Note to readers: This story has been changed to correct a sentence that was missing words. A housing development called the Passage at San Mateo on Concar Drive has been proposed, not approved.
With nearly 2,000 residents, some 1,000 employees and a clustering of commercial tenants such as Fieldwork Brewing Company, Tin Pot Creamery and LIFT Exercise Studio, San Mateo’s Bay Meadows offers a view into what the dozens of transit-oriented developments proposed across the Peninsula could look like once they come to fruition.
Estimated to be more than two-thirds complete, the project consisting of 1,145 residential units, five large office buildings, some 93,000 square feet of commercial space, 18 acres of park and open space and the private Nueva School’s Upper School near San Mateo’s Hillsdale Caltrain station is home to not only hundreds of residents but also tech companies like SurveyMonkey, OpenText and Zuora.
Roughly bordered by Hillsdale Boulevard to the south, Highway 101 to the east, the county event center to the north and the Caltrain tracks to the west, the 83-acre development is the second of two phases aimed at revamping a former race track and is the largest project in the city implementing the Rail Corridor Transit-Oriented Development Plan, said city planner Darcy Smith. The entire 160-acre site running between the Caltrain line and Highway 101 has been completely revamped from its former days of betting on the horse races; Phase I included the new Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Whole Foods Market, other retail, the Franklin Templeton Headquarters, San Mateo’s police headquarters and a variety of housing.
In the 15 years since the developer Wilson Meany presented its plans for Phase II at one of its first neighborhood meetings, the project has largely met the vision for high-quality, transit-oriented developments near the city’s Caltrain stations, said Smith.
“From our perspective, this project is fulfilling the city’s long range planning goals to create jobs and housing right near the transit station,” she said. “But it is part of a bigger sort of vision to grow near all of our transit stations.”
Smith acknowledged in recent years, other developments have contributed to the fulfillment of the 2005-approved Rail Corridor plan near the city’s Caltrain stations, which also include the Hayward Park and downtown stations. In August, officials approved a 73-unit apartment building slated to replace the AAA insurance office building less than half a mile away from the Hayward Park Caltrain station. The apartment building’s location is also just north of the 599-unit, 12-acre Station Park Green apartment complex at the intersection of Concar Drive and South Delaware Street. In addition, there is a proposal for a 935-unit, mixed-use development dubbed the Passage at San Mateo that would take the place of a shopping center southeast of Concar Drive and South Delaware Street.
The City Council in April charged MidPen Housing with building 164 residential units and more than 500 parking spaces on two redevelopment sites at 480 E. Fourth Ave. and 400 E. Fifth Ave., blocks away from the downtown San Mateo Caltrain station.
But the Bay Meadows project was one of the first of its kind to create a transit village in San Mateo, making way for a wide array of neighborhood-serving uses — which could include banks, professional offices, restaurants and other services — a short walk away from residents and employees, said Smith.
One of five office buildings sandwiched between a stretch of the Caltrain tracks and South Delaware Street, the 189,000-square-foot Station 2 building is under construction and set to be finished by the end of the year, at which point the software company Guidewire is expected move in, explained Janice Thacher, partner at Wilson Meany. A set of 24 single-family homes on the southern portion of the site are nearing completion as well, with two left to be sold, she said.
At the end of the year, the developer will begin work on an 82-unit building at the heart of the site, located between two parks and set to bolster the estimated 777 housing units — a mix of townhomes, single-family homes, condominiums and apartments — already built on the site, confirmed Smith and Thacher.
Station Parks 1 and 5 have gone up for review for a second time as the developer seeks an expansion that would nearly double the office space originally approved for those buildings in 2008, increasing it by some 177,000 square feet to reach a total of 367,488 square feet between the two buildings. Though the 450-student Nueva School’s Upper School opened in 2014, construction on a classroom building on the west side of the campus is ongoing and construction on the Upper School campus is expected to be complete by July of 2019, according to the school’s Director of Facilities and Operations Steve Osborne.
When a 68-unit affordable housing development to be built by Bridge Housing next to the Upper School was approved in January, planners estimated about 16 percent of the homes at the site would be set aside as affordable units when factored in to the number of other below-market rate units spread throughout the various housing developments.
Occupying the some 27,000 square feet of active ground floor completed commercial space is a mix of businesses including Fieldwork Brewing Company’s taproom at 3030 South Delaware St. and a cluster of other businesses that make up a “town square” across Delaware Street from the beer garden and consisting of ground-floor tenants like Blue Bottle Coffee, Tin Pot Creamery and a 6,095 square-foot, full-service restaurant space that has yet to be leased.
Thacher said the developer has been pleased with the high-quality retailers that have stepped forward to lease spaces so far, noting they have so far met the goal of providing neighborhood-serving retail on the site and reflect the community’s values. Outdoor spin classes offered by LIFT Exercise Studio and the opportunity for employees to step outside their offices and eat lunch at Roam Artisan Burgers once it opens Oct. 1 are among the uses Thacher has been encouraged to see take shape in close proximity to residential and office buildings.
“There’s a real synergy between the tenants,” she said. “That’s really what we’re looking for — the types of retailers that are going to support each other and add to the community.”
In proposing a 176,883-square-foot increase in office space for Stations 1 and 5 on the northeast and southeast edges of the project site, Thacher said the developer is hoping to meet the demand Wilson Meany measured when Stations 3 and 4 opened for office space near a major transit hub.
Originally proposed to include a six-story, standalone parking garage at Station 1 and a 1-acre on Station 5 lot for a Caltrain parking structure with some 500 spaces, the revised plans situate the buildings’ parking spaces in a mix of below- and at-grade parking and give the developer space to expand the buildings, she said.
Residents of nearby neighborhoods such as Glendale Village have voiced concerns about how the office space expansion might affect traffic in and nearby Bay Meadows since the expansion was proposed late last year. Though she acknowledged them, Thacher said surveys with tenants of Stations 3 and 4 show more than 50 percent of current employees choose to use some form of transportation other than a car to commute to work, adding that the 944,000 square feet of office space the site would hold if the expansion is approved would be well below the maximum 1.25 million square feet of office space allowed on the site. The city’s Planning Commission is set to review the plans for the second time Sept. 25.
In the more than 15 years she’s worked on Bay Meadows projects, Smith said she’s also seen the collaboration between the city and the developer bring much-needed transportation infrastructure improvements to fruition, such as the relocation of the Hillsdale Caltrain Station to a new elevated one further north and new crossings to separate the grade of the tracks at 25th, 28th and 31st avenues from the roads crossing them.
Grade separations are increasingly sought by cities along the popular Peninsula corridor, particularly with Caltrain slated to run electrified trains and the possibility of high-speed rail sharing the tracks. The result of some 20 years of work, new underpasses at the three crossings are set to increase connectivity between Bay Meadows and other parts of the city, said Smith.
Smith said the city’s development agreement with Wilson Meany for Bay Meadows runs through the end of 2023, but construction could continue after that point as long as it’s permitted. She noted the high cost of materials and labor as well as the demand for housing and office space are among the factors that could extend the timeline.
Because much of a development’s planning process is devoted to studying the aesthetics of the buildings and predicting how different uses for indoor and outdoor space might complement each other, Thacher said one of the most interesting parts about continuing to work on Bay Meadows is seeing, finally, how those who live, work and visit the area interact with the newly-built spaces. She said the developer has always approached Bay Meadows as another neighborhood in San Mateo and continues to ask residents and business owners for feedback on how they can continue to foster community there.
“You’re thinking about all of that as you’re going through the planning process, but what is most interesting now is to see how people interact with the space,” she said.
The commission meets 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave. Roam Artisan Burger is set to open for lunch Oct. 1 at 3081 S. Delaware St.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106