Transit village plans praised

Residents working with developers on project that would replace old Kmart

SAN MATEO — Plans to tear down a Kmart and Shell station and build a mixed-use “village” with housing and a central park are already earning high marks from some residents, who will get another shot at discussing the proposal Wednesday.

Neighbors got their first look at EBL&S Development LLC’s proposal to redevelop the 12-acre site earlier this month. Now, residents in the 19th Avenue Homeowners Association are working closely with developers to craft the plan, which goes to the Planning Commission for a study session Nov. 14.

Zoning for the site would allow the mix of condominiums, townhomes, rental apartments, neighborhood retail, office and a public park that EBL&S is proposing, according to San Mateo planner Lisa Ring. It also allows them to build up to 650 units, although the final tally is not likely to be that high, according to Alan Talansky, vice president of EBL&S.

“We want to build a transit village centered on a park,” Talansky said. “For a project of this size it’s going to be a pretty large square, about the size of [San Francisco’s] South Park.”

The Kmart building was originally a Montgomery Ward in the 1950s and transitioned to the low-cost retailer in the 1980s, according to Talansky. SanMateo’s Kmart store survived a round of store closures when the chain declared bankruptcy in 2002.

EBL&S purchased the land under the building in early 2006 and the Shell station site last summer.

Neighbors got involved very early, when EBL&S officials staying at the nearby San Mateo Marriott began jogging through the 19th Avenue neighborhood and striking up chats with locals, according to resident Marshall Loring.

“They’ve been extremely open and enthusiastic about working with us,” Loring said. “The general mood is hopeful — there are some people who would rather the Kmart didn’t go away, but I’m not sure that isn’t inevitable anyway.”

Once the Planning Commission studies the project, EBL&S will need to submit formal applications and the project will undergo an environmental review, according to Ring. But the concept fits closely with San Mateo’s plans for the area near the Hayward Park Caltrain station.

“This is one of the major sites identified in the rail corridor plan,” Ring said.

The Kmart property neighborhood meeting will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the San Mateo Marriott, 1770 South Amphlett Blvd.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

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