Public officials are looking to improve aging social services facilities and create new residences on lots clustered around an unused railroad crossing at Middlefield Road to form a community hub for the North Fair Oaks neighborhood in Redwood City and unincorporated San Mateo County.
Dubbed Middlefield Junction, the area officials are eyeing as a center for neighborhood resources occupies three parcels in the 2500-2700 block of Middlefield Road and includes the Fair Oaks Community Center, the Fair Oaks Branch Library, the Fair Oaks Health Center and the county’s Human Services Agency branch in Redwood City.
Heather Peters, a housing and community development specialist for the county’s Department of Housing, said the unique location of the parcels along the border of Redwood City and unincorporated San Mateo County spurred collaboration between the city and county on creating a master plan for the area. In its preliminary stages, officials expect the project to coordinate much-needed updates to older facilities with a new housing development that has been discussed for about a year, said Peters.
“When all of the redevelopment is done on the three parcels, we’re planning on having a really vibrant, connected community center there,” she said. “We really hope for it to be a focal point for the community.”
Already a gathering place for thousands of residents in need of medical and social services as well as nonprofit or government-run service providers, the Middlefield Road blocks are physically separated by unused railroad tracks, with 2-acre and 2.7-acre parcels home to the human services, library and community center to the north of the tracks. A 3-acre parcel south of the tracks and adjacent to the Fair Oaks Health Center at 2710 Middlefield Road is slated for the new housing development, expected to include units at varying levels of affordability. The number and composition of the units will be determined once a developer is selected for the site later this year, said Peters.
Peters said the new housing planned for the parcel at the rear of the Fair Oaks Health Center will mark the project’s first phase, with officials hoping to complete construction within five years. She noted the parcel may provide planners with space to house services provided at existing facilities while they are renovated and expanded in the project’s future stages.
“It’s going to be a very, very long-term process in multiple stages,” she said. “We have a high desire to not disrupt any of the critical services that are ongoing at any of these facilities.”
In addition to the city and the county, other partners, such as the Sequoia Healthcare District, have been active in the planning process, which Peters expects to include the broader community once the public planning process is launched in early 2018 and a developer for the housing project is selected.
“Both the master planner and the developer will be working together to design a robust community engagement effort to decide what goes on that back parcel within the confines of what we can afford,” she said.
Peters expected conversations with possible partners and regional bodies, such as SamTrans, to help identify funding sources for the tens of millions of dollars needed to fund the overall project. Though officials plan to tap low-income tax credits, new market tax credits and several other funding streams to support the affordable housing planned for the rear parcel, she said the project could be competitive for funds from the state Legislature’s extension of cap-and-trade and other transportation funding if connections between the project and proposed transportation options for the area can be made.
One such option officials are keeping a close eye on is SamTrans’ Dumbarton Corridor Study. Recently released recommendations suggest possible right-of-way needs spanning the train tracks that intersect with Middlefield Road and abut the rear of the housing development. Transit officials said they could need up to 23 feet of additional land to accommodate newly proposed bus routes and new train running from the Dumbarton highway and rail bridges. That study is still in the preliminary stages and no funding has been secured for any improvements, but it’s a prospect that could affect improvements to the juncture.
Peters said officials would have more details for the project when plans for the housing development go before the Redwood City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in September. Though she acknowledged the challenges officials face in balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders in an area slated for change, Peters was hopeful close collaboration between the city, county and other partners would continue to support the project.
“Often in communities that are on the borderline of two different jurisdictions, it’s difficult to serve them just because of the logistics of funding and locations and responsibility,” she said. “This is a really unique opportunity for collaboration focused on delivering benefits to the community in an area that has challenging boundaries.”
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