Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson

On Wednesday, the Redwood City Planning Commission will review the Broadway Plaza project: a large, mixed-use development proposed for the intersection of Broadway and Woodside Road. This project was originally submitted in late 2015, but since then The Sobrato Organization, the project’s developer, did something interesting: they spent time interacting with the city and the public, and repeatedly evolving their design in response.

Compared with the original, the final design has changed in a number of significant ways, making it a much better fit for Redwood City. While this does not guarantee approval at Wednesday’s meeting — for one thing, there remain a handful of traffic-related environmental impacts that cannot be fully mitigated — Sobrato’s clear willingness to accept feedback bodes well for the project.

The original design was focused entirely on the 11.2-acre Broadway Plaza Shopping Center site, which at the time housed a CVS/pharmacy, a Foods Co. grocery, Office Max, Big Lots, Radio Shack and a Subway sandwich shop, among others. The Denny’s and the Jack in the Box restaurants, which are located at one corner of the property, remain in both the original and the final proposal.

The plans originally called for razing the shopping center and constructing a pair of five-story office buildings, totaling 420,000 square feet; three six-story apartment buildings containing 400 market-rate apartments; a new CVS; and a standalone 3,800-square-foot retail building.

The second design was revealed on year later. In it was the same amount of office space, now spread among three separate buildings. The three apartment buildings had grown, to encompass 664 market-rate units. As for the CVS and the stand-alone retail store, those remained unchanged.

Four months later, in February 2017, saw a new design that added a second parcel. This so-called “Bay Block” is a 4.1-acre parcel directly across Woodside Road from the main site, on Bay Road. In this design, the buildings on the Broadway Plaza property appear pretty much unchanged. The Bay Block, however, features a 156-unit affordable apartment building along with the requisite amount of parking, all at the corner of Bay Road and Charter Street.

In response to negative feedback regarding the location of the affordable units in an area not zoned for housing, in October 2017, the developer gave us yet another design, one that neatly solved the issue. That design, plus a handful of small tweaks, is what the Planning Commission will consider on Wednesday.

In the current design, the 15,000-square-foot CVS stands alone on a portion of the Bay Block at the corner of Woodside and Bay roads. The Broadway Plaza parcel contains three office buildings (totaling 420,00 square feet) and three large apartment buildings. Two of the apartment buildings contain a total of 400 market-rate apartments, while the third, which would actually be built and managed by MidPen Housing, contains 120 affordable units at the low, very low and extremely low income levels. All three of the apartment buildings stand upon a “podium” containing a large two-level parking garage, one level of which would be located below ground.

The current design eliminates the standalone retail building in favor of an 11,000-square-foot retail space within the parking podium, facing Broadway. The podium also includes a 10,000-square-foot child care center facing into the property’s center. Finally, between the three office buildings and the three apartment buildings is a large open space designed with a lawn, a playground and a dog park, all open to the public.

The Sobrato Organization is proposing an interesting parking arrangement for the development. Recognizing that offices need more parking during the day, while apartments need less, the parking garage beneath the office buildings and the garage beneath the apartments would be physically connected, with 274 of the required parking spaces shared between them. Note that at all times there would be at least one dedicated parking space for each of the 520 apartments, 88 for the retail and child care spaces, and 1,035 dedicated spaces for the office buildings.

This is a big project, one that will affect traffic and will increase area noise levels even beyond the four years that construction should take. Although it envisions more workers in its office buildings than people living in its apartments, overall it adds needed housing and office space to an arguably underutilized part of Redwood City. And although it will result in even more traffic on Highway 101 and on surrounding roads, it will provide some much-needed funds for the Highway 101/Woodside Road Interchange project.

The Planning Commission will have the difficult task of weighing the pros and cons 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24. You can attend the meeting in person (in the City Hall Council Chambers) or can watch it online, either live or after-the-fact, at redwoodcity.org.

Greg Wilson is the creator of Walking Redwood City, a blog inspired by his walks throughout Redwood City and adjacent communities. He can be reached at greg@walkingRedwoodCity.com. Follow Greg on Twitter @walkingRWC.

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