Stanford University proposes to increase housing and reduce office space in its latest development plan for its 8.4 acres of land in Menlo Park between El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks, stretching from the Stanford Park Hotel site (100 El Camino Real) to Big 5 Sporting Goods (700 El Camino Real).
Stanford, which submitted its revised proposal to the city of Menlo Park on Monday, Sept. 28, said the changes were made in response to community feedback. "The community spoke, we listened," said Steve Elliott, managing director of development for the university.
Residential space would increase to 215 rental apartments (from the 170 previously proposed) and office space would be reduced to 145,000 square feet, from the 190,000 previously proposed. Retail space would remain at 10,000 square feet. The total project is approximately 459,000 square feet, said Mr. Elliott.
More underground parking would allow for more open space, including an expanded plaza near Middle Avenue that would occupy about half an acre, "over twice as big as the original proposal," Mr. Elliott said.
In addition, the architectural style of the offices and apartment buildings would be changed to better align with the community's "village character," he said.
Building height would follow a low-to-high line of sight, with three-story structures built near El Camino Real. Heights would increase to four stories for office buildings and five for residential buildings on the eastern portion of the parcel, nearer to the Caltrain tracks.
The proposed development has sparked major controversy in the city since it was proposed three years ago. Opponents expressed concerns about the scale of the project, particularly the amount of office space, and the impact on the city, including on traffic.
In 2014, residents gathered enough signatures to put Measure M on the ballot. The measure, which would have restricted office space to 100,000 square feet per project and redefined open space to not include balconies, was defeated at the polls with 62 percent of voters opposing it.
One of the objections to an earlier design of the Middle Avenue plaza was that a road would run through it. Under the latest proposal, the road would run next to but outside the plaza.
Total open space, including other plazas in the complex, would exceed requirements in the city's specific plan for the area even without counting balconies as open space, Mr. Elliott said.
The architectural style changes were made in response to opinions voiced in community workshops and discussions, he said. The previous designs, community members said, had felt too corporate and modern. Workshops were conducted to try to pin down what defines the "village character" of Menlo Park's architecture.
Though opinions varied widely, Mr. Elliot said, a consensus developed that people generally approved of architecture that demonstrated quality of materials and construction, incorporated elements of timelessness and the natural world, and were visually interesting.
To fit these aesthetic goals, the new office buildings would be constructed in the "mission revival" style and the new residential buildings in the "contemporary craftsman" style under the latest proposal, he said.
Stanford will continue to engage the community "as it refines and improves its proposal for the site," the university said in a press release. Residents are invited to two community meetings to review and comment on the new proposals.
Those meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Encinal Elementary School, 195 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.
Stanford has created a website, middleplaza.org, that shows the proposed designs and contains other information about the project.
In announcing its revised proposal, Stanford had nothing new to say about a proposed pedestrian-bicycle tunnel that would run under the tracks at Middle Avenue and connect El Camino Real with Burgess Park and the Menlo Park Civic Center.
Mr. Elliott noted that the tunnel is separate from the Stanford development project, which the university is now calling "Middle Plaza at 500 El Camino Real." The university has agreed to help study the tunnel project and provide financial support, but the amount of the support has not been specified.