Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fremont Newswrap: 4/29/08

Fremont may get its own Berkeley Bowl

A Fremont developer has pledged to bring the Berkeley Bowl supermarket to Fremont, or develop a copycat market himself.

Ray Tong of Pacific General Construction guaranteed a Berkeley Bowl-style market at last week's City Council meeting to anchor a retail and office complex he wants to develop on an

8.7-acre vacant lot at Auto Mall Parkway and Technology Court.

The Berkeley Bowl is an independent grocery store known for extensive and inexpensive produce and bulk food departments, and very long checkout lines.

Fremont has been trying to lure an independent and upscale grocer, but so far hasn't persuaded Whole Foods or a similar chain to come to town.

Tong said he isn't as interested in Whole Foods.

"I think that a Berkeley Bowl concept would work here better." he said. "I don't think in Fremont you have the deep pockets that you find in other communities."

Tong, whose company has built a Ranch 99 Market, said he has approached the Berkeley Bowl's owner about opening a store in Fremont or serving as a consultant for a market that Tong would develop and own.

"By hook or by crook, we are going to bring the (Berkeley Bowl) concept here," he told the council.

Acting against the recommendation of city planners, the council voiced unanimous approval for Tong's concept.

The planners had argued that the development would cause significant traffic impacts at Auto Mall Parkway and Osgood Road, convert needed ndustrial-zoned land to commercial uses, and most importantly, Planning Director Jeff Schwob said, draw customers from similar commercial centers in nearby neighborhoods.

"This could have a real drain-down effect," Schwob said.

Councilmember Anu Natarajan disagreed. She said that the site on Auto Mall between the two freeways was well-suited for residents stopping off for dinner or groceries on their way home.

Tong said the development likelywill have a supermarket, restaurants, shops and offices.

He must now present the city with a more detailed proposal and an updated traffic analysis before the council can approve the plan and change the zoning code to allow for the commercial development.

If all goes smoothly, Tong said he might be able to start construction by the end of next year.

Fremont picks firm to start downtown plan
City leaders have tapped a new developer to jump-start plans to build something resembling a downtown near the BART station.

TMG Partners, a San Francisco-based development firm, was named lead developer this week for the city's Capitol Avenue project, which stalled last year when a previous lead developer found himself at the center of a family squabble, city officials said.

Fremont officials want Capitol Avenue to be extended to Fremont Boulevard and integrated with adjacent properties to form the heart of a high-density urban neighborhood with high-end retail, residences and public amenities.

Two years ago, city leaders thought they had a plan to do just that.

Developer William Faidi, who had teamed with development firm Blake Hunt Ventures, presented a concept to the City Council that would have extended Capitol and integrated several parcels to make room for a public plaza and about 200,000 square feet of ground floor retail space below residential towers.

But Faidi, who owns an adjacent shopping center at Fremont Boulevard and Mowry Avenue, soon found himself in a legal fight with relatives over family assets, city officials said.

Faidi's legal troubles prevented him from following through on the project. That forced the city to turn to TMG, according to a city report presented to the City Council on Tuesday.

It could prove hard for TMG to propose anything quite so ambitious in the 180 days it has to present a conceptual design.

The firm controls about seven vacant acres owned by the city at Capitol Avenue directly west of State Street.

To extend Capitol farther west to Fremont Boulevard, TMG will need participation from Faidi, who owns the shopping center that houses Barnes & Noble, as well as three other nearby landholders, including Fremont Bank.

At this point, it's unclear how involved Faidi can be in the project, Fremont Economic Development Director Daren Fields said earlier this month. Mayor Bob Wasserman said he wouldn't be surprised if TMG proposed a mix of housing and retail on the city-owned site, and provided for Capitol to be extended to Fremont Boulevard in a later development phase.

"We always wanted to cut Capitol through and make Fremont Bank a cornerstone," said Wasserman, who also wants a cultural arts center to be part of the long-term plan.

As for the retail, Fields said, the city is looking to take "the next step up the retail ladder," with higher-end shops that want to have a street presence.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A's move to Fremont might be delayed

The Oakland A's still plan to come to Fremont, but team officials no longer expect to arrive in 2011.

A's co-owner Keith Wolff said that opening day 2012 now is the team's target date, although that, too, could change.

"If everything goes perfectly, 2012," Wolff said at a community meeting Tuesday night when asked what year the team would arrive. "I think we need a little leeway."

After the meeting, Wolff said that the team could only arrive in 2011 if the city certified the team's environmental impact report by the end of this year - a target date both Wolff and city officials said almost surely would be missed.

"2012 was probably more realistic than (2011)," City Manager Fred Diaz said Wednesday. "It's a very complicated project, and because of its complexity, it's very slow."

The A's are proposing a 32,000-seat ballpark, along with up to 3,150 homes, an elementary school and a commercial center similar to San Jose's Santana Row on 226 acres west of Interstate 880 and south of Auto Mall Parkway.

Because the project is so massive, the team is continuing to fine-tune details with the city and other agencies.

"I think they're realizing that there's a lot of things that need to be addressed," Planning Director Jeff Schwob said.

Fremont and the A's still are discussing different plans for accessing parking lots and determining which entity will be responsible for paving a temporary parking lot west of Cushing Parkway, he said. The environmental report, which requires the team to respond to comments from public agencies and citizens, typically takes 14 to 18 months to complete.

The draft environmental impact report, which will include the city's much-anticipated traffic impact study, could be completed by the end of the year, Schwob said.

Given that schedule, it is unlikely that the report will be made public before the November mayoral election, in which former Mayor Gus Morrison, a critic of the A's plan, is running against two men supporting the team move to Fremont - incumbent Mayor Bob Wasserman and Councilman Steve Cho.

Wolff did not directly respond when asked if the team was concerned about Morrison entering the race. "We just want to present a project that makes sense for the city of Fremont."

Meanwhile, the team is continuing to try to strengthen local support.

Last week, it sent out mailers to Fremont residents that had a picture of co-owner Lew Wolff, Keith's father, on the front reading to a group of schoolchildren.

And at Tuesday's meeting, attended by about 45 people at St. Joseph's Parish, stadium backers distributed a different flier touting the development and its benefits for Fremont.

Fremont mayor says city needs revenue

The city needs to boost revenue if it is to provide services that residents expect, Mayor Bob Wasserman said Monday in his fourth State of the City address.

Wasserman touted recent sales tax growth and new shopping centers as evidence of progress during a speech that focused mainly on city finances.

"Signs indicate that Fremont is heading is the right direction," he told a crowd of about 240 civic leaders and Fremont Chamber of Commerce members at the Fremont Marriott.

The mayor also announced that two of Fremont's biggest construction efforts could be completed earlier than expected.

The Washington Avenue/Paseo Padre Grade Separation project is nearly a year ahead of schedule and should be finished by early 2010, Wasserman said.

He gave 2014 as the estimated start for BART service to Warm Springs. BART has used 2013 as a tentative starting date, but city officials had been hesitant to give any date, fearing that the service could start much later.

He also touted a retail center planned for Dixon Landing Road and drew applause when he briefly mentioned that environmental studies were continuing on the Oakland A's ballpark village proposal.

As for the vacant 6-acre lot along Fremont Boulevard in the Centerville district, Wasserman acknowledged that it "has been a work in progress for many years."

A new development plan, including housing and shops, is in the works, he said.

Wasserman also noted several grants the city has received this year to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide better services to seniors and open a hazardous materials drop-off center, which is scheduled to open in July.

Click to view the State of the City Address.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fremont Update: Part 1

Pacific Commons
Yogurt Swirl (Open May or June)
Asian Pearl (Open May and Officially Open June)

The Globe

Saigon Village
Cyclo Cafe (open April or May)
Pho Appetit
Orchid Restaurant
Taste of Vietnam- Food Court (Open August)
Rice Museum
Miss Saigon
Royal Thai

Pacifica Village (Start Construction 2-3 months)
World Gourmet Buffet

China Village
Mom's Supermarket

Europa Village
Hotel (8-9 floors)

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