In the latest Around Town column, news about lagging construction for Fire Station 3, the Stanford School of Medicine taking over Theranos' old offices and a late architect of Palo Alto parks telling his story in a new oral history.
ALMOST THERE ... It took far more time and money than anyone had anticipated, but the construction of the Fire Station 3, near Rinconada Park, is finally nearing completion. Initially slated to be completed in early 2019, the project has fallen behind significantly schedule — a delay that city officials attribute largely to the hot construction market. City officials pointed to the revolving door of subcontractors and project managers who have worked on the project and then went on to take jobs elsewhere, requiring the city to scramble for replacements. City Manager Ed Shikada told the council this week that the project "certainly demonstrates some of the vulnerabilities of the construction industry that we're currently experiencing in the Bay Area." Even so, he noted that the fire station is almost ready. "We're looking forward to ribbon-cutting within the next month or so," Shikada said. The delays have come at a cost. The council has already approved several contract amendments with the project architect, Shah Kawasaki Architects, for design services. This Monday, council members plan to add another $102,141 to the architecture contract, raising total compensation to $916,383. The city also hopes to get some of that funding back. A new report from Public Works Department notes that the city's contract with the project contractor allows the city to assess liquidated damages of $1,500 per day, which intends to cover all costs associated with the delay. Once it's completed, Public Works will set its sights on the next project: Fire Station 4, at Mitchell Park.
NEW BLOOD ... As fallen Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes continues to defend herself against charges of fraud related to the startup's blood-testing devices, a well-known tenant is remodeling the Palo Alto headquarters her company once occupied. The Stanford School of Medicine is now leasing the property at 1701 Page Mill Road in Stanford Research Park. Freelance journalist Corinne Purtill captured the changes underway in a Jan. 23 article for One Zero, online platform Medium's tech and science publication. A visit last October to the headquarters showed the building interior resembling footage captured in "The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley," an HBO documentary on the company and its demise released earlier last year. "The giant, circular brass sink tables were still there, their flashy modern design contrasting awkwardly with the new rows of standard-issue cubicle desks nearby," Purtill wrote. During another walk-through of the building in early January, renderings placed on an easel near the main entrance showed "an attractive but generic future interior," she said. "Already the tenure of Silicon Valley's most famous fraud is little more than a footnote, its former space repurposed for new work, new innovation, new potential next-big-things."
BUILDING A LEGACY ... The voice of late architect Robert Royston, the original designer of Mitchell and Bowden parks, lives on in a new video oral history released on Jan. 10 by The Cultural Landscape Foundation. In the 43-minute recording, Royston gives the backstory to his involvement with Mitchell Park, which began with a phone call from the project's chief engineer who asked if he could use lots of earth. "I'll take all you've got," he said. He went on to design a park for the flat site that used mounds as part of its structure. "Palo Alto, being flat, all of a sudden, the kids had something to roll down. It was very interesting." He also gave his original vision for Bowden Park, the small 2-acre site in the California Avenue business district. "My thought was to make it available and visible from the train (station) and yet to be so articulated that it would work with the neighborhood and the children's play area, and just open space," Royston said. "What you see today is pretty much what was designed, except in the end that I had focused on the big, beautiful oak tree (that) was removed to put in an underpass."