New proposal for downtown space wins over hearts

When asked what most excites them about the Village in Foster City, Claudette and Jim Main spill over with enthusiasm.

“Oh, I love it,” 60-year-old Claudette begins. “It’ll be within walking distance of Leo Ryan Park, the Rec Center, the library …”

“And the convenience stores will be right next to the retirement facility — restaurants and coffee shops, right there where you live,” interrupts her 67-year-old husband.

The Mains were among about 20 Foster City residents who attended a Planning Commission study session Tuesday night at whcih commissioners gave the thumbs up to a developer’s site plan for 11 of the city’s last 15 acres of undeveloped land.

The initial design was criticized by commissioners in January for not being “connected” enough to the nearby Civic Center, theater, recreation center and parks, said planner Lynette Dias.

The newer version, which has wider walkways and vistas between the project’s central plaza and surrounding buildings and parks, was enthusiastically received.

Much more work has to be done before the commission gives its final approval to the project, intended to provide a long-desired heart to Foster City, which lacks a downtown. The project will consist of a large central plaza surrounded by 31,000 to 50,000 square feet of retail space, a health care facility, and a continuing care retirement facility — the part of the project the Mains are most interested in.

“The first words out of Commissioner [Ron] Cox’s mouth when he saw the new plans was, ‘Wow, this is wonderful,’” Dias said.

Commissioner Noemi Avram said one of her favorite parts of the new design is a pavilion in the middle of the central plaza, which could be used for a restaurant to “bring life” to the plaza. She said she is pleased with the current site plan, which to her is the most important part of the project.

Now that the basic design has been given the go-ahead, the architecture of the building will begin to be developed, Sares-Regis project manager Zach Wilson said.

“We have the starting blocks now, and we’re ready to move forward with the architecture,” he said.

The developer hopes to begin construction by summer of 2009, Wilson said.

It couldn’t happen fast enough for the Mains, who have looked at retirement communities in Southern California but would rather stay in Foster City.

“We’re looking toward the future,” Jim Main said. “This is going to be wonderful.”

kworth@examiner.com

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