Courtesy of BKF Engineers
Rendering of the Serra Station development proposed near the Millbrae train station.
Millbrae officials received their initial chance to formally review a vast housing, office and retail project which the developer hopes will be a crown jewel in the coming redevelopment to the city’s gateway.
Planning commissioners examined Monday, May 1, the Serra Station development proposing 444 units, more than 290,000 square feet of offices and approximately 13,200 square feet of retail spaces near the city’s train station.
The discussion marked the first official step forward for one of the two initial projects attempting to take advantage of loosened building regulations in the 116-acre site surrounding Millbrae’s joint Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit station.
Developer Vincent Muzzi said he considers the project comprised of two 10-story and one nine-story buildings proposed primarily on land his family has owned for nearly eight decades is a perfect fit for the Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan, approved more than a year ago by the City Council.
“We have designed a transit-oriented development I believe is worthy of placement in the Millbrae station area,” he said.
No decision on the proposal was made, but Muzzi pushed commissioners to schedule more meetings in the coming weeks as he wishes to move the project before the City Council for approval by June. Muzzi had previously claimed his proposal was moving too slowly through the public review process, as his plans were filed shortly after the specific plan was approved in February of last year.
Muzzi and city officials are still in negotiations over a final development agreement which, once struck, will pave the way for the project to formally advance.
Discussion on the proposal was light, though some commissioners and residents expressed interest in examining planned car, bike and bus flow patterns through the development proposed at a heavily-trafficked corner of the city.
Muzzi’s project, as well as another sizable development proposed by Republic Urban Properties on BART land, have spurred many previous discussions over the likelihood of enhancing congestion near the intersection of El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue.
Republic Urban has proposed 300 units of housing, roughly 47,000 square feet of retail space, more than 160,000 square feet of office space, potentially a hotel as well as a development with 55 affordable units for military veterans nearby as well.
The two are the first in a series of planned developments designed to revitalize the area surrounding Millbrae’s gateway to Highway 101, aiming to capitalize on proximity to the city’s rail station.
But as the station area specific plan calls for promoting alternative modes of transportation, Commission Chair Jean Joh questioned Muzzi’s proposal to excavate three stories underground to make way for a subterranean parking garage.
Muzzi though defended the merits of the more than 1,000 parking spaces he proposed, claiming the large garage was likely needed to accommodate future demand to drive to the site. He added each space in the garage would be undesignated, and there would be no reserved spaces for office and retail workers, shoppers or residents.
Residents gave mixed reviews to Muzzi’s parking plan as some claimed there were too many spaces for a development to be built so closely to a rail line, while others felt more should be more available to accommodate the patrons, employees and workers likely to drive to the site.
Final project plans are still up for negotiations noted Muzzi, suggesting some components could change before the final proposal is crafted. To that end, he said it is yet to be determined whether the housing units will be for sale or rent.
Muzzi did express a willingness to set 15 percent of the units aside at an affordable rate, regardless of how they are listed. State law requires a developer only to set aside such an amount if the units are for sale, but development regulations near the rail station encourage a similar requirement for rental units.
“I think that’s great because we need housing,” said Muzzi.
Paul Woolford, of HOK, said his architecture firm hired by Muzzi to design the project believes it could be transformative for the community in its ability to attract new businesses and residents.
“This is an opportunity to collect jobs and opportunities that people will want to come to Millbrae for,” he said.
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