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Facebook Backs Condo Builder

Developer eyes opportunity to build condos. City will decide who gets the contract for building the first below-market-rate housing in the city since ’88.

New condominiums may be in the works for a strip of land near the new Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

The social networking company will from the Palo Alto office into the new campus by December 19, 2011.

In the meantime, the company is and local businesses to showcase the benefits of having Facebook in town to Menlo Park residents. The company held an open house Tuesday night to put plans for its new campus on display, and position representatives from partner companies in front of the public to get feedback from them about their needs.

One of the most tangible elements people discussed was finding rental homes within walking or biking distance of the campus. Sares Regis Group of Northern California is one of five development firms that expressed the desire to work with the city to develop domiciles on a strip of underutilized land nearby, according to Douglas W. Frederick Ph.D., Housing Manager for the city of Menlo Park. 

“Right now we’re strictly looking at the company’s qualifications to find a developer that could lead an effort that would create a design that was acceptable to the city and the community in the area,” Frederick said, noting that some companies are taking steps that are “a bit premature.”

Sares Regis Group had a site opportunity posterboard on display Tuesday night for residents and other interested parties to peruse, which generated some buzz among people in attendance about the potential of having pet grooming and bike repair stations down the hall from their condo.

Sares Regis wants to build about 200 high-end condominiums along Hamilton Avenue between Windmere and Willow Road, according to Todd Regonini, Chief Development Officer at Sares Regis.

“We are striving mightily to be selected,” Regonini said. 

Bridge Housing, Clarion Homes, Palo Alto Partners and The Core Companies have also sent in their credentials for consideration, according to Frederick. Those companies did not have posterboards on display at Facebook Tuesday night, implying that they do not have Facebook’s endorsement.

The land in question falls within the redevelopment agency boundaries, which means that nothing can be done with it until the California Supreme Court decides whether redevelopment agencies will continue to exist. The City of Menlo Park’s Finance Director Carol Augustine told City Council the city should make the payments the state will require to keep it open during a meeting in September. It would amount to about $3.5 million, according to public records.

Because redevelopment agency property is in the jurisdiction of the Housing Authority, the city could provide incentives to future developers to build upon that land.

If the city agrees to contribute to this project, it could require the developer to set aside 15 percent of the condos as below market rate housing. A one bedroom apartment in that category would cost about $1,100 a month, according to Frederick. 127 people are on the waiting list to rent at that rate. These condos could be the first time a rental housing unit was built with below market rate units in Menlo Park since 1988.

But since the development is still in the very early stages, the precise contribution from the city has not been discussed. 

The decision will coincide with the results of the Supreme Court’s decision, which will take place in mid January.

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