Basically overnight, Box Inc. has become downtown Redwood City’s largest private employer. The content and online file sharing company has settled about 950 employees into the recently unveiled Crossing/900 development, with plans to move in as many as 1,800 total employees over the next few years as their workforce continues to grow. Their move from Los Altos (which took place over the Thanksgiving weekend) is a landmark moment in Redwood City’s downtown transformation.
Currently, Box leases the entire 330,000 S/F of office space at Crossing/900, but does not immediately plan to occupy all of it. For now, they are sub-leasing about a third of it to three other tenants: Pebble Smartwatch, the shopping app shopkick, and the Wealthfront Investment Service. The leases will expire in stages over 3 years, allowing more “Boxers” to gradually take their place.
With nearly 1,000 new workers making their way to downtown Redwood City Monday-Friday, there are obvious concerns about increased traffic. However, any adverse effects should be minimal. A major reason Box picked Crossing/900 as their new home was for its proximity to the Redwood City Caltrain station. Company spokespeople have emphasized that they are committed to mass transit, and their actions seem to reflect as much. They provide their employees with free annual Caltrain passes upon request, and run a shuttle service taking employees to and from San Francisco (about 1/3 of their workforce lives in San Francisco).
As far as parking is concerned, the 900+ spaces included in the Crossing/900 development should be plenty to accommodate the Box employees who don’t take public transit. These parking spaces are also available to the public on nights and weekends.
The obvious upside to bringing so many new people to Redwood City on a daily basis is that downtown businesses should see a general increase in patronage. Whether it be restaurants during the lunch/dinner hours, bars during happy hour, or retail as newcomers become acquainted with the storefronts, all downtown businesses stand to benefit from Box’s presence. With that being said, there is something that may limit the number of trips Box employees make to downtown restaurants in the early going. That’s the “Lunch Box” – a cafeteria located on the 2nd floor of the headquarters offering Boxers a wide variety of free meal options, including a pho bar, pizza, vegan cuisine, and more. The hope is that once the thrill of free in-house meals fades, employees will start to make their way downtown a couple times a week in search of something new to eat.
For better or for worse, the identity of Redwood City has been altered, and the vision set forth by the Downtown Precise Plan in 2011 has taken form. A town which at one point in time was oft referred to as “Deadwood City”, has become a bustling hub of commerce and entertainment, with the Silicon Valley workforce as an integral part of its culture.
The new Redwood City is bound to be met with resistance by some long-time residents, as most change usually is. But as time goes on, hopefully we will all reap the rewards of a more vibrant, thriving downtown.