While the mid-Peninsula submarket of the Bay Area has been heating up as of late, most of the attention has been in Redwood City, where a slew of recent projects has reached the city’s development limits, and Foster City/San Mateo border where a number of recent investment deals broke new records for the Peninsula.[contextly_sidebar id=”KCF9tEdPprdJWuBcME0kdId8Qx41hYAS”]Downtown San Mateo has long been one of the most vibrant and amenities-rich Peninsula cities. It features over 140 restaurants and, according to the city, has a 1.5 percent office vacancy. While that figure is relatively small, downtown San Mateo is not a place where many employers have located their offices.
A trio of proposed projects set to transform one of the busiest intersections in the city on the corner of El Camino Real and 3rd Avenue could change that by bringing approximately 40,000 square feet of new office space, nearly 20,000 square feet of retail and 11 new residential units.
The proposed projects, which have not gone through a formal approval yet, are set to transform three empty lots of land and deliver a gateway to the business district east of El Camino Real. The developers and their representatives reviewed the trio with the interested city residents at a special session at City Hall this week.
All three lots were once occupied by various gas stations that operated in the city over the past decades. One of lots, located on 221 South El Camino Real even received a “No Further Action letter” from the city when it was originally purchased by developer Village Properties in the early 2000s. After extensive environmental remediation by Village Properties, the city did approve a proposal in 2008, which was shelved due to the economic downturn that ensued shortly thereafter.
Today, “all three corners have environmental closure and have the ability to propose developments and to build,” said Rob Isackson, president of Village Properties, who spoke on behalf of his project. The 221 South El Camino project that he outlined is a thee-story building that would be anchored on the first floor by approximately 9,000 square feet of retail space that would line the perimeter of the building. The floors above would include additional 20,000 square feet of office space.
John Ennis, from San Francisco-based BDE Architects, said, “We don’t know how many tenants or how it’s going to be divided right now, but it will definitely be a mixture of commercial, retail and office.”
Windy Hill Property Ventures, a Palo Alto-based real estate investment fund led by Jamie D’Alessandro, Tod Spieker and Michael Field is looking to develop the south end of the gateway corner with its own mixed-use structure that would sit on a lot of only 8,604 square feet. The proposed three-story building would ultimately add up to approximately 24,000 square feet of which roughly 4,000 would be retail along the ground floor of the structure, according to Field.
Windy Hill has been active in the Peninsula market in various submarkets. D’Alessandro noted, “We, over time, have really focused on investing in downtown, vibrant, dynamic areas like San Mateo.” Currently, the firm has investments in downtown Burlingame, San Carlos, Redwood City and Palo Alto, according to D’Alessandro. “This fits right in our wheelhouse,” he added.
The new developments would like to add a retail concept as well as some more daytime population with the office workers; between 200 to 300 of them. However, that could also increase the growing parking problem that downtown San Mateo is facing presently.
Yet the city is not sitting idly. It realizes that it has an issue on its hands, and the city employees present at the meeting addressed that issue head on. Ron Munekawa, chief of planning for the city, brought to the attention the Downtown Parking Implementation Plan, which the city will be developing shortly. Marcus Clarke, the city’s economic development manager provided more specifics. “The plan was adopted on April 7th, but it had been planned for about a year. It’s [designed] to do three things: 1) optimize the use of existing spaces downtown, 2) enhance parking experience for customers, and 3) identify and plan for future use,” he said. While a formal parking study has not yet been approved, he did indicate that a full-time Parking Manager would be joining the city in January.
Architect Robert Van Dale of EDI Architecture presented the third project, which is owned by 230 El Camino, LLC, an entity comprised of a group of real estate investors on the mid-Peninsula. Van Dale outlined the infill residential project that would sit on the 2 West 3rd Avenue lot and would feature 11 for-rent residential units, comprised of 10 two-bedroom and one three-bedroom apartments. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the project was the 39-space car elevator that would stack cars neatly in an underground, fully-automated garage. The 26,000 square-foot structure would also feature approximately 4,200 square feet of office/retail on the first floor, rounding the vibrancy effect that the projects in aggregate want to bring to life.
Next up is a formal application and technical analysis, which will start in early December and take some time finalize. But the city seemed eager to get going and willing to work with the developers in helping transform a blighted corner into a gateway that would be the pride of El Camino Real.