San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor San Carlos Wheeler Plaza enters the “Listening Phase”…. | The White Oaks Blog
Downtown San Carlos, Wheeler Plaza September 11, 2009

San Carlos Wheeler Plaza enters the “Listening Phase”….

by Chuck Gillooley

Wheeler Plaza

Aside from posts that I’ve written on San Carlos Schools, the proposed Wheeler Plaza project is easily the most read and commented topic on this site. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Wheeler Plaza is a city-owned parcel that’s outlined in the picture above. You’ll recognize this area as the parking lot behind Le Boulanger and Wells Fargo, and it includes some surrounding structures. Last year, the City of San Carlos started the wheels turning (no pun intended) to gather ideas on how to develop this area into a mixed retail/living complex.   To see all of the posts on this site about Wheeler Plaza, click here.  There’s also some good info on the City of San Carlos website.

The latest development happened earlier this year when the City chose Silverstone Communities as the design and development firm.   Silverstone has lots of experience with projects like these, as they recently completed similar high-end projects in Millbrae and Los Altos.    Silverstone was a smart choice — they’re based in Redwood City, so they’re local and they understand the unique vibe that makes San Carlos what it is.

This past week, I sat down with Jeff Gilman, Silverstone’s Director of Acquisitions.  Jeff is spearheading a project to gather community feedback on how Wheeler Plaza could best serve the City of San Carlos (more on that below.)  From his research, which includes all of your comments on this site, Jeff is keenly aware how sensitive this topic is,  and he also understands that there are misconceptions that surround Wheeler Plaza.   So part of the information-gathering phase is also to set some of these perceptions straight.

Here are my notes from my meeting with Jeff…

It’s an idea, not a project.

This is probably the most important point that the City and Silverstone are trying to get across.    Right now, the  renovation of  Wheeler Plaza is just an idea that the City is considering.  No plans have been made, and nothing has been committed to this idea to date, short of Silverstone’s involvement to gather information.   The City could very easily decide to do nothing at this point… But it’s obvious that whatever they do, they want community input and consensus, which is good.

Vision and Design

In it’s most basic form, the city envisions Wheeler Plaza as a multi-level residential/retail complex.   Even though no plans have been drawn, there are some parameters that will likely be adhered to:

  1. Condos, not apartments.    Most likely, the residential side of the complex will be “for sale”, not rentals.  Current figure is approximately 100 units.
  2. Parking.  There are currently 187 parking slots in the existing parking lot.  Any new project will need to preserve this number, at a minimum.
  3. Asthetics.  Key consideration will be made to blend the structure in to the surroundings, such as intelligent use of setbacks and gradual height increase, so that it will not be a huge, looming structure.
  4. No change to Laurel Street.   Since the existing buildings that face Laurel Street (WFB, Le Boulanger, etc..) are not part of the project, there will be no change to the storefronts on Laurel.

What about the Schools?

In light of the enrollment crunch this fall with several San Carlos elementary schools, the impact on adding more living space will likely be one of the biggest objections to this idea.   But according to demographic studies that Silverstone has conducted, it’s only expected that 8-10% of these units will be occupied by families with school age children.   So if these calculations hold true, the impact on school enrollment should be minimal.  And if you factor in the school fees that this structure will generate, there may indeed a silver lining for the San Carlos School District.

What’s next?

Over the next 90 days or so, Silverstone will be conducting some community outreach exercises to get input on the future of Wheeler Plaza — a listening phase, for lack of a better term.   If you’re interested in expressing your opinion on Wheeler Plaza, Jeff welcomes you to send him an email at this address:

As always, feel free to post your comments on this site as well.    I’ll be sure to keep you posted as things progress…

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San Carlos Wheeler Plaza enters the "Listening Phase"...., 2.8 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
Comments 10
  • If it looks anything like the ugly 1001 Laurel condo project, forget it. I’d rather have the city install parking meters and getting revenue than have a huge behemoth sticking out in the middle of a one story shopping district. If we’re going to have stores, please no more restaurants. San Carlos is flooded with eating places.

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    • They’re very aware of that issue, and it’s probably the #1 design consideration right now. The first conceptual drawings that I saw have lots of pedestrian plazas and open areas so that the structure rises gradually — not straight up.

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  • I have to agree with Terry. 1001 Laurel is an ugly duckling. Added to that is the eyesore at the proposed PAMF hospital on Industrial. It will be a long time before Sutter Health gets its finances in order, before resuming building. I’m not opposed to more restaurants in san Carlos. If people can afford to eat out, why not? It’s already been proven that bookstores, barber shops, toy stores and other services on Laurel,besides food, can’t survive the high rents.

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  • So how come laurel street has more nail salons than any other retail business. Are women paying $250 for pedicures and manicures?

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  • If this is done right, I think it is a positive development. It sounds like the city has the right priorities for this project. The trick will be to modernize the area without losing the unique feel of San Carlos. Also, I agree with Jean that new restaurants would be good for downtown.

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  • Wouldn’t it be cool to have an open air plaza area like Santana Row where restaurants can have outside space (that isn’t on a street where cars drive by) and children can run around. There could be shops and restaurants in the middle.

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  • I agree with Terry and Jean!! The plans right now are 4 stories high and underground parking for the citizens of San Carlos – YUCK!! It will be just like 1001 Laurel! I have no interest in parking underground when I can safely park at the street level now. Also, why on earth does San Carlos need more condos/appartments? The city is maxed out as it is???? Look at the schools, parking issues, etc. right now??? Our charming little city needs to stay as is…no more 1001 Laurel type buildings!!!

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  • 4 stories are too high. Let’s keep San Carlos charming and family friendly. No more large apartment/condo structures like 1001 Laurel!

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  • “But according to demographic studies that Silverstone has conducted, it’s only expected that 8-10% of these units will be occupied by families with school age children. So if these calculations hold true, the impact on school enrollment should be minimal.” ….taken from the article above.

    I would like to see an independent study done on the true impact that this development will have on our schools. This study is not reliable as Silverstone is clearly biased.

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  • I am so happy to hear that the City purchased the large furniture building at 1265 San Carlos Avenue for $2.8 Million and they are also looking at purchasing the Foodville building. Having the city own both of these buildings will give the developer a lot more area to develop and provided greater tax benefits to the city. Also, I hope to see an even larger underground parking garage for people to use. Finally, I hope the city can now offer even more low income housing units when they develop Wheeler Plaza now that the development site is larger. There are so many families that are struggling in these difficult economic times and I hope San Carlos leads the way to provide additional low income housing for the people that really need it.

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