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Nine apartments set to replace two century-old structures in Menlo Park

Home of Feldman's Books to be razed, but owner plans to relocate nearby

A rendering of the nine apartments planned by developer Prince Street Partners at 1162 to 1170 El Camino Real, near Oak Grove Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. Courtesy ch x tld prefab evolved / Prince Street Partners.

The countdown is on for Menlo Park's used bookstore Feldman's Books to find a new home after a proposal to redevelop the site was approved by the city's Planning Commission on Feb. 22.

The developer, Prince Street Partners, gained approval to build a new nine-unit, three-story residential building at the property, 1162 to 1170 El Camino Real. Three units are designated for rent below market rate, two of which the firm promised as part of its agreement with the city for a nearby development at Santa Cruz Avenue and Merrill Street. The architecture involves prefabricated modular building designs.

Jack Feldman, owner of the longtime used bookstore at the site, said that he did not yet have a new location lined up for his shop, but was hoping to relocate somewhere within a few blocks of its current location – "maybe Santa Cruz Avenue or somewhere thereabouts," he said.

He added that there are probably five to six months before the old building is demolished and encouraged anyone who has a good location in mind to let him know. They're looking for a spot with around 2,000 square feet that's "hopefully somewhat affordable."

"I think the community wants us to stick around," he said, adding he feels he's got about five more years of running the bookstore before he retires.

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In a letter to the Planning Commission, developers Chase Rapp and Brady Fuerst said that they offered Feldman guaranteed tenancy to find time for a new location, brought potential new locations to Feldman's attention and offered to relocate the bookstore to their new retail site at 556 Santa Cruz Ave. for below market rate rent, and offered rent relief during the pandemic.

"Unfortunately all of our efforts have been rejected," they wrote.

However, Feldman is open to taking up the developers on their offer to relocate the avocado tree at the bookstore to his own yard.

In the Planning Commission's deliberations Monday, one point of debate was whether the current buildings on-site can be considered historic, and therefore worthy of certain legal protections.

The property has two buildings on it that are more than 100 years old: The 1162 El Camino Real building, which was built in 1910 and was the former home of Doughty's Meat Market, and the 1170 El Camino Real building, now Feldman's, which was built in 1905 and once housed Martin J. McCarthy Groceries. A peer review of a historical resources evaluation for the property found that the property did not meet the criteria for state or federal historic preservations but would be eligible at the local level.

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However, Menlo Park does not have its own registry of historic resources, so adding it to a local registry isn't an option. Other analyses also agreed that the property did not qualify for historic preservation. Most recently, in December, a 2016 report surfaced that argued that the property was historic under state guidelines. Ultimately, the consensus was that the new arguments did not trump the existing findings that the buildings were not historical.

When commissioners asked, though, Rapp said he would be happy to develop a plaque to install on the new building to describe the historical significance of the current buildings on-site.

Commissioner Chris DeCardy said he felt that the City Council should take up the question of how to evaluate buildings for historical significance at the local level, and favored writing a "very strong letter" to the City Council telling them "they have essentially dodged a huge headache for themselves and should not let this happen (again)."

"This is not a good way to do public policy and not a good way to make a decision," he said.

Other commissioners disagreed that the building had historical significance. "I think the building itself is not noteworthy," said Commission Vice Chair Michael Doran. "There are lots of buildings like this around the Bay Area and other parts of the country."

Rapp said that his team hoped to receive building permits in August and build the development in 10 to 14 months.

In the meantime, Feldman's is seeding another legacy. Aidan Stone, an apprentice of Jack Feldman's, said he has been learning the used bookshop trade and plans to purchase 1,000 books from Feldman to start his own used bookstore sometime this year in San Francisco's Sunset neighborhood.

The forced relocation of Feldman's Books, plus the recent death of San Francisco's City Lights bookstore icon and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti are a "catalyst" for moving forward with his own bookstore, which he plans to call Stone's Books, he said.

"With COVID hopefully on the decline, there's potential for a renaissance, a newfound appreciation for these kinds of spaces," Stone said.

He's hoping he can open his store around the time that the new Feldman's reopens, he said.

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Nine apartments set to replace two century-old structures in Menlo Park

Home of Feldman's Books to be razed, but owner plans to relocate nearby

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 11:27 am

The countdown is on for Menlo Park's used bookstore Feldman's Books to find a new home after a proposal to redevelop the site was approved by the city's Planning Commission on Feb. 22.

The developer, Prince Street Partners, gained approval to build a new nine-unit, three-story residential building at the property, 1162 to 1170 El Camino Real. Three units are designated for rent below market rate, two of which the firm promised as part of its agreement with the city for a nearby development at Santa Cruz Avenue and Merrill Street. The architecture involves prefabricated modular building designs.

Jack Feldman, owner of the longtime used bookstore at the site, said that he did not yet have a new location lined up for his shop, but was hoping to relocate somewhere within a few blocks of its current location – "maybe Santa Cruz Avenue or somewhere thereabouts," he said.

He added that there are probably five to six months before the old building is demolished and encouraged anyone who has a good location in mind to let him know. They're looking for a spot with around 2,000 square feet that's "hopefully somewhat affordable."

"I think the community wants us to stick around," he said, adding he feels he's got about five more years of running the bookstore before he retires.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, developers Chase Rapp and Brady Fuerst said that they offered Feldman guaranteed tenancy to find time for a new location, brought potential new locations to Feldman's attention and offered to relocate the bookstore to their new retail site at 556 Santa Cruz Ave. for below market rate rent, and offered rent relief during the pandemic.

"Unfortunately all of our efforts have been rejected," they wrote.

However, Feldman is open to taking up the developers on their offer to relocate the avocado tree at the bookstore to his own yard.

In the Planning Commission's deliberations Monday, one point of debate was whether the current buildings on-site can be considered historic, and therefore worthy of certain legal protections.

The property has two buildings on it that are more than 100 years old: The 1162 El Camino Real building, which was built in 1910 and was the former home of Doughty's Meat Market, and the 1170 El Camino Real building, now Feldman's, which was built in 1905 and once housed Martin J. McCarthy Groceries. A peer review of a historical resources evaluation for the property found that the property did not meet the criteria for state or federal historic preservations but would be eligible at the local level.

However, Menlo Park does not have its own registry of historic resources, so adding it to a local registry isn't an option. Other analyses also agreed that the property did not qualify for historic preservation. Most recently, in December, a 2016 report surfaced that argued that the property was historic under state guidelines. Ultimately, the consensus was that the new arguments did not trump the existing findings that the buildings were not historical.

When commissioners asked, though, Rapp said he would be happy to develop a plaque to install on the new building to describe the historical significance of the current buildings on-site.

Commissioner Chris DeCardy said he felt that the City Council should take up the question of how to evaluate buildings for historical significance at the local level, and favored writing a "very strong letter" to the City Council telling them "they have essentially dodged a huge headache for themselves and should not let this happen (again)."

"This is not a good way to do public policy and not a good way to make a decision," he said.

Other commissioners disagreed that the building had historical significance. "I think the building itself is not noteworthy," said Commission Vice Chair Michael Doran. "There are lots of buildings like this around the Bay Area and other parts of the country."

Rapp said that his team hoped to receive building permits in August and build the development in 10 to 14 months.

In the meantime, Feldman's is seeding another legacy. Aidan Stone, an apprentice of Jack Feldman's, said he has been learning the used bookshop trade and plans to purchase 1,000 books from Feldman to start his own used bookstore sometime this year in San Francisco's Sunset neighborhood.

The forced relocation of Feldman's Books, plus the recent death of San Francisco's City Lights bookstore icon and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti are a "catalyst" for moving forward with his own bookstore, which he plans to call Stone's Books, he said.

"With COVID hopefully on the decline, there's potential for a renaissance, a newfound appreciation for these kinds of spaces," Stone said.

He's hoping he can open his store around the time that the new Feldman's reopens, he said.

Comments

Peninsula Reader
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2021 at 12:34 pm
Peninsula Reader, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Of course Menlo approved this as they want all old buildings gone like there is no history here. Disgraceful to tear those down. Make them historic. Our town is already dying why make it worse? Sad. Rather see McDonalds go.


Mr. Engel
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 1, 2021 at 1:51 pm
Mr. Engel, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 1:51 pm

This is what developers and their Menlo Park Administration sycophants will call "progress" and "vibrancy." Actually, it's not about any of those things. It's about the money! Have you seen what's being built along El Camino? Kiss the Menlo Park "village quality-of-life" good-by.


pearl
Registered user
another community
on Mar 1, 2021 at 3:16 pm
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 3:16 pm

I agree with Peninsula Reader and Mr. Engel. I'm so glad I moved out of Menlo Park 30 years ago after living there for 50 years. All those two- and three-story buildings that line El Camino Real are a major eyesore, and so out of place.


judyharris
Registered user
another community
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:32 pm
judyharris, another community
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 4:32 pm

I must agree with the people who have responded to this next phase of ruining what was once a charming small community. One may now shoot a canon through Santa Cruz avenue and hit only empty store fronts.
Those money hungry builders should think before they leap. It is too late, now, look at the wall to wall buildings being put up along El Camino Real in Menlo. It is dreadful!!


ol' Homeboy
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2021 at 2:59 pm
ol' Homeboy, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Mar 2, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Jeez Loueez! Next thing you know, they'll be tearing down the Park Theater or Foster's Freeze or Johnny's Smoke Shop or... uh, er, never mind. Nowadays, you'd never even know what Peninsula town you were in, if it wasn't for Menlo Park's bottleneck on El Camino Real or the number of empty businesses on Santa Cruz Ave. (and I ain't referring to every rug store, whose Grand Openings are accompanied by "Going Out of Business" banners).


pearl
Registered user
another community
on Mar 2, 2021 at 3:10 pm
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Mar 2, 2021 at 3:10 pm

ol' Homeboy:

A couple years ago, someone drove me down El Camino Real through Menlo Park, and I couldn't even tell which town we were in due to all those eyesore multi-story buildings that are now built there. I was shocked and dismayed.

pearl


Happy Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 4, 2021 at 1:44 pm
Happy Resident, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 1:44 pm

The old, worn out. and decrepit old buildings are giving way to new, useful. and commercially invigorating new structures to serve us in the 21st Century. Menlo Park will be better than ever.


LottieDa
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2021 at 7:22 pm
LottieDa, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Mar 4, 2021 at 7:22 pm

Years ago the City Council approved the development with Prince Street Partners who did not inform the tenants or community knowing that once it was approved nothing could stop it. The Planning Commission could never really do anything to save the building. The new building built by the developer across from the train station is an eye sore and the one to replace Feldman's is even worse. I don't blame Mr. Feldman for not wanting to relocate to the smaller space offered in the new building. Menlo Park is turning into a modular town of oppressive boxed buildings without character or soul. The city talks big when wanting to redevelop the downtown but does little to keep small businesses and instead lets money and greed run rampant.


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