By Alex Seroff
For many decades as municipalities surrounding Redwood City grew in size and prestige, it languished behind the rest of the Peninsula. However, times have changed and the renaissance of Redwood City is in full force.
The first step was the revitalization of the downtown area. By 2006, the 20-screen movie theater, new shops and restaurants had opened near the old court house. This alone brought more visitors and helped buoy more establishments nearby. Then as office space in other Peninsula cities became more and more expensive, high-tech companies, Stanford, law firms, and other sizable companies have established significant presences in Redwood City by leasing or buying thousands of square feet in which to house their growing number of employees. Now that people have a reason to spend time in Redwood City, either due to their employment or a desire to spend time in the exciting downtown, or both, they want to live in it.
Savvy developers have decided to capitalize on this demand. There are currently 23 residential projects that have either been approved, under construction, or completed recently within city limits. The majority of them are either in or within close proximity to downtown. Some of the projects each call for hundreds of apartments in buildings far taller than most found in Peninsula cities.
No developer appears to be more bullish about investing into Redwood City than Greystar. The South Carolina-based private company is the largest owner of apartment complexes in the United States and one of the primary driving factors in the continued building boom in downtown Redwood City. Greystar has five development projects in various stages of construction and approval. Altogether, if all five are approved and built, they will hold over 1,200 apartments. Notably, all buildings will be six or more stories tall, adding to the increasingly urban feel of downtown which is desired by many of the new residents drawn for its dining, activities, shops, and proximity to their employers.
Stepping away from Greystar, one notable completed project is the Indigo Apartments. It is noteworthy due to its size (463 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail) as well as the height of the three towers, ten stories above grade. Many cities such as Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Menlo Park strictly limit the number of stories that a building can have. The Indigo Apartments are a prime example of the different approach to development that Redwood City has taken in an allow supply to attempt to catch up with demand. In addition, the fact that such a large complex is one of the first to be completed is evidence of the developers’ belief that Redwood City can sustain such large amount of housing and retail as a result of the aforementioned growing prestige of the city.
However, not everyone is focusing on downtown, as Redwood City is first and foremost attractive due to its mid- Peninsula location. A prime example of a project away from downtown currently under construction is Blu Harbor, a development of 402 apartments surrounding a new marina of between 45 and 65 boat slips. Despite the complexity of building on the bay shore, the builders elected to develop the site to protect against a predicted 1.3 feet of sea level rise in the next 20 years. These analytical developers have crunched the numbers and realized despite the extra hassle of building there, it is worth it due to the very high rent that can be demanded for apartments ideally located for a commute to Facebook, Google, Box, Oracle and other high-tech employers.
This renaissance of Redwood City, by the heavy investment into residential real estate by large developers, will likely vitalize the city, especially downtown, and thus increase the city’s prestige. Whether this increase in supply of rental units will positively impact prices of homes and condos owned by individuals due to their proximity to the desirable downtown or perhaps negatively impact prices because of the huge influx of supply of housing units overall is yet to be seen, but signs point to a stronger, urban, and more desirable city overall.