Development of the Centerville Unified site has hit another roadblock. Blake Hunt Ventures announced at a Feb. 19 Redevelopment Agency Board meeting that an anchor grocery store could not be attracted for the project.
The Fremont City Council, convening as the Redevelopment Agency Board, then gave the Danville-based firm the opportunity to redesign its plan for the site, with the condition that a special study session be held to discuss what the city wants as part of the project.
Plans to develop the vacant parcel of land on Fremont Boulevard have been in the works for nearly eight years, and in that time there have been three different projects presented by two developers.
Last October, Blake Hunt Ventures presented two plans for the site, one of which included a 57,000-square-foot mixed-use retail and residential project that included a 20,000-square-foot grocery store and a 16,000-square-foot secondary anchor store, possibly a drug store.
Another 21,000 square feet of various retail and restaurant space was also proposed, along with as many as 48 residential units in six buildings on the south end of the property between Fremont Boulevard and Post Street, and 245 parking spaces for retail.
The firm's second proposal included a 99,200-square-foot retail-only project that included a 45,000-square-foot grocery store and a 16,000-square-foot drug store or secondary anchor store and an additional 38,200 square feet of additional retail and restaurants.
There would have been 427 parking spaces.
The site is bounded by Fremont Boulevard, Bonde Way, Post Street and Thornton Avenue.
Brad Blake, the firm's chief executive officer, told the redevelopment board Tuesday night he had contacted more than 30 grocery stores of all brands and sizes, but only two showed any interest in taking up shop in north Fremont.
Blake added that "interest" merely meant the stores wanted to see the site plans and then discuss options.
"What most (of the stores) said was that their existing stores in the area were doing pretty good business," Blake said. "They didn't see the value of opening new stores and taking away customers from their existing ones."
Blake said the two stores that did show interest were 55,000 square feet and 75,000 square feet in size, and both wanted to front Thornton Avenue with five parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet.
"Basically they wanted to have their store and then just a parking lot," Blake said. "We didn't feel that was consistent with what the city wanted."
Blake's new plan for the site has a retail focus, with 85,000 linear feet of commercial space fronting Fremont Boulevard. There would be a town green space in the central area of development with the rear of the site along Post Street held in abeyance for possible residential units in the future.
He said the anchor store may now be a drug store.
Redevelopment Agency Director Elisa Tierney said of the six development teams that bid on the site last summer, Blake Hunt was the only firm to work with retail space. She added that the Centerville Business Community Association was opposed to the notion of adding residential to the rear of the project.
Many Centerville residents were also opposed to more residential units in the area.
Mark Dinh said when the CBCA was presented with Blake Hunt's new plans for the site, the only positive comment the group had was on the town green. He added that the parcel in the rear of the project is not suited for residential units.
"Sandwiching residential with retail does not and will not prove well for Fremont," Dinh said.
Other residents said a grocery store could be viable at the site, despite Blake explanation's for not attracting one.
"The site could handle some sort of store," David Tong said. "The business people and the neighbors all thought a store could do well. Centerville could really support developing the rear area too, and keep it all retail."
Some board members, however, said a grocery store would not be supported without additional residential units.
"A grocery store does not comply with the project," board member Anu Natarajan said. "We do hear the community's need for a store and we have plenty of sites around Fremont for that. We want to develop a pedestrian main street, and a store wouldn't work here."
Board member Bill Harrsion said residents need to take into consideration that the more than 30 stores Blake Hunt Ventures contacted simply don't want to put a franchise on that particular site.
"I understand people's concerns for wanting a grocery store, but we're not in a position to tell stores where to site," he said. "Mr. Blake has a good idea. He needs to work with staff and the community, and this project needs to be commercial."
The city will hold a special work session within a month to gather input from the community and city council on what should be built on the site.