After four years on the drawing board, a new retail-and-office building project on Cambridge Avenue in Palo Alto's California Avenue business district could break ground this fall. Current tenants at 378 through 410 Cambridge have received eviction notices to leave by July 31, and the developer, Cambridge Investments LLC, has submitted a demolition-permit application to the city.
The three-story, 35,000-square-foot development, called 400 Cambridge Ave., will replace three existing buildings from the late 1950s, which comprise 32,093 square feet of retail and office space.
Current tenants include a barber shop, a real estate developer, a tech-staffing company, a publication, a therapist, a venture capitalist, an artificial intelligence company and a Rolfing practice among others, according to signs on the building.
Some tenants said they have known for a long time they would be moving and received formal eviction letters last month.
The new development will merge three lots into one and include a single structure with 4,274 square feet of ground-floor retail (3,405 square feet more than currently housed), 1,716 square feet of common areas and 29,010 square feet of office space on two floors, according to plans filed with the city. The building will also include a 8,364 square-foot ground-floor garage.
The proposal has taken four years to gain the city's approval. The initial design was deemed too boxy by the Architectural Review Board. The final version altered the front façade from stucco to brick, which offers more contrasting hues and also fits better into the context of the California Avenue area, where there are other brick structures, the developer noted.
To address concerns about the building's mass, architects created an 11-foot set back at the front eastern corner, which includes an outdoor seating area beneath steel decks and an area for public art facing the adjoining public parking lot.
The development, initially proposed in 2015, also faced opposition from neighbors and existing small-business owners who worried that it will not serve the neighborhood. Owner representative Steve Pierce of Greenheart Land Co. said on Tuesday that the company worked with neighbors to come up with a proposal that took their concerns into account.
The property is adjacent to condominiums to its west, so the developer added light wells that provide light, air and setbacks for the condos. The back of the building is set back 10 feet from the rear property line, which has a 7-foot-high fence and landscaping to screen the building from neighbors, according to the plans.
The new development will increase parking from two spots to 15, Pierce noted, including 10 to serve the retailers and five for office use. It will also have 12 bicycle-parking spaces.
The plan removes one street tree at the southwest corner to make way for the garage entrance, but adds another at the southeastern corner.
Pierce said the project is awaiting building permits. A demolition permit is under review by the city. Construction could begin late this year or early next year and would take most of the next year, depending on city approvals for the phases of demolition and construction. The company will also submit a construction-logistics plan, he said.