Following the approval of two sweeping mixed-use projects nearby, development at the Millbrae train station could continue with a proposal to construct another massive hotel, office and shopping complex.
Millbrae officials studied Tuesday, June 25, an early proposal from developer Mark Calvano to build an eight-story commercial complex neighboring an eight-story hotel at the corner of El Camino Real and Millbrae Avenue where Peter’s Café is located.
The project comprised of 444,000 square feet of office space spread over 26,000 square feet of retail space in a tower next to a 160-room hotel could be the next phase of development in the area abutting the Caltrain and BART station. Parking would be accommodated with 860 stalls in a four-story garage underground.
While no decision was made during the initial discussion of the proposal, councilmembers indicated they were generally impressed by the plans from the San Francisco builder.
“It’s a very sharp project and a good project that we would like to see happen in Millbrae,” said Councilwoman Anne Oliva, according to video of the meeting.
Vice Mayor Reuben Holober too admired the design.
“I appreciate the vision and concept that has been promoted,” he said.
Though some officials supported the idea for the site, a fair amount of logistical issues must be cleared before the project plans can be finalized. Most notably, Millbrae officials and Calvano must reach an agreement over where the proposed hotel would be located.
Both the developer and city own parcels nearby which could be stitched together to facilitate construction, but Calvano’s plan called for a property swap to allow for development of the hotel on his lot existing along El Camino Real.
In return, he is requesting officials trade a larger city parcel which would abut the rear of the commercial building and the train station, where Calvano is proposing establishing a drop-off zone for transit riders.
Officials claimed the development process has been further complicated by Caltrain, which owns a small piece of land nearby that could be used for development. The agency is reluctant to help facilitate the project for fear of giving up land which could eventually be used to accommodate high-speed rail, officials claimed.
While recognizing further negotiations between the developer and city officials are necessary to determine the layout, councilmembers agreed plans should not be delayed due to reservations from the transit agency.
“We need to look out for the best interest of Millbrae,” said Oliva.
Councilwoman Ann Schneider shared a similar sentiment.
“We plan for what is best for us,” she said, noting the exhaustive deliberations required with BART to make way for approval of the Gateway at Millbrae Station, where a sweeping residential, hotel and commercial project will be built on a nearby parking lot owned by the transit agency.
Officials also needed to consider the perspective of the rail agencies when approving the Serra Station project, as the residential and commercial development is adjacent to the transportation stop.
Regarding plans for high-speed rail, which some officials questioned would ever reach Millbrae, City Manager Tom Williams said he expects a further discussion with representatives from the authority next month.
For his part, Holober expressed confidence that most of the property rights could be managed should consensus ultimately be reached to pursue the project.
“These are all issues that can be worked out,” he said.
Calvano too stressed the importance of collaboration in allowing his vision for a partnership with a public agency come to fruition.
“I look forward to working with each of you to make sure this project moves forward with transparency because there are great rewards for both sides,” he said.
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