Thursday, February 21, 2008
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.
Taking a different approach to the annual Retail Development Opportunities presentation, Fremont's Economic Development Department described for some 50 business owners last week what types of people are shopping in Fremont.
The presentation, entitled "Who's Shopping in Fremont Today?", is the sixth annual retail presentation to be held in the council chambers of Fremont City Hall.
Economic Development Director Daren Fields typically gives the presentation. But this year three different city staffers gave the overview, based largely on results of the 2006 American Community Survey, performed by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Angela Tsui, Fremont's economic development coordinator, presented demographics of the city's population. Of the city's 211,000 residents, she said 105,000 are women, and 101,000 are between the ages of 25 and 54.
Tsui said the median age for Fremont residents is older than 36 years. Additionally, she said there are 68,000 households in the city, with an average size of 3.1 residents per home. Average household income is $122,000.
Of those 68,000 homes, she said 32,000 of them have at least one child younger than 18 years old.
Breaking down ethnicity in the city, Tsui said 48 percent of Fremont residents are Asian, while 32 percent are white. Also, 14 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are African American.
As for education, 28 percent of residents have a high school diploma or less, while 27 percent has a bachelor's degree. Another 21 percent has a graduate or professional degree, 17 percent has had some college, while 7 percent of residents has an associate's degree, according to Tsui.
When it comes to employment, 82 percent of residents work in the private sector, 11 percent in the public sector, and 7 percent are unemployed.
During the day, Tsui said there are approximately 198,000 people in the city, including stay-at-home parents, residents who work from home, and residents from other cities who work in Fremont.
She added that equals about $2.7 billion in estimated retail potential each year.
Lori Taylor, the city's economic development manager, introduced the concept of psychographics a means that describes consumers on the basis of psychological characteristics.
According to Taylor, there are five major psychographic groups in Fremont.
Young digerati: This group makes up 28 percent of Fremont's population. Their age range is 25 to 44, and they are tech-savvy singles and couples, described as a blend of "digital" and "literati."
They shop at places like Banana Republic and Neiman Marcus, read the New York Times and drive BMWs.
Money and brains: This group makes up 22 percent of the population.
They are 45 to 64 years old, and are married couples with few children. They shop at places like Bloomingdale's and Costco; they drive Acuras, Infinitis or Lexuses; and listen to National Public Radio.
Bohemian mix: This group makes up 10 percent of the population.
Their age is 55 years of age and younger. They go to nightclubs and microbrew establishments for fun. They eat out a lot, and shop at places like Macy's.
Movers and shakers: This group makes up 8 percent of the population. Their age is 35 to 54 years of age with no children.
They drive luxury cars, read Fortune magazine, and eat at places like California Pizza Kitchen.
Blue blood estates: This group makes up 7 percent of the population. They drive Mercedes-Benzes, shop at Neiman Marcus, and are considered to lead the nation's second wealthiest lifestyle.
Taylor said the remaining 25 percent of the psychographic population is a mix of other smaller groups. Given these statistics, she added the majority of Fremont shoppers buy high quality, stylish and fashionable goods.
However, Taylor said residents, as well as the economic development department, would like to see more stores that offer men's apparel or sporting goods. More "quick dining" and take out establishments would be very successful here as well, she said.
Since 2004, City of Fremont has added 1.2 million square feet of retail, mostly along Auto Mall Parkway, according to retail development manager Leigh Boyd.
Currently, the successful shopping areas in the city include the Fremont Hub Shopping Center on Mowry Avenue, Pacific Commons on Auto Mall Parkway and the Shops at Washington West, along Paseo Padre Parkway.
Boyd said these shopping centers have brought in many retail stores that are in high demand in the city.
"(Pacific Commons) has done a wonderful job in shoring up apparel stores," she said. "It's a criteria that's been underserved in Fremont. It's established a very solid foundation for Fremont."
Boyd said the city plans to add more business to Pacific Commons, including a 14,000-square-foot Asian Pearl restaurant as well as the city's second Applebee's, a Dickey's barbecue, and the third Prolific Oven franchise.
Boyd said Fremont Hub also has done a good job in bringing more apparel stores to the city, including Ross and Marshall's Department Store.
Conversely, the Shops at Washington West brought more eateries to the city.
"The center really had a focus on food, not just for residents, but for city employees and daytime workers in the downtown area," she said.
The city is planning a total of 1.2 million square feet of additional retail in the future, including the proposed Oakland Athletics' baseball village project, according to Boyd.
Other projects in the works include the 4,000-square-foot Bayside Marketplace near Interstate 880 and Durham Road; a project at 5339 Mowry Avenue, the site of the former Jericho's Steakhouse; and Plaza Los Olivos, which broke ground last summer.
Boyd said the city is still interested in adding establishment stores like Nordstrom, Apple, Any Mountain and Cheesecake Factory.
"Not a day goes by where we don't get a call from someone asking ÔWhere's Whole Foods?'" she said. "We are trying; the message to us is that Fremont needs a specialty grocery store."
"These are all part of the retail we're ready for. We have the foundation, we have the profile, and we have the resources and shoppers," Boyd added.