Redwood City wants developers to feel welcome.
And feel welcome they do.
Since adopting a new economic development strategy and creating a Downtown Precise Plan in recent years, the 78,000-person community has become a hot spot for developers.
Dan Zack, Redwood City’s downtown development coordinator, notes that there are several multifamily projects in the works throughout the city that could bring online up to 2,000 new apartments over the next two years.
This makes the city, located on the Peninsula about 27 miles south of San Francisco, even more attractive to companies looking to plant their feet in a more urban locale.
The city’s Downtown Precise Plan has made it easier for developers by laying out “a very clear vision of what kind of development will be approved,” Zack said.
Specifically, Redwood City’s Downtown Precise Plan allows for the private development of up to 2,500 new residential units, 100,000 square feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of office space and 200 hotel rooms in the three-block radius surrounding the county courthouse.
“We have clearly identified the areas in our city that are appropriate for major development, and the areas that aren’t,” Zack said. “Also, we now have a track record. Enough projects have gone successfully through the process that developers know we mean business. If you follow the rules, we’ll approve you quickly.”
The city is also encouraging density, which is discouraged in other parts of the Peninsula.
“In areas appropriate for growth, we allow enough density for projects to be profitable,” Zack said. The ability to build denser properties was key for The Acclaim Companies, saidMark Johnson, the Menlo Park developer’s managing director.
The Acclaim Companies has two multifamily projects in the works in downtown Redwood City — one 150 to 160-unit complex at 601 Brewster Street and another smaller 55 to 60-unit complex at 850 Walnut Avenue.
Construction on the Brewster property is slated to start in August or September, although the developer has not yet tapped a general contractor. Anderson Architects out of Campbell is designing the Brewster Street project. The company hasn’t yet chosen the architect for Walnut Avenue. Both locations will be just a five to 10-minute walk to Caltrain, noted Johnson.
“We saw no opportunities to do multifamily in say, Menlo Park, because the city is not working to allow the densities we need,” he said. “Redwood City has developed a precise plan for their downtown core that allows densities that justify paying upwards of $200 per square foot for land because you’re able to get significant densities on fairly small parcels.”
Also, getting people in the city’s downtown core areas so they can have walking access to mass transit has been “vital,” Johnson noted.
Other cities are not as attractive to developers, he said, “because they have not allowed development near mass transit lines where people can walk to work,” he said. “A lot of businesses want to be in these cities but property values are so expensive, people have had to commute. Here people can live, work and dine in the same place.”
Looking to give companies a place to call home are Cupertino-based Hunter Storm LLC and San Francisco’s Kilroy Realty. The companies are working with city officials on plans to build a $100 million-plus commercial project in Redwood City’s downtown. For now, they are in the early design stages with plans to start construction later this year, according toCurtis Leigh, director of development for Hunter Properties Inc. This is the umbrella company of Hunter Storm LLC. Marketing the two office buildings is slated to begin this summer.
Originally, the pair of buildings were to total 261,000 square feet, but Hunter Storm’s recent application was for 330,000 square feet for Class A office space at 950 Middlefield Road, where a city-owned parking lot near Caltrain now sits, Zack said.
“Ideally, we’ll get a single tenant but if we’re not successful with that, then we’ll target two,” Leigh said.
Redwood City in demand
Meanwhile, The Acclaim Companies is just one of several developers clamoring to build new apartments in the city.
Greystar LLC has completed the planning and entitlement process for a new 304-unit apartment community that will be called Elan Redwood City.
The company, which has an office in San Francisco, is preparing to submit building permits for the project with plans to start construction by this summer and completion scheduled for the summer of 2015.
“Considering the community’s location and easy access to Highway 101, Interstate 280 and Caltrain, we think it will appeal to a wide variety of prospective residents who want a convenient commute to area employment centers,” according to Ali Warner, Greystar’s managing director of development.
Like The Acclaim Companies, the project represents Greystar’s first foray into Redwood City. The city’s central location, “excellent weather and numerous shopping and dining options” were some of the factors that made it appealing to Greystar, Warner said.
“The revitalization of Redwood City and its downtown are showcasing the charm and appeal of the city,” Warner said.
The Acclaim Companies’ Johnson predicts that the city’s efforts will pay off.
“We look at Redwood City as the poster child for what Peninsula cities should be looking at doing,” he said. “In five years, you will see a completely transformed downtown that will be a mecca for urban core living with a combination of retail, office and multifamily.”