News

Thursday and Saturday: Middle Avenue plaza design workshop

 

Stanford University will host community workshops on May 28 and May 30 to talk about design options for a public plaza off Middle Avenue, part of its planned mixed-use complex at vacant car lots along the 500 block of El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

Stanford said in a press release that it has shifted the location and "dramatically increased" the size of the plaza as part of reworking the original proposal. "We realize that our first attempt missed the mark on the community's desires and our effort to adhere to the adopted El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan," said Steve Elliott, Stanford's managing director for development, land, buildings and real estate.

The meeting on Thursday, May 28, will start at 6 p.m., and the one on Saturday, May 30, will begin at 10 a.m. Both will be held in the small multi-purpose room at Encinal Elementary School, located at 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.

— Sandy Brundage

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by 18,000 square feet
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 28, 2015 at 11:52 pm

The Middle Avenue plaza design workshop was well-designed and well-attended. There were many terrific ideas for the space -- restaurants, retail, activities. It was exciting! However Stanford did a great job of masking the size which seems way too small for the grand plans -- yes, I realize these were ideas of what is possible however it seems most any popular event could easily overwhelm the small space. Especially considering the plaza will probably include outdoor restaurant seating.

The Middle Plaza proposal is approximately 120 feet by 150 feet (less than a half acre)!

Middle Plaza could be a wonderful Menlo Park destination, especially with the described city-built underpass -- if only it was larger. Please attend a workshop and share your thoughts.


1 person likes this
Posted by 18,000 square feet
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 29, 2015 at 1:00 am

For comparison purposes, Fremont Park is 141 feet by 192.8 feet (according to SMCounty Parcel Maps). So the proposed Middle Plaza is about two-thirds the size of Fremont Park (located at the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive).


3 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 29, 2015 at 8:22 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

The Stanford people were close-lipped about their plans. Instead, they displayed dozens of stunning photos probably culled from online sources that had nothing to do with Menlo Park or Stanford's plans. There was no reference to how the plaza would be accessed or how they would decide which design elements to include.

Visitors were given cards to have punched at each station, the sort of thing you hand a child at an exhibition. I guess now Stanford can say they conducted community outreach sessions, and that people were thrilled -- and then they'll go ahead with whatever they've been planning to do all along.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2015 at 8:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stanford significantly increased the size of the plaza from the previous plans and they removed the automobile lanes from the plaza as they were in the previous plans.

These are impressive improvements but I realize that some people won't be happy unless the entire 8+ acres is turned into a free park.

Stanford did a lot of work to display every alternate approach to the design of this site and they asked for input aon each of these alternatives. They did not give a powerpoint presentation - clearly their objective was to hear what the community wants. Of course, no matter what Stanford does some people will claim that " they'll go ahead with whatever they've been planning to do all along."


4 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 29, 2015 at 9:49 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

Peter, note that the specific plan approved by the council and planning commission required a real plaza. Stanford, in its first design, removed that plaza and turned it into a driveway. They are merely reverting to the approved plans rather than trying to argue in favor of eliminating an important public benefit.

I don't want a Powerpoint, I want to see a real proposal. Unlike some people, I don't get a big thrill out of going to an event and chatting up the hosts as if I'm some kind of VIP. Fluff doesn't impress me.


2 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 29, 2015 at 9:50 am

lessons learned is a registered user.

And no, they did not "display every alternative approach." That would have required much more effort on their part, superimposing the designs on the site. Instead, they just displayed photos from pretty places all over the globe. Why not just give us a Pinterest link instead?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2015 at 10:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There were about ten different stations each of which was devoted to a different aspect of the potential design for this project. For example, there was a station which described 8 or more architectural approaches and another which described a number of different hardscaping alternative and another for spoftscaping alternatives. At each station there were knowledgable staff to answer questions but none of them attempt to push a particular alternative.

As a former Planning Commissioner I could not imagine an alternative that was not on the table - except parking.

If you want to learn a lesson first you have to have an open mind.


8 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

The original design for this plaza with the road going through the center of it revealed Stanford's tone-deafness. I'm glad they've improved the design, but I'm concerned that with so many moving parts, they'll need to be much more creative to ensure this plaza doesn't end up as an unused concrete slab.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2015 at 10:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I'm concerned that with so many moving parts, they'll need to be much more creative to ensure this plaza doesn't end up as an unused concrete slab."

Then go to the next public session Saturday morning and give your input.


2 people like this
Posted by George Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 29, 2015 at 10:56 am

Isn’t access to the plaza the main issue?
Is plaza size even relevant?
Plaza parking would seem to be non-existent. Couldn’t only pedestrians and bicyclists use the plaza? They would need to compete with the 5,000 a day new automobile trips projected for business and residential Stanford tenants. What access or benefits, if any, can the greater Menlo Park community obtain from the plaza?
Is the City Staff or Council participating in these sessions?
What is the purpose of these sessions?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2015 at 11:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

George - Go and see for yourself and ask these questions - this is not an invitation only event.

And remember participatory democracy only works if citizens participate.


Like this comment
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I was skeptical in advance of this event but came away positive about a different design which solves many problems. It looks like a tunnel could be built after the plaza if necessary depending on Caltrain progress; the retail space is better organized than before; there is a lot of buffer along El Camino comparable to the Kepler's/Borrone building which helps that outdoor space; the driveway goes around the space and not through it. In terms of process, there was no boring Powerpoint, instead there were several professionals on landscape design, architecture, transportation who you could engage however you wanted. These are good people to talk to about options, constraints and opportunities. A big decision going forward is whether an office, residential or mixed office-residential building will go up south of the new plaza; there are pros and cons to each. It makes sense to think through the functions of the plaza and tunnel first, and then look at building choices from there, which probably will come from Stanford relatively soon. Don't get angry, instead, engage and make a difference.


5 people like this
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Peter:
Were you there yesterday or did you get a special preview?
My impression was that Stanford was sincerely trying to solicit ideas, preferences and criticism from residents. They were also very careful to say nothing specific about the project other than that there would be less office and more residential. The conceptual redesign of the plaza required by the Specific Plan is an improvement over the initial trial balloon submission.
If this project is to benefit Menlo Park, then the City needs to get busy on some related decisions, notably the grade separation at Ravenswood, the Caltrain track elevations and the value to the residents of a pedestrian undercrossing of Caltrain connecting to the Stanford project. I doubt that Stanford is willing or even can wait around for MP to resolve these pressing issues!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Were you there yesterday"

Yes


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 29, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Peter, I was there yesterday for nearly an hour and did give my input.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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