Peninsula’s hot spot moves north to Redwood City

Sleepy little Redwood City is perking up.

The 75,000-person community, located on the peninsula about 27 miles south of San Francisco, has become a hot spot for developers and companies, thanks to city officials putting out a business-friendly welcome mat.

Redwood City has adopted a new economic development strategy that focuses on industrial areas and has updated its downtown plan.

Those efforts have bared fruit and developers are vying for the opportunity to build. Stanford University awaits approval to construct a 1.5-million-square-foot office project in the city, while Hunter/Storm LLC wants to build a $100 million commercial project in the city’s downtown. Plus, the city has four major apartment projects in the works that will add more than 650 units by the first part of 2014.

Redwood City’s new Downtown Precise Plan allows for the private development of up to 2,500 new residential units, 221,000 square feet of retail space, 275,000 square feet of office space and 200 hotel rooms in the three-block radius surrounding the county courthouse.

Deke Hunter, president of Hunter Properties, said the new plan played a “significant” role in the Cupertino company submitting a proposal to redevelop Block 2, a city parking lot on Middlefield Road adjacent to the Redwood City Caltrain station.

Five developers originally expressed interest in the site, including TMG Partners and Essex Property Trust. Hunter/Storm is one of two developers on the short list to develop the 2.3-acre plot.

The company has developed seven projects in Redwood City over the last 12 years, including three office projects and three retail sites.

“Given our track record and success in Redwood City, in addition to a clear planning directive, we are confident in choosing Redwood City over other cities for such an investment,” Hunter said. “Block 2 is a large project, so it’s not something we or our financial partners take lightly.”

The city should make a decision by the end of April whether Hunter/Storm or Los Angeles-based Lowe

Enterprises will be developing the site.

Housing boom

Jason Check, director of development for Raintree Partners out of Southern California, said the city has done a “great job” of spelling things out for developers.

Raintree Partners’ 116-unit rental apartment project on a former Dodge dealership site at 201 Marshall St. was the first to get approved under the new downtown precise plan.

“If a project fully conforms to the specific guidelines in the downtown precise plan,” Check said, “then it’s a pretty quick approval process.”

Dan Zack, Redwood City’s downtown development coordinator, said the company “faithfully” carrying out the precise plan was important.

“(Raintree) studied it, got it and got a good architect that could stay true to it,” he said. “From submittal to approval, we got them approved in five months.”

Check said his company was attracted to Redwood City because the community’s housing needs are underserved.

“Prior to these projects, there hadn’t been anything new built in 15 years,” he said. “That was something we thought was attractive.”

Outside of downtown, three other housing projects are in the works.

In early January, San Mateo-based Sares Regis Group of Northern California broke ground on a $40 million, 132-unit luxury apartment community on 333 Main St., near downtown Redwood City.

Foster City-based MidPen Housing is planning a 141-unit project on 2580 El Camino Real, and BRE Properties is planning a 265-unit complex at 640 Veterans Blvd.

Bill Ekern, the city’s community development director, operates under the adage that “time is money.”

“If I can move people through the process more quickly, it’s better for them and certainly better for the city,” he said. “It’ll get construction, jobs and sales tax going.”
Mary Ann Azevedo can be reached at 408.299.1820 or at

Redwood City vacancy rates plunge The Redwood City office market is on fire. Overall, office vacancy has plunged 71 percent to 12.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 21.96 percent in the third quarter of 2010. Average asking rates have soared by 56 percent — to $2.03 per square foot from $1.30 per square foot in the third quarter of 2010, according to Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank research. Downtown Redwood City is nearly 100 percent leased, said Cassidy Turley vice president Bill Sawyer. Redwood Shores vacancy was halved to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with 13.9 in first quarter of 2010. Meanwhile, the average asking rate there climbed to $1.87 by the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with $1.37 in the first quarter of 2010. Sampling of Major real estate deals

  • C3 LLC took 68,410 square feet at 1300 Seaport Blvd. in the fourth quarter of 2011.
  • Informatica Corp. paid $148.5 million for two buildings totaling 290,000 square feet at Pacific Shores Center in the first quarter of 2012.
  • Perfect World Entertainment set to move its North American headquarters from Foster City to a 100,000-square-foot building at 101 Redwood Shores Parkway.
  • Trions World Inc. took 50,000 square feet in a building at 1200 Bridge Parkway in September 2011. Housing on the horizon For the first time in a decade, Redwood City is moving ahead with major residential projects downtown. The activity is due to the city’s new development plan that allows for up to 2,500 new housing units. Here’s a look at what’s planned:
    1. 640 Veterans Blvd.
      Units: 265
    2. 201 Marshall St.
      Units: 116
    3. 333 Main St.
      Units: 132
    4. Depot Circle Project
    5. 2580 El Camino Real
      Units: 141

Mary Ann Azevedo covers real estate for the Business Journal. Her phone number is 408.299.1820.