Transit-based redevelopment in full swingBy Heather Murtagh
Creating a transit-oriented and lively downtown was a long-term goal for Millbrae, which is finally starting to come true.
The work, however, is far from over. Construction just off El Camino Real seems common in Millbrae, and the changes are just beginning. Soon the frontage road along the state highway will continue until the Burlingame border, more condominums will be in place and activities will take place during all hours of the day. Even with plans in place, city officials would still like to hear more inviting music and services along Broadway.
"Millbrae began planning for growth and development in the transit station area and redevelopment area, more than 10 years ago. The delay in the opening of the transit station and the weak post-9/11 economy slowed things down, but Millbrae's vision for this area is now becoming a reality. As each new project takes shape it becomes more likely that others will follow," said Vice Mayor Marc Hershman.
Construction of condominiums on 88 South Broadway, the former home of King's Bowl, is nearly done. The construction was delayed by various litigation, said Project Manager Dave Cross. The project is getting close to opening and will feature 105 two-bedroom homes ranging from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet.
A condominium project was approved for Chadbourne Avenue and El Camino Real two years ago, said City Planner David Petrovich. The owner has yet to submit plans or ask for permits. Next spring would be the earliest construction could begin.
"The city has, some time ago, set out to have transportation-oriented development around El Camino and downtown. The plans have been in place, it's rewarding to see those happen five, 10, 15 years down the road," said City Manager Ralph Jaeck.
Both additions will also feature retail space along El Camino Real. Work began just south of the King's Bowl condominiums on Friendship Plaza, the future home of Walgreens and more stores along El Camino Real. No word on which companies will be moving into this new space, however it will offer a uniform look throughout the southern end of the city.
At the northern side, a 75,866-square-foot commercial building is planned for 979 Broadway. The old BART building will include a 24 Hour Fitness, a spa and a number of other businesses. The plans are approved, however details of maintaining the safety of late-night patrons is still being worked out. 24 Hour Fitness, once it opens, will be one of the only businesses downtown open between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., said Petrovich.
"It's going to be a nice change to the area both visually and economically," he said.
These projects mark the far north and south ends of the downtown area. The progress is inspiring but the heart of downtown - Broadway between Victoria Avenue and Taylor Boulevard - still needs direction.
The true downtown is still evolving. There are numerous requests for hair and nail salons, which are not called for in the area plan, said Petrovich.
Rather than add a number of service salons, Petrovich would like to see music added to the area.
"We need to extend the senses. There's something to see and smell. You can touch anything, but we need to add sound," he said.
Not just random noise, but music and ambiance that comes from within restaurants or a late night jazz club. The Planning Commission began getting sound onto the sidewalk by requiring expanding restaurants to play music outside. This option won't work in every location, however, since some apartments are located above local businesses.
Copyright ©2006 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 10/28/2006.