Crossing 900 spec office project kicks off in Redwood City

The rumble of a Caltrain passing by was just icing on the marketing cake Friday, as developers and Redwood City leaders turned out to officially kick off construction of Crossing 900, the largest office project in the city’s reviving downtown.

“This is so exciting to see this moving forward,” said Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre. “The fact that you are doing this and you don’t have tenants yet shows how bullish you are on Redwood City.”

The 300,000-square-foot, two-building development is a joint project between Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corp. and Cupertino-based Hunter/Storm, which paid $17 million to the city for the former parking lot on 2.3 acres. The anticipated project cost is $180 million, and it’s the largest speculatively constructed project now underway (though it might not remain unleased for long).

While executives gathered to grab shovels on Friday, crews with Vance Brown Builders have already been working for several weeks at the site. Construction is expected to be complete in 23 months, by summer 2015.

Eli Khouri, Kilroy’s chief investment officer, noted that Redwood City, today home to Oracle, was once home to a thriving timber industry thanks to its industrial port on the San Francisco Bay. But he said the city’s main raw materials today are the valuable knowledge workers who will eventually occupy the neoclassical-style office project.

“Our ideal project is one like this, where we’re bringing together the past and the future,” he said.

The Crossing 900 site isn’t the only hard-hat-only area in town. More than 1,600 residential units are under construction or in development in the downtown, the mayor told me. Those include 116 units at 201 Marshall St., 132 units at 333 Main St., 141 units at 2580 El Camino, and 264 units at 640 Veterans Blvd. Aguirre said the idea is that some of those residents could work in the new project when it’s complete.

Developers are pushing the transit-service angle. The former parking lot is adjacent to a Caltrain “baby bullet” stop and a SamTrans transit center, two amenities that brokers say are in high demand as tech companies try to pull talent from San Francisco and the South Bay.

Crossing 900 is the latest major Bay Area project for Kilroy, the publicly traded real estate investment trust that has 1.5 million square feet of pre-leased office under construction in the Bay Area, said Mike Sanford, Kilroy’s vice president in charge of Northern California. Audience Inc. is moving in this month to an 88,000 square foot building in Mountain View, representing Kilroy’s first completed development here. It is also building a new campus for LinkedIn Corp. in Sunnyvale and for Synopsys in Mountain View.

In working with Hunter/Storm, Kilroy gained a partner with a wealth of local knowledge: The firm has worked on eight projects in Redwood City, said Deke Hunter, managing member of Hunter/Storm.

“One great thing about groundbreakings is there’s an optimism,” he said. “What will be even better is our ribbon cutting in 23 months.”