Time for a Change.
The other morning while I was making my normal run for sourdough bread at Le Boulanger (if you haven’t tried their fresh sliced sourdough, it’s out of this world), I was struck by how much of an eyesore the rear parking area behind the building has become. Sure, during business hours it serves a valuable purpose as a main downtown parking area. But during non-business hours, it’s just vast sea of empty parking spaces that’s sometimes strewn with litter on windy days. For those of you who may not know, that very area on the corner of Walnut Street and San Carlos Avenue (including many of the buildings), is a city-owned plot of land known as Wheeler Plaza. And for the past couple of years, the City has been investigating different ways that it might re-develop that entire site.
I hope the City will be able to take one of those solutions beyond the idea stage and actually re-develop this prime area of San Carlos, because there are three key reasons why it needs to happen:
#1) Right the Blight.
Businesses seem to be getting healthier all along Laurel Street in downtown San Carlos, especially with growth in the middle and southern sections. But the northern stretch of Laurel is still (and will continue to be) the magnet that draws residents and visitors alike to downtown San Carlos for the foreseeable future. The unique combination of shops and restaurants, along with the convenient location, makes it the most popular part of downtown San Carlos.
Wheeler Plaza should be the Cinderella of this critical piece of San Carlos, not the ugly step-sister.
Having the old Foodville Market sitting like a ghost for past two years certainly hasn’t helped, but it’s interesting that the City stepped in and purchased it this past March. Hopefully a sign of better things to come with this parcel of land.
#2) Tax Revenue.
For the first time in many years, the City of San Carlos may have a budget surplus when it votes on its budget for the upcoming year. But this is a result of a one-time, massive reconfiguration of vital city services (aka outsourcing), and the fiscal health of the city cannot ride solely on the back of budget cuts. The city must find other sources of revenue to keep the budget in the black, the most obvious of which is increasing sales tax revenue.
A well-planned development at Wheeler Plaza will bring two things that are vital for fiscal growth: More people, and more businesses (and not just more restaurants.)
#3) Alternative Housing.
Not everyone who is looking to call San Carlos “home” is able to (or wants to) shell out the nearly $880,000 average price it takes to land a home today in this market. But if you look at what’s available in upscale alternative housing (condos, apartments) near downtown, the choices are bleak. Aside from the development at 1001 Laurel (which is nearly sold out) and a few smaller 12-14 unit places that have been remodeled in Howard Park, there’s very little else to choose from in modern housing. Most of the other condo buildings downtown are getting pretty long in the tooth.
In sketching out the options for a possible re-development of Wheeler Plaza, the San Carlos Redevelopment Agency has done a good job of maintaining the right priorities that will make this agreeable to the greatest number of residents: An aesthetically pleasing design, and preserving the existing capacity that’s currently in place. It’s exciting to see the possibilities for this vital area of downtown San Carlos.
It was only 10-15 years ago that Laurel Street underwent its dramatic (and wildly successful) transformation. It’s now time for Wheeler Plaza to follow suit.
Welcome to to the White Oaks Blog — the most widely read blog dedicated to the San Carlos real estate market! Have blog updates sent to you automatically by subscribing for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
Don’t miss a single update!