Those who are familiar with them know capital improvements and infrastructure projects can take years to plan, vet and build.
With an increasingly complex regulatory environment and fluctuating construction costs, projects as seemingly simple as a traffic signal or as complicated as a bridge over a protected watershed can take months and years to come to fruition.
It’s a reality that’s not lost on those working within the San Mateo County Project Development Unit, a small team coordinating more than a handful of seminal building projects throughout San Mateo County. Including a new County Office Building under construction in the heart of Redwood City, an upgrade of the San Mateo Medical Center campus in San Mateo and a new animal shelter at Coyote Point Recreation Area in San Mateo, among several other major projects, the slate of capital projects the Project Development Unit, or PDU, oversees is expected to cost more than $500 million in total.
Having worked with the PDU since it was formed in 2016 to manage ground-up capital projects, Adam Ely, the PDU’s director, has seen the projects from their incipient stages to the moments when the unit can welcome employees to their new workplaces. The team was able to share one such moment during the Wednesday ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Regional Operations Center at 501 Winslow St. in Redwood City. Located in the San Mateo County government center in downtown Redwood City, the $64.5 million project will serve as a home to the county’s 911 dispatchers, an emergency operations center and a secure data center.
Also deputy county counsel with the San Mateo County Counsel’s Office, Ely took the reins in May from former PDU Director Deborah Bazan, who still consults for the unit. With a background in construction law, Ely has been involved with numerous requests for proposals, contracts and negotiations in the years since he’s worked on the PDU’s many projects, and noted that seeing the projects come to completion makes the many details involved in their planning and design worth it.
“It’s very exciting and just a bit of a relief to see them finished and ready to roll,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing all the users in [the Regional Operations Center].”
Expected to give 911 dispatchers who currently work in the basement of the Hall of Justice a new home across the street, the new Regional Operations Center, or ROC, is one of several projects aimed at upgrading aging facilities, noted Ely and Sam Lin, the PDU’s assistant director. They described the bulk of the PDU’s work as once-in-a-generation projects that will replace existing facilities more than 70 years old.
Though the ROC is set to welcome new workers come fall, two other construction projects and an effort to move a historic house across Marshall Street are in various stages, and, together, are set to transform the San Mateo County Government Center. Ely said an effort in May to relocate the historic Lathrop House from its former location on the eastern side of Marshall Street to a new location adjacent to the back of the San Mateo County History Museum went very smoothly, with crews to put the finishing touches on the historic building in September.
Mitch Postel, president of the San Mateo County Historical Association, has said previously that the museum is hoping to offer entrance into the history museum, the Lathrop House and a building the association plans to build to display the museum’s carriage collection, with one admission ticket in the future.
The Lathrop House relocation project made way for the demolition of buildings holding the county’s traffic and small claims courts and a credit union in May, and crews are in the process of driving piles into the ground in preparation for the new County Office Building 3, or COB3, said Lin. Designed to let a lot of natural light into the building and offer open space where visitors to downtown Redwood City can gather and spend time outside, COB3 is also slated to include enclosed pavilions where farmers’ markets, weddings and movie screenings can be held, among other events, noted Lin.
The five-story building is estimated to cost more than $150 million and is expected to house approximately 600 county employees, some 300 of which are currently working at the San Mateo Medical Center campus. With a completion date set in 2022, one of the last phases of the COB3 project will be the creation of a public promenade along a portion of Hamilton Street and landscape enhancements, noted Lin, who added the desire for more green space in Redwood City was incorporated in the building design.
“In Redwood City, there’s not much green space,” he said. “It’s a really good amenity for Redwood City and for the whole county.”
Lin said crews working on a 1,022-space parking garage where a parking lot for jurors once stood are aiming to have the new, seven-level parking structure ready for use by the end of 2020. Designed so the ground-floor of the structure can be converted into retail space if the spaces aren’t needed in the future, the parking garage will also be equipped with 60 electric vehicle charging spaces and the capacity to add another 60 electric vehicle charging spaces if there is demand for them, he said.
Ely said a project to build a new San Mateo County animal shelter at Coyote Point in San Mateo has progressed smoothly, with wood framing and the roof truss system completed and completion of the second phase of the project slated for May of 2020. Expected to replace an aging facility more than 60 years old on the same parcel at 12 Airport Blvd., ground broke on the new building in 2017.
A campus upgrade of the San Mateo Medical Center is already in the works with the renovation of a nursing wing and central plant and demolition and replacement of a 1950s-era administrative building. Plans to consolidate the morgue and Coroner’s Office at the campus are being incorporated in the upgrade project, which is currently underway and is estimated to be completed in 2022.
For Bazan, the opportunity to see the ROC open after years of planning marked a proud moment for her and the many county departments that collaborated to create a new home for the county’s 911 dispatchers and Office of Emergency Services as well as a central location where county and city officials can coordinate emergency response in the event of a disaster.
“It’s just an amazing milestone,” she said. “It’s also a great depiction of the county coming together for the community to construct this needed asset.”
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