Movie theater on the vanguard of downtown revitalization

Residents have chance to add to future designs

REDWOOD CITY — The new 20-screen movie theater may be open, but the city’s motto may be “pardon our dust” for some years to come.

Residents will get the chance to help design downtown’s future tomorrow night in the first of several meetings devoted to a draft of new design guidelines. Meanwhile, more than two months after the opening of Century Theatres’ movie complex, crews are working on finishing touches including replacing dying palm trees and working overtime to lay stones for the new courthouse plaza’s mid-October grand opening.

The precise plan, created by consultant Michael Freedman in a series of workshops with the Redwood City Planning Commission and City Council last fall, is ready for public input, according to Redevelopment Agency Manager Susan Moeller. However, the environmental review of those plans — initially scheduled for completion by Oct. 10 — will be overdue.

So far, reaction to the precise plan and its sometimes ornate, always urban vision for downtown has been positive, officials said. “People are saying, ‘Wow, if that’swhat you’re talking about, I’m all for it,” Moeller said.

However, others who participated in last fall’s workshops are concerned, particularly about the new proposed heights — up to 12 stories in some downtown zones, stepping down to four stories near adjacent neighborhoods and along El Camino Real.

“Numerous people said it’s too tall,” said Planning Commissioner Hilary Paulson. “Even so, [the consultant] said, ‘Let’s run with it.’ I don’t see what the point was of setting a plan out there that everybody thought was too tall.”

For now, crews are still putting the finishing touches on the retail-cinema complex that opened more than two months ago and the adjacent projects, such as the courthouse plaza.

Workers began laying the colored tile for the plaza’s center medallion last week, and are taking extra shifts on the weekends to make sure that the site is “substantially complete” by the Oct. 15 opening, according to Community Development Director Peter Ingram.

That overtime will not cost the city extra money, Ingram said.

Nor will it cost the city to replace a handful of dying palm trees, installed in July at $15,000 a pop, according to city engineer Brian Lee. Fearing disease, Redwood City hired an arborist who said they aren’t contagious.

“They look like they were all overwatered, and up to three probably won’t survive,” Lee said. The trees are under a one-year warranty.

The Redwood City Planning Commission will host a workshop on the downtown precise plan Tuesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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