Menlo Park: Arrillaga eyes sites on El Camino Real | October 10, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 10, 2012

Menlo Park: Arrillaga eyes sites on El Camino Real

by Sandy Brundage

As the Almanac first reported, developer John Arrillaga has his eye on El Camino Real — more specifically, former auto dealership lots now owned by Stanford University.

University spokeswoman Jean McCown said the developer "is working on some concepts for these sites that are consistent with the (Menlo Park) Specific Plan; however, they are not yet ready for possible application to Menlo Park or for public release until an application is filed."

City sources confirmed the billionaire's interest and suggested the project involved medical office buildings, but details remain scarce. In addition to the Stanford Park Hotel, the university owns five lots — approximately 8.4 acres, with address numbers from 300 to 550 — along the segment of El Camino Real zoned for mixed use that lies within the boundaries of Menlo Park's new specific plan.

Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith said it was too soon to discuss Mr. Arrillaga's project. "It is my understanding that this project will continue to be refined. It would be premature for me to comment on it at this time."

Mr. Arrillaga has donated $15 million to Menlo Park during the past four years for construction of a new gymnasium, gymnastics center and renovated recreation center.

More recently, he has applied to build a complex of four office towers and a theater at 27 University Ave., bordered by El Camino Real and the Caltrain station, in downtown Palo Alto. The towers, ranging in height from six to 10 stories, would be linked in pairs by bridges. The theater would potentially serve as a new home for TheatreWorks.

The proposed site currently houses the historic MacArthur Park restaurant, which would need to be relocated to accommodate Mr. Arrillaga's plan. The building, designed by architect Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle fame, first housed visiting military families in Menlo Park during World War I. When the city contemplated razing the building after the war, Palo Alto bought it for $1 and moved it to University Avenue, where it now serves as a restaurant.

He isn't the only developer interested in El Camino Real. Architect Sam Sinnott presented "some initial concepts for a housing development at 1295 El Camino Real," Associate Planner Thomas Rogers said, but hasn't submitted a full project application yet.