Plans to build a landmark development in downtown Burlingame received final approval from city officials who blessed a vision to rebuild the former historic post office into a sweeping office building rising over a town square.
The Burlingame City Council unanimously voted in favor Monday, Feb. 1, of a development agreement with Sares Regis to convert the shuttered facility at 220 Park Road into a six-story commercial tower, expected to become the city’s tallest building.
The site is adjacent to city property where a surface parking lot is expected to be reconstructed into a new community gathering hub officials imagine to be similar to Courthouse Square in Redwood City.
As part of the development agreement, Sares Regis contributed $2 million toward construction of the town square, while also agreeing to build a portion of the project located on the former post office property.
Expressing his appreciation for the collaborative relationship between city officials and the development firm, Councilman Michael Brownrigg said he is thrilled the key project took a critical step toward construction.
“I can’t be more excited by where we are,” said Brownrigg, noting that the site has sat vacant for the better part of a decade.
Looking ahead, Sares Regis officials expected that ground could break in the next few months. The timeline mandates city officials advance planning for the town square, because the two projects should be developed on a similar schedule.
The office building is proposed to be six stories, with five floors of office space built over a ground floor of retail and dining space. In all, the development will be comprised of 152,000 square feet and it will abut the community square planned on an existing surface parking lot. It will feature two floors of underground parking.
The planned community square on the parking lot sitting at Park Road and Lorton Avenue, behind Burlingame Avenue, is imagined as a gathering point where friends or families could meet for outdoor dining and socializing with adequate flexibility to host live concerts, performances or other cultural events.
While most of the comments shared at the meeting were laudatory, some officials raised reservations regarding specific terms of the development agreement.
Most notably, Mayor Ann Keighran O’Brien took some exception to a condition in the agreement that grants the office building operator an opportunity to charge fees to the public for parking in the underground garage after office hours and during the weekends.
O’Brien said she was under the impression that allowing use of the lot was a community benefit offered by the developer, and was surprised to find that allowable rates would rival public parking costs in other garages.
Development representatives said the fees are necessary to pay for a lot attendant who will be present until the garage closes at 11 p.m.
Additionally, Vice Mayor Ricardo Ortiz said he supported assuring that the $2 million contribution from the developer is set aside in a fund earmarked specifically for construction of the town square. Beyond the town square donation, the developer is paying an estimated $3.5 million in assorted fees designed to address affordability issues in Burlingame.
More broadly, councilmembers expressed their appreciation for the project finally advancing following a deliberative planning process, which accelerated considerably when Sares Regis took control of the project in 2019.
“So excited for a great project moving along, and congratulations on moving it along so expeditiously, and I do feel like we do have a great partnership team here, and I look forward to making great things happen for economic development and for the city of Burlingame,” said Councilwoman Emily Beach.
In other business, councilmembers also unanimously approved allowing recreational cannabis delivery companies to operate in Burlingame.
The decision comes in the wake of distribution company Eaze expressing interest in moving to Burlingame, which has previously banned commercial cannabis companies.
But with allowing the company to open a distribution center, a tax could be established to generate more income from receipts on deliveries made across the Peninsula. Representatives have estimated Burlingame could earn about $1 million annually through a 5% tax on Eaze deliveries to 250,000 residents across the Peninsula.
As it stands, the company claimed it made about 11,000 deliveries in Burlingame last year. Of those sales, the city only benefited from some sales tax revenue.
The ordinance mandates companies must incorporate in industrial parts of the city, away from homes, schools, churches, community centers and other sensitive locations. Additionally, there is no signs allowed on the storefront, no retail business can be conducted on site and delivery cars must be unmarked.
Police Chief Mike Matteucci said he discussed the proposal with his colleagues from other cities nearby and has found delivery services pose no heightened risk to public safety.
With concerns regarding potential business concentration, officials agreed to come back later and consider initially allowing only four recreational delivery business permits. Establishing a cap will regulate interest, and grant officials an opportunity to examine if they are comfortable allowing the cannabis industry to grow.