For the last six years, no new office buildings have been built in San Carlos, California, a city of 30,000, located about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. The lack of commercial space in this small, affluent suburb sandwiched between Belmont to the north and Redwood City to the south may have been one reason why Tesla Motors left for the roomier climes of Palo Alto in 2009.
This could all change if Windy Hill Property Ventures, a Palo Alto-based firm, gets approval to build a 560,000 square-foot office complex in the city’s industrial district, west of Highway 101. Dubbed Meridian 25, because of its central location, 25 miles from both of the two aforementioned larger urban centers, it would be the largest single office development ever built in “The City of Good Living.”
Today, Windy Hill owns about 500 apartment units in the Bay area, a new 30,000 square-foot office building under construction in San Mateo, and plans for a 60,000 square-foot project in Redwood City. It has also been busy buying and fixing up existing office and residential properties in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Burlingame, among other locales.
At present, the San Carlos site at Industrial and Bransten Roads is home to six light-industrial buildings, and home to companies such as Velletri Stone Center, Best Buy Cabinets, and My Race Car Parts. The land, less than a mile from downtown and its Caltrain station, was recently rezoned for high-density office development. Windy Hill principals, Jamie D’Alessandro, Tod Spieker Jr., and Michael Field, believe the spot is perfect for tech companies that like to inhabit large locations, but also prefer to be situated near city services and amenities like restaurants and other businesses.
In order to keep some of the eight-acre site open, Windy Hill would require that the city grant it a height variance so that it can build its proposed six-story structures up to 95 feet tall. In return, the development company would pay for street and pedestrian improvements that would better connect the area to downtown and the Caltrain station.
Plans submitted to the city include the demolition of the existing buildings, which were originally erected in the 1970s, construction of two L-shaped, 270,000 square-foot office towers, two acres of landscaping and outdoor amenity space, and a parking structure capable of housing 1,540 vehicle parking spaces and 154 bicycle slots. Three levels of the parking garage will be underground, one at grade, and two above grade.
The project is currently being reviewed by the city’s Planning Commission with subsequent approval by the City Council, as the next necessary step in the process. In addition, a full analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is also required.
When completed, the proposed project would add a significant amount of Class-A office space to a city that would like to keep its tenants from moving away once they get big enough to expand. Al Savay, San Carlos’ planning chief has taken a positive view of Windy Hill’s application. “It’s definitely something that we’re interested in taking a look at,” he said.
Lane Partners was formed in January of 2006 for the purposes of acquiring, developing, and managing institutional-quality real estate throughout Northern California. The company’s expertise lies in its ability to add value in a cost-effective way by including physical rehabilitations, lease up and re-structuring, entitlements, and general re-positioning of assets. Currently, the Menlo Park-based company owns approximately 2,000,000 square feet in Silicon Valley.
In 2014, Lane Partners bought the historic, 370,000 square foot Sears Building in Oakland, originally built in the mid 1920s. The real estate investment firm paid $25 million, or about $63 per square foot for the property located at 1945 Broadway, directly above the 19th Street BART station.
It plans to convert the six-story building into “Uptown Station,” a retail and tech hub in the heart of Oakland’s booming Uptown neighborhood. Over the past several years, the area has become a thriving entertainment district with dozens of new restaurants and bars, as well as hundreds of new apartments and condos. Companies that have shown interest in Uptown Station include Uber, Stripe, and Pinterest.
In addition, Lane Partners has also been acquiring residential development sites near the former Sears building. It is planning to close soon on a property at 495 22nd St. that already has approvals for 81 units, but today only houses Giant Burger, a fast-food restaurant. The site is located a block and a half from Uptown Station.
The City of Oakland also expects the company to turn two sites that it owns next to Uptown Station into about 100 housing units. Those sites include a parking lot on 2016 Telegraph Ave., and a beauty supply store at 2003 Telegraph Ave. They were a part of Lane’s Sears building acquisition last year, and were originally eyed as potential tenant parking.
Along with other developers, such as Lennar Multifamily and the Strada Investment Group, about 15,000 total new units are being planned for the city, with many of them expected to be built in the Uptown neighborhood.