The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a gatekeeper request for 690 East Middlefield Road to allow city planning to begin. No designs have been drawn, but Mollie Ricker, principal of Palo Alto-based Dostart Development Company, said possibilities include three buildings five- to nine-stories tall and a pair of buildings 10-stories tall to provide a landmark gateway to the city seen by drivers coming in on Highway 237. The buildings could total more than 685,000 square feet, but could grow to 909,000 square feet if neighboring properties on Maude Avenue are included in the project.
Ricker said the unusual size of the site, 15.6 acres, could motivate a large company to locate its headquarters there. She couldn't name the names of prospective tenants but "you can take the biggest employers in Mountain View and you can bet we've talked to them."
The city's largest employers include Google (said to have 10,000 employees in Mountain View), Microsoft and Intuit.
The project would be the "first ever mid-rise project along the freeway in Mountain View," Ricker said.
Because of the requirements of at least one prospective tenant, and the financing that could result, "we have the highest chance of success if we can get through the planning process within 12 months," Ricker said. "Within 12 months we can develop a really great project."
A previously approved Dostart project at the site failed as the recession hit and financial markets closed, Ricker said. The "class A" office project boasted a helicopter pad, but at 340,000 square feet it was half the size of the current proposal.
City planners said the site would be rezoned in the city's general plan update next year, which will study cumulative impacts of higher density office development in the neighborhood. But city planners now have the green light to get an early start on the Dostart site.
A doubling of allowed floor area ratio has been proposed for the Dostart project, from 0.5 to 1.0, which could result in a range of configurations, from tall and narrow 10 story buildings with large courtyards to shorter two story buildings with little open space.
"A FAR of 1.0 is not excessive if it is going to get people out of their cars," said Mayor Jac Siegel, referring to the nearby light rail station, which allows a density bonus for "transit oriented development." In a letter to the city, Ricker said the site is 425 feet from a six-minute trip to the downtown train station via light rail.
Council member Laura Macias was the only critic.
"I'm not excited about 10 story buildings" in a neighborhood of buildings "no greater than two to three stories."
Ricker told the council that the project could bring $8-10 million in fees to the city and as much as $2.5 million in "off-site improvements" for public use.