In this week's Around Town column, find out which carmaker wants to open near the Palo Alto Baylands and next step in revitalizing Cubberley Community Center.
BENZ IN THE BAYLANDS ... A new proposal to construct a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Baylands is about to start making its way through Palo Alto's approval process. The application from Holman Automotive (no relation to Councilwoman Karen Holman) calls for a roughly 84,000-square-foot building, which includes a 21,000-square-foot showroom, according to development plans filed with the city at 1730 Embarcadero Road, former site of Ming's Restaurant. It would go up next to the existing Audi dealership, City Manager James Keene said. This will be the second time in three years that the council is being asked to consider a new Mercedes dealership on the Baylands site. In June 2015, the council considered and rejected a dealership proposed by the firm Fletcher Jones, with some members raising questions about the building's density and compatibility with the nature preserve.
A PATH FORWARD ... Palo Alto's sluggish quest to redevelop the sprawling but dilapidating Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield Road could get a boost next week, when the City Council and the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education are scheduled to hire a firm to lead the long-awaited planning effort. If both bodies approve the contract, Concordia LLC will take charge of the community effort to plan for the 35-acre site, of which 27 acres are owned by the school district (which leases it to the city) and 8 acres are owned by the city. If the contract is approved, Concordia will recruit and train "community fellows (who will) become part of the team and will help guide the process, drive participation and ensure productive conversations," according to a report from the Community Services Department. The planning process won't be easy or cheap. The city and the school district plan to spend more than $600,000 on the planning effort and accompanying environmental reviews (the contract with Concordia is for up to $565,972), with the cost split between the two governing bodies. The city and the school district had only received two bids for the service (Concordia's bid was more than $400,000 less than the other one, according to staff), but officials are confident that the group can get the job done. They pointed to the firm's work on the Emeryville Center of Community Life and its "successful community engagement experience." The city and the school board have been talking about redeveloping Cubberley for at least seven years and progress has been hard to come by (during last month's budget review hearings, Councilman Greg Scharff spoke for many when he said he was frustrated with the slow pace). But if the contract is approved, Concordia will have to hit the ground running to meet the city's and school district's goal of coming up with a master plan for the entire site by Dec. 31, 2019.