BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
After years of discussions and planning, Belmont City Council is poised to approve tonight (May 28) a complex with 81 homes and retail space near the Iron Gate Restaurant on El Camino Real.
The Firehouse Square development — named after the old firehouse that still stands on the city-owned property — has been in the works since 2013, according to a report from Community Development Director Carlos De Melo.
That is when the city and developer Sares-Regis began discussing the project on the L-shaped property that starts at the corner of O’Neill Avenue and El Camino Real.
The project would have two parts — plans call for one section to have 66 low-income apartments and retail space, while the other would consist of 15 market-rate townhouses.
The corner of O’Neill and El Camino would have 3,783 square feet of retail space.
Parts of the old firehouse, which is just south of the corner where the retail space is planned, would be used on the frontage of the retail space.
In the three stories above the retail space, the apartments would have a range of affordability levels. Families of two who earn $35,200 a year will be able to rent some apartments, as would those earning $93,950 a year. One of the apartments would be reserved for a property manager. The apartment and retail building will end halfway down the Fifth Avenue block.
The rest of the project, starting at the corner of Fifth and Broadway, would be the 15 townhouses, planned to be about two stories tall.
Parking for the homes would be under the building. The project is estimated to add 580 daily trips to nearby roads, with 33 occurring during the morning commute and 50 during the evening commute, according to a memo from consultants Mike Hawkins and Jane Bierstedt.
The new cars will not likely result in significant traffic jams in the area, Hawkins and Bierstedt state in their memo.
It is also possible that residents may take the bus or Caltrain, resulting in fewer cars on the road, because free bus passes will be made available to residents and the Caltrain station is half a mile away from the project, Hawkins and Bierstedt say.
Development of the Firehouse Square area has been in the works since at least 2007. In 2007, the city’s Planning Commission debated whether to approve a retail and housing project at the O’Neill and El Camino Real corner.
However, the project stalled, and with the dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency, which owned much of the Firehouse Square property, things came to a halt.
250 other homes coming
If approved on Tuesday, the construction on the project may begin next spring, De Melo told the city’s Planning Commission at its May 7 meeting.
Between the Firehouse Square building and the previously approved 250-apartment complex at 1325 Old County Road, the city would have approved 331 homes, more than have been constructed in the past 10 years, De Melo told the Planning Commission.