City wants to develop empty site off 101 

MILLBRAE — The city says an empty lot next to the BART/Caltrain hub, originally meant to house airline startup Virgin America, needs to be developed so it can start generating revenue.

San Francisco International Airport owns the lot, covered in gravel and situated between the BART/Caltrain parking area and the southbound U.S. Highway 101 offramp. Securing the site to potentially house Virgin America’s headquarters was one of the main methods used to draw the airline to the Peninsula.

Virgin decided instead to put its headquarters on Airport Boulevard in Burlingame, and the property has remained undeveloped. Discussions on what to do with the lot have been sitting on the back burner, as Virgin America focuses on gaining permission from the federal Department of Transportation to fly.

City Manager Ralph Jaeck said the city is ready to discuss plans when the airport and Virgin Americaare ready to focus again on the empty property. As far as Millbrae is concerned, Jaeck said the only requirement is for some kind of sales tax generator.

Virgin representatives have said they might be interested in using the site for future Virgin America operations, should they outgrow the Burlingame space or want to move. Virgin spokespersons did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Jaeck did not have an estimate on the size of the property, but guessed that it was large enough to hold a hotel or auto dealership.

"We’ve been anxious to put a use on that site," Jaeck said. "It’s probably the last undeveloped site off 101 that you can see from the freeway."

SFO spokesman Mike McCarron said the airport is amenable to developing the site, but no proposals for development have been submitted to airport officials. Discussions on the site’s future are ongoing, he said, but the airport has not yet solidified a list of acceptable uses for that property.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said the agency has been involved in the discussions for the property, but he would not go into detail on what BART officials want to see built. Allison said one of the main concerns for BART remains keeping the site compatible with the mass transit nature of the area.

Millbrae has plans already in the works for several mixed-use buildings on the station’s El Camino Real side, and red-light cameras up and running on the Rollins Road side.

tramroop@examiner.com

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