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In San Mateo, the Horses Have Left the Barn

A former race track becomes a cushy mini-city.

Bay Meadows’ Nueva School

Bay Meadows’ Nueva School

 

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For most people, Bay Meadows conjures memories of $1 beers and galloping thoroughbreds. Today, the former racetrack is an 83-acre mega-development of homes, apartment complexes, stores, restaurants, and parks, all carefully planned to bring to mind an idyllic mini-metropolis. “We wanted to create a place where people would engage with each other,” says Chris Meany of developer Wilson Meany, “as opposed to having an isolated suburban environment where you have to drive 5 miles to the store and 20 miles to the office.”

Even the staunchest urbanite would find the Bay Meadows village impressive. Craftily engineered for neighborly interaction, the streets are narrow and the sidewalks wide, creating what designers call “social streets.” The townhouses are fronted by sidewalk-facing stoops, and the office space will be built around central plazas. There are 18 acres of parks crisscrossed with bike lanes and dotted with sculptures, baseball diamonds, and soccer fields. The planned 40,000 square feet of retail promises coffee shops, a handful of restaurants, a general store, a gardening shop, and a Whole Foods. Nearby, the Bay Meadows community garden contains 99 fruit and vegetable plots.

Last fall, the first class of teenagers flooded into Nueva School, an energy efficient, resort-like private high school featuring an indoor-outdoor setup that includes study courtyards, a student-center roof deck, and organic gardens. Even the tech shop has an open-air terrace.

Bay Meadows will ultimately provide 1,000 new housing units, ranging from $2,800 rental studios to $1.5 million townhouses. But, thus far, the cost of living hasn’t deterred demand: The first batch of townhouses and condos drew so many buyers that the homes were doled out via a lottery-style drawing. Though Bay Meadows won’t be completed for another three years, three of the eight eventual neighborhoods have already sold out.

 

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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