Meta's ambitious Willow Village development in Belle Haven was approved Dec. 6 after two years of collaboration and deliberation with the Menlo Park City Council.
The project will redevelop 59 acres with up to 1.2 million square feet of office space and up to 1,730 units. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has plans to build the ambitious mixed-use development with office, housing and a 193-room hotel, plus retail and commercial space, a dog park and a publicly accessible park in the Belle Haven neighborhood. The main development would be built along Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, according to the application.
Of the proposed 1,730 units, 312 are being offered at a below-market rate ranging from moderate-income to extremely low-income. Willow Village will also have a 19-unit affordable senior housing building.
"At the end of the day, this project is really kind of a cost-benefit analysis," said Council member Jen Wolosin. "Are we getting enough benefits? Are we getting enough assurance that the things that we want and the things that the community has asked for are going to actually happen in a way that serves the residents?"
The final project timeline starts infrastructure work in late 2023, and begins construction of the highly anticipated grocery store in 2025. The project is expected to be completed by 2029.
The conditional development permit (CDP) includes language from prior City Council meetings to promote the environmental welfare of the site. Concessions from Meta included using the lowest emission construction equipment possible, provided it doesn't increase costs, as well as photographing the nearby Willow wetlands at night, in order to compare light pollution levels as the project progresses.
"Some things we can live with, and some things we will continue to talk about moving forward," Council member Cecilia Taylor said. "Many folks in my community that have actually reached out to me directly that believe that this project will be good for the community, and also for the city of Menlo Park."
The community and council have both been heavily interested in the full-service grocery store that Meta has promised. In negotiations, the timeline for the grocery store development has been moved up to begin in 2025, and it will get an additional $1 million rent subsidy from Meta in addition to the previously offered two-years subsidy.
The City Council voted unanimously to approve the project, with Council member Drew Combs absent. Combs, a Meta employee, has recused himself from all deliberations regarding Willow Village.
A second vote to formally approve the CDP is set for the Dec. 13 City Council meeting.