Widgets Magazine

Middle Plaza project approved, adding faculty and staff housing

Amid a mixed public reception, the Menlo Park City Council approved Stanford’s Middle Plaza development project in a 5-0 decision on Tuesday night, nearly five years since the proposal’s initial submission. The 429,000-square-foot, multipurpose complex will include expanded faculty and staff housing, a public plaza and office and retail space.

Artist’s impression of Middle Plaza (Courtesy of DES Architects+Engineers and Dahlin Group Architecture Planning).

“We are incredibly proud of the effort among the city, the community and the university over several years to create the vibrant addition to the Menlo Park community,” said Steve Elliott, managing director for development in Land, Buildings & Real Estate.

An 8.4-acre facility, Middle Plaza will comprise 143,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. The project will also include 103 one-bedroom rental units, and 112 two-bedroom units.

Additional housing provided by Middle Plaza will alleviate some of the pressure for faculty and staff struggling to find affordable housing in neighborhoods surrounding Stanford’s campus.

But critics of the plan called for a stop to the development until a more favorable agreement could be negotiated for area residents, as the project will add 39 students to schools in the district as well as 2,658 daily vehicle trips to area traffic.

Resident Elias Blawie told the San Jose Mercury News that Stanford pays more for infrastructure development in the neighborhood to compensate for the project’s impact on traffic and neighboring schools.

Prior to the project’s approval, Stanford committed a community benefits package to the Menlo Park community. Stanford will donate $1.5 million to support the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation’s endowment and pay up to $5 million to provide half of the funds necessary to finance a “grade separation,” or pathway, for pedestrians or cyclists crossing the Caltrain tracks at Middle Avenue. Should the cost of the grade separation fall short of the $5 million estimate, Stanford said it will donate up to $1 million of the difference to the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation.  

Stanford also sought feedback through community open houses that led to several alterations to the original proposal. According to the Mercury, Stanford officials updated the proposal to create 43 percent more housing, 70 percent less office space and 40 percent fewer vehicle trips to and from the site. In addition, the University  agreed to hold the building project to higher environmental standards during final negotiations with the City Council.

To mitigate the estimated additional daily vehicle trips around the Middle Plaza, Stanford will work to build incentives for commuters to carpool, use public transit or cycle to campus.

The project awaits final approval, which is expected to be granted at the City Council’s next meeting on Oct. 10.


Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Courtney Douglas

Courtney Douglas is a sophomore from Coronado, California studying English Lit, Political Science and Human Rights. Before stepping into the Managing Editor role, Courtney was a news desk editor and a staff writer. She also established the Community Life & Inclusion Program (CLIP) at The Daily. Her favorite person in the world is her younger brother, Collin. Contact Courtney at ccd4 'at' stanford.edu.