02 May 2007

Ballpark Village comparison

Ask and ye shall receive. Bleacher Dave suggested that I compare different ballpark village developments around the country. Luckily I waited until NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his aggressive development plan for the Willets Point neighborhood east of Shea Stadium/CitiField, adding one more point of reference in the process.

For this comparison, I've strictly observed developments around major league ballparks. While there are several examples of village-type projects near minor league facilities, they're typically much smaller in scope and potential economic impact so for now, I've left those out. New Yankee Stadium is also not included because the ancillary development mostly consists of garages and parkland placed near or atop those garages.

The four markets being covered are:

  • San Diego's Ballpark District, at the edge of the trendy, gentrified Gaslamp Quarter
  • St. Louis's Ballpark Village, on the site of the previous incarnation of Busch Stadium
  • Willets Point in Queens, home to mostly junkyards and auto repair shops that are visible from the Shea Stadium parking lot
  • Fremont, the only undeveloped site of the four and the only one not in an urban environment

Not to be forgotten is that the first three projects have access to good public transit infrastructure. Fremont may have at best indirect access to BART or commuter trains.

San Diego's Ballpark District actually covers some 26 blocks north and east of PETCO, but it has been scaled back significantly since its inception. $300 million in public financing for the ballpark was exchanged for a promise by Padres owner John Moores to develop much of the surrounding area. The delayed opening of the ballpark occurred before the start of the real estate downturn in the San Diego market. The area's housing prices have flattened or dropped over the last year or so as new construction and conversions have come online, creating a glut of sorts. This phenomenon doesn't affect the ballpark's financing, but San Diego has had plenty of other fiscal problems, namely its debt load and accounting scandals. The city's damaged credit rating (from its $1.4 billion pension crisis) held until March, when the ballpark bonds were refinanced to reflect an interest rate drop from 7.66% (!) to 5.23%.

The Ballpark Village next to new Busch Stadium may look large at $650 million, but it's far smaller than the other projects. Development is being driven by the Cardinals and partner firm The Cordish Company, but last year Cordish requested a subsidy to keep the project moving forward. In February, the city approved a $115 million cash infusion into Ballpark Village. Cordish is a name to watch for as it specializes in large urban redevelopment efforts and pulls in major subsidies in the process. The original agreement between the development partners and the city called for the first block of development to open in 2007. That date has slipped to 2009. In the meantime, the price tag has grown from $300 million to $650 million.

The Willets Point (a.k.a. "Iron Triangle") section of Queens is known for its run down auto shops and junkyards. Previous city leaders have targeted it for massive projects, most notably the 2012 Summer Olympics bid. After MSG/Cablevision effectively killed all hope for Jets/Olympic Stadium on Manhattan's West Side, attention turned to Willets Point for a stadium and press center. The new site of CitiField is sandwiched between the existing Shea Stadium and the Iron Triangle, further propelling Bloomberg to redevelop the area. Existing business owners have pledged to fight eminent domain proceedings to the very end, but we know how that often turns out...

That leaves us with the Cisco Field project. Aesthetically and politically, it has little in common with the other three plans except for that it's a ballpark with ancillary development. In adherence with the path of least resistance concept, it would appear that it has relatively few obstacles for its completion.
  • No upfront public money (bonds) is being requested for either the ballpark or ancillary development (as far as we know).
  • There are no eminent domain or other major land acquisition problems that could delay development (factoring in the Scott Gas situation).
  • Repayment of any privately raised bonds is likely dependent on ancillary development beginning quickly, forcing the developer to mitigate or eliminate any delays associated with the project.
Knowing that these elements should help put the project on the relative fast track, one would hope that Wolff and his people would focus even more attention on transportation solutions, as that's the obvious weak point in the proposal. Even then, there's only so much that can be done.


Anonymous said...

San Diego 7 acres? That's an awfully small footprint for a ballpark (let alone an entire village). Anyhow, It is still puzzling to me why Lew Wolff needs so much acreage for his ballpark and supposed village...143?! It would obviously be by far the largest of the villages. I would still prefer the A's set up shop in a true urban environment. Here's hoping the OTHER A'S OWNERS (the NINETY PERCENTERS!) are working behind the scene to deal the Giants territorial rights to San Jose.

Marine Layer said...

The 7 acres is exclusive of the ballpark. It's actually more than 7 acres but the development in the Ballpark District is so spread out that it doesn't make for a contiguous project area. I'm not holding my breath on San Jose.

Anonymous said...

Ballpark village at Cisco Field development will be on the 20 or so acres bordered by Christy/Curie/Boscell and Bunche and currently owned by Prologis . Stadium will take up 15 acres south of Bunche between Christy and Boscell, part of the land Cisco had control of . Remaining 165 acres of the nearly 200 acres that has/will be amassed so far will be for residential/parks/trails etc.

FullCount said...

What has happened to the Twinsville concept when it was part of a proposal to bring the Mn. Twins to a downtown location, Minneapolis or St. Paul?

Dejean said...
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Marine Layer said...

The Twinsville concept sort of got lost in the site acquisition game of chicken between the county and ballpark site's owners. Turns out the site owners are the very same guys pushing the Twinsville project, meaning they were in from a land speculation standpoint.

A development firm and an architectural firm have been hired to scope out Twinsville, but it's not cohesive with the Twins' ballpark efforts. That combined with the fact that there's been little news about Twinsville over the past year led me to leave it out of the comparison.

Marine Layer said...
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Jonclaude4 said...

ML do you know the price range available of the residential units already developed?


anon-a-mouse said...
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Marine Layer said...

Jonclaude4 - Are you referring to San Diego? If so the price of a condo in the downtown area is around $600K.

Anonymous said...
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James said...
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Marine Layer said...

Before this gets out of hand, all of the OT comments about Oakland being disrespected are getting deleted.

Jeff P said...

Do you have any idea what the cost for a condo would (midrange) be in the Fremont development? I imagine that there would be a "premium" due to the ballpark village concept.

Marine Layer said...

Well, Fremont's current price is ~$500K. There will be some sort of market for premium housing, but it's hard to say what that is. The convenience of having a new entertainment district will be alluring, but I imagine that the market for buyers who specifically want to be close to the ballpark will be limited (and I'm one of them). No amount of new amenities is complete substitute for a real downtown, though the Chronicle's John King has observed that "citified suburbs" is an emerging trend.

Higher density housing in Fremont is considered a lower value than in other parts of the Valley such as Santa Clara or Mountain View. The shift from condos to townhomes could be a clue that demand for certain types of premium housing isn't that high. In the end the market will dictate prices.

Anonymous said...

Dense/mixed use developments like what is proposed in bland closer in suburbs like Fremont that mimic fuax " main street/Mayberry " or faux " Soho " areas have been popping up in large metro areas all over the US for the past decade . It's better use of land and resources .
Who needs more exurban sprawl of latch key kids / absent parents who get in the car at 5 AM in the Central Valley to commute to jobs in Silicon Valley?

Jeffrey said...

A good gauge of what pricing could be like is the Montebello development from kbhomes. It is close enough to the site. The issue is that ML is right, we won't know until the houses are built what the market conditions will be.

Marine Layer said...

We might be able to get a sort of ballpark figure on housing prices based on which builders get development rights. Each has a specific profile and market characteristics. Even then it's still at best an educated guess.

anon-a-mouse said...

I agree with anon 9:05, this is the right kind of development for an inner suburb like Fremont. The whole development will be perfect if they work out an efficient BART connection or if they eventually extend CalTrain over Dumbarton and down to this site. Either one of those, combined with CC/ACE and the inevitable extension of AC Transit to the area, would make this an ideal development. Those are very big "ifs" however. Then again, I'm talking about going from good to great.

BleacherDave said...

Thanks, ML.

How are the local reviews in SD and StL about their projects?

It's been a couple of years since I've been in SD, but they were going gaga during the boom.....

Anonymous said...

As a warm springs resident and a condo owner, I think I can give a guess as to what prices may be. I have a condo that is very likely inferior to what will be available in "the village". I have a 2 bedroom, 1000 square foot unit. It is a 25 year old complex. My unit currently sells for between 380k and 400k. Based on that, a 2 bedroom 1000 square foot condo in the village will likely be starting at 480k to 500k. Likely these units will be better than a "1000 square foot condo" though, so I would add another 50k for a stock unit.

Brian Chang said...




This is to advise you that an agenda item has been scheduled for the
regular City Council meeting of Tuesday, May 8, 2007, to hear a progress
report from Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff on the Ballpark Village
Project. The City Council meeting begins at
7:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 3300
Capitol Avenue, Building A, Fremont, California.

If you have any questions regarding this agenda item, please contact
Economic Development Director Daren Fields at
(510) 284-4020 or at


Dawn G. Abrahamson
City Clerk

Office of the City Clerk
(510) 284-4060
(510) 284-4061 Fax

Jeffrey said...

I was rooting for you during the Bay Alarm home run inning today!

Anonymous said...

"I'm not holding my breath on San Jose"
Of course you're're an A's fan who works in Fremont and finds the idea of owning a condo in the supposed village to appealing (and convenient).

Jeff P said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but with all the talk about ballparks "belonging downtown", I think there is much to be said for having a home in a "faux" downtown. Whatever that is. As a parent, I find the idea of having the convienence of "city" life without the attendent "city" blight issues appealing. Consider that all the construction is new, family friendly resturants/entertainment (price wise) is nearby. Generally in cities proper you have an unsavory element present. Homelessness, crime, etc. These things aren't generally present in new developments. All in all, I am finding the Fremont option more and more inviting. If the price range is within reason, relocation is a viable option as far as I am concerned.

Marine Layer said...

anon 8:59 - FYI I also happen to be a downtown San Jose resident who lives within a 20-minute walk (I've timed it) of the Diridon South ballpark site. I would stand to a huge beneficiary of a ballpark in San Jose as there would be little pain on my part. My comment does not reflect a preference for any one site - I don't really have one. Rather it's reflective of the political realities for the A's and various cities.