, should the market remain strong.
“The mixed use nature of this is something that should be a model for all of the cities that are trying to continue to offer economic opportunities, but to try do in a smarter way,” said Hollister. “If this had been single use, we just wouldn’t have been able to address the same level of need.”