Change is coming to downtown San Carlos
Laurel Street is about to undergo a transformation
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Downtown San Carlos is about to undergo significant change, as construction in Wheeler Plaza, bounded by Cherry Street and San Carlos Avenue, is set to begin early this year. The redevelopment of Wheeler Plaza will affect 2.65 acres of land west of Laurel Street, mainly the parking lot behind the former Foodville.
“Wheeler Plaza is going to add parking, housing, and retail space to downtown San Carlos. This project is also going to try to maintain the small-town feeling that is unique to our town by having space for pedestrians and a plaza. [The redevelopment] will also add new housing in close proximity to small shops on Laurel, boosting their business,” said Lisa Costa Sanders, the principal planner for the City of San Carlos.
Wheeler Plaza will be transformed into a mixed-use development that will take the place of current above-ground parking and retail buildings. The planned area is a 2.4-acre parcel of land that will be replaced by below-ground parking, street-level retail spaces, and condominium housing above.
“The vision for Wheeler Plaza started in the ’90s and it’s taken a long time to get it done,” said Sanders.
The construction plans were originally proposed in 2009. Originally the push-back against this project was voiced by people worried about the changes to Laurel Street.
“I’m not happy about the change because of all the traffic problems that will make it difficult to get around. Also, the new building will change downtown,” said sophomore Kevin McGee.
Wheeler Plaza will add retail space and more parking once the project is complete. One current proposal is an open-air plaza for pedestrians on Laurel Street.
When construction begins, the loss of the parking lot will cause traffic and parking problems on Laurel Street.
The parking lot that currently occupies the space has 182 parking places, and the City Council has worked to open the parking structure behind the San Trams building to public and permit parking in order to account for the lack of space.
“During construction, there will be free valet parking in the San Trams parking structure. Hopefully this will ease the traffic on Laurel Street. The parking complex is the first part of the development that will be finished. Once it is open, we will open it to public parking,” said Sanders.
The stage is set for construction to begin in the early part of 2016. The first step will be the demolition of the parking lot and surrounding retail buildings. These retail buildings include Foodville and the all other spaces on San Carlos Avenue from the former Oriental Rug Shop up to Hole in One Liquor Store.
A low-income, six-unit apartment building on Walnut Street will also be demolished. After clearing out space on San Carlos Avenue, the underground foundations, building basements, and parking levels will be constructed.
The above-ground levels of parking will be finished and opened first, followed by the retail spaces and condominiums.
There will be three to four spaces for businesses or restaurants.
The parking structure will have 252 public parking spaces and 195 resident parking spaces, and the three floors of condominiums above will provide a total of 109 new housing units.
Wheeler Plaza is not the only development in San Carlos. An empty portion of land between El Camino and the train tracks will be developed into retail and office spaces, as well as housing. This development is called Transit Village, and will also begin construction in 2016. Another development is the Landmark Hotel, which is set to be built on Industrial Avenue near the intersection with Holly Street.
Sanders said, “We [the city] are working to have someone to supervise any problems that may arise during the construction of [these] developments.”