‘Sorely needed’ growth will add jobs, revenue

It’s not very common to have a growth spurt at 60, but that’s exactly what’s in store for Millbrae in the coming months.

The city planned for growth earlier this decade, but the dot-com crash scared off most developers, most of whom are now coming back, City Manager Ralph Jaeck said.

There are now three key additions coming to the city that are set to break ground this year. The new projects are poised to bring in jobs and sales-tax revenues for city coffers, Mayor Gina Papan said.

Private developers have proposed a new 175-room hotel with 300,000 square feet of shops and offices on 401 E. Millbrae Ave., which currently houses a Clarion Hotel. That area has long been underutilized, Jaeck said.

Owners of the city’s popular downtown Safeway on 525 El Camino Real will increase the store size by 50 percent.

“Because it’s right in the heart of the Millbrae downtown shopping area, it may be a bit painful while they go through the renovations, but it’s also sorely needed,” said John Ford, president and CEO of the Millbrae Chamber of Commerce.

DirectBuy, a members-only showroom store specializing in home design, is opening a new location in Millbrae within the next five months, Papan said.

A fourth large project in Milbrae, however, has hit several snags.

The 8-acre, $310 million renovation around the BART-Caltrain station has had difficulty getting off of the ground as developers struggle to buy surrounding businesses so they can be demolished to make room for the new buildings.

The developers of the so-called Site One project have been granted four deadline extensions spanning two years to secure all the businesses. Councilmember Dan Quigg said the council would have to consider an alternative plan for the project if the developers fail to meet their current deadline, set to expire in two weeks.

Another area ripe for expansion is between the Washington Mutual and Wendy’s on El Camino Real near Millbrae Avenue, although no projects have been proposed, Jaeck said.

The new projects also will provide a boost to existing businesses, Ford said.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Ford said. “When we see projects like the Safeway project … that helps all the businesses in town because it just raises the profile in the community.”

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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