12 December 2008

Fremont details lost in the shuffle

Now that San Jose has suddenly become a topic of discussion and Warm Springs has become a hotbed of its own, it only makes sense to do reset on the original Fremont plan at Pacific Commons. You remember that one, right? The plan with the 3,000+ homes and high-end retail meant to create a "walkable downtown" in a city that doesn't have one?

Plenty of details came out over the last week that work to lift some of the mystery over discussions between the A's, ProLogis/Catellus, and Fremont. It's these details, not the viability of alternative sites - they are alternative sites after all - that will help determine the fate of Cisco Field at Pacific Commons. Let's sort many of these out.
  1. How much land do the A's own? I have to admit I got this wrong thanks to incomplete info and some incorrect assumptions. At least now, we've gotten a lot of this cleared up. On Tuesday night, we learned that the only land the A's owns is the land outside the ProLogis/Cisco areas: The Fountains Business Park, some of the properties on Brandin Court, and the old Christy Concrete plant. That's no small coin as it's nearly 45 acres. Even at a lowball value of $500k per acre, that's $22.5 million, nothing to sneeze at.
  2. Who owns what among the Cisco/ProLogis-Catellus sites? Cisco controls the 28 acres that are meant for the "core village," the Santana Row-like development adjacent to Cisco Field. Cisco Field and the bulk of the housing would be built on ProLogis's land. The A's negotiated options to buy both as long as existing retailers' concerns were resolved. It was revealed that the true "option" belongs to those retailers, who are represented by Catellus, ProLogis's development wing. Opposition comes from the three big box stores and some of the Auto Mall dealers, and their disapproval amounts to a veto of the whole deal. Their opposition isn't to the project on principle, it's to the location specified in the plan. They would be more open to the plan if the A's placed the ballpark further away. The combined land total is around 180 acres, so it's possible for a reconfiguration to yield the results the retailers desire. The problems with doing this are threefold. Process-wise, a new Notice of Preparation would be required to show the new details of the land use plan. Environmentally, there would be different impacts as the ballpark were placed closer to the adjacent wetlands area. It's also probable that reconfiguration would make for a less cohesive development plan, as more parking may need to be placed in the area immediately surround the ballpark. Both sides, by not budging during this impasse, have made the location of the ballpark a dealbreaker. The city is stepping in to see if anything can be done about this, but unless both sides are willing to make more compromises, it's an uphill battle.
  3. Without the ballpark, Pacific Commons doesn't get its Santana Row. Without the ballpark, the A's don't see upscale retailers filling a new lifestyle center. Which means that if the ballpark were decoupled and placed in Warm Springs, no Santana Row. That's less appealing for Fremont residents and the city, which is looking for greater sales tax revenue from high-end, high-margin retailers.
I have to say that, knowing all of this, it doesn't look good. My support of the project was based on the ability of the various parties to find common ground and compromise when necessary. It appears that's proven a tougher task than many of us outsiders had originally envisioned (even though I argued the retailers' case 5 months ago).


Tony D. said...

Back to the current "known" reality of Fremont: Can't the A's place the ballpark at the southeast corner of Fremont and Grimmer Blvd.'s? The ballpark could have a southeast orientation, and a walkable, pedestrian "village" could stretch from left field east towards the WS BART station. This would also put the ballpark farther west of the MSJ neighborhood, with most auto traffic using Fremont Blvd. from 880. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Having worked near that area for 20 years , that WS area is a " trailer trash " area that upscale Fremont residents and out of towners will not go to if retail /lifestyle center were put there . After all, Rodeo Dr , Santana Row, Stanford Shopping Ctr, etc are not bordered by a GM auto plant on one side and a UAW Hall on the other side !It's a very ugly ISOLATED industrial zone , which makes the current Oakland Colusuenm feel like it's on the French Riviera as you whiz by on 880.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment anon 7:03--I don't know the area so I can't directly comment but if it is as bad as you say it is than why are the NIMBY's in Fremont opposed to it---it would seem to me they would welcome improvements in their neighborhood on the scale of AT&T or the Tank in SJ--

Does anyone know what the next steps are here---what is next for Fremont for the go/no-go decision? What is the timeframe? Appreciate any insight--Thx

Anonymous said...

If Keith and John have any vision spending their fathers' and co-investors' money , they should realize that establishing a denovo lifestyle village of walkable townhouses, upscale shopping/entertainment incl ballpark/concerts/broad public plazas for community events in a high income town where residents spend their leisure money elsewhere .. The Pacific Commons site is a winner in the long term. Fremont now has something like 30% of adults with doctorate degrees due to all the Asians and Indians in the tech industry who have made up 90% of new residents the past 20 years . They have sophisticated tastes and they and esp their kids crave upscale things and entertainment . They all hang out at Stanford Shopping Center, Valley Far and Santana Row on weekends . They buy and flaunt MBZs /big houses ,flashy clothes and jewelry whereas their American born counterparts are more conservatively discrete by not showing their wealth. Yeh, I'm generalizing , but just barely.

Put a ballpark in downtown San Jose , and it is really just that - like the HP Pavillion - something you go to and get out as soon as the sporting event is over . Not much diff from where the A's play now. And NOT the way you make a successful sports venue in this century . Look at the succcess of AT&T - put that exact ballpark at Candlestick Pt /Hunters Point and who cares . Look at the Village the St. Louis Cardinals are building aroungd their new stadium in Lew's home town or the Krafts are building around Gillette Stadium- you make money 365 days a year - not 80 days a year . The Fisher family , who made their first fortune in retail and now in real estate, lumber , entertainment etc., know that very well.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:19, you have to work/live in that area to understand my comments
The WS area is mostly industrial and lots of open land , just a hop skip and a jump under 680 underpass . Very little traffic goes from one side to the other right now , so residents in that Mission San Jose neighborhood ( Warm Springs is actually the industrial site and the much older lower income neighborhood that is further south down towards Cato Rd ending near media darling solar panel start up Solyndra , BTW ) haven't cared what happened " on the other sdie of 680 " before this proposal came along.
Kinda like the 180 demographic difference between East Palo Alto and Palo Alto separated by 101 . Imagine LW suddenly announcing a desire to build a stadium on University Ave in E. Palo Alto at 101 , just two blocks from $10-20 million dollar homes on " the other side " . Someone like Sex-49er teve Young , whose new $15M home is nearing completion near that intersection would not be pleased. You get the idea.

Marine Layer said...

Tony - Sure they could, if GM or NUMMI is willing to sell. That's their land.

9:23 - I live in Downtown SJ, and I can assure you that there is significantly more activity before and after Pavilion events than when there isn't. It's nothing like what you're describing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13-- agree with part of your post--but the part about downtown SJ being a place you go to and get out as quick as you can after--completely disagree with--have you been to a Sharks game before and after? I see quite a few people coming in for dinner and drinks before and than hanging out after. I live in LG and when we go to the games that is exactly what we do. Go down on a weekend and you will find quite a few people in the downtown core at the museums, CPA, and other events--not to mention that they are greatly expandign the housing base with 3 new upscale high rise condo projects coming onto the market--

Keep in mind that SJ is the second wealthiest city per capita in the US-its a city, now that Bart and HSR are in play, that is one baseball stadium away from having all the building blocks to being a true urban city.

From my perspective I have no interest in traveling out to a suburban ballpark--regardless if there is a Santana Row like development or not---put it in downtown SJ and we will be season ticket holders---even if PSL's are required to help build it--put it in Fremont and I'll go to a few games every now and then--

Anonymous said...

ML - regarding incr activity at HP around Sharks games etc., then you reinforce my point to the Fishers and Wolffes even more regarding the Pac Commons site . If they can leverage activity before /after games at Pac Commons , they MAKE MORE MONEY because they will control more of that area than they would around a downtown SJ Stadium. Plus their investments pay off the other 285 days of the year at Pac Commons .
Maximizing investment return is goal number 1 . A's/stadium/real estate is just a means to an end and having you mug flashed on national TV in the owner's box is a fringe benefit.

Oakland Sí said...

Downtown ballparks have proven in several cities to be effective at spurring economic activity and a revival of interest in spending time and money in downtown again. This is one reason I have supported building a ballpark in downtown Oakland (or Jack London Square), and believe a move to downtown San José makes more sense than having to create a 'ballpark village' in Fremont.

Anonymous said...

You SJ boosters are forgetting one thing - the team has been the OAKLAND A's for decades , not the Salt Lake City A's moving to a new part of the country - so you still need some of their East Bay/Contra Costa /San Ramon Valley/even I80 Vallejo to Sacto corrider fans . Moving it to downtown SJ ( like putting a completely new team as the Sharks were ) might as well be moving it to Las Vegas as far as some of these legacy fans are concerned . The Pacific Commons site is still in Alameda County and at least a good 15 miles closer to this long time fan base.

Anonymous said...

A's "fans" need to recognize that a stadium in SJ or Fremont is better than the A's leaving town--sure some "legacy fans" are going to be lost---maybe 10,000 true "legacy fans" exist--but for those same fans to say that they won't support the A's if they move to SJ over Fremont is a joke--we are talking 11 or so miles that will, in the very near future, have Bart and a HSR line right on its doorstep---show me where a suburban ballpark like Fremont is desirable and I will buy it--but have you ever been to Arlington in TX--beautiful stadium without any atmosphere--you drive to the game and you leave right after--just like at the colisieum today--

Marine Layer said...

10:01 - You're misinterpreting my post and subsequent comments. I continue to support the Pacific Commons model, especially when compared to Warm Springs. However, the economy and other circumstances have the original vision far more difficult to execute. There are major obstacles to getting a shovel in the ground. Unless the A's and the big box retailers give ground in their talks, they'll be at an impasse.

Furthermore, the profit model is taking a back seat to simply getting the ballpark built. That's how bad the economy is.

Transic said...

You SJ boosters are forgetting one thing - the team has been the OAKLAND A's for decades

Ask the BROOKLYN Dodgers fans (the ones who are still alive) how they feel about that.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't oppose the A's staying in Oakland for the long term. However, for the time being, they have one foot out that door. Whether the other foot follows suit depends on various factors, some in the owners' control and others not in their control.

Here's one thing that I'm sure of: I will not be shocked if they do move. Having seen the pathetic experience of the Expos, where years of mismanagement combined with fan apathy created a no-win situation with respect to that franchise. I don't want a similar fate for the A's.

Anonymous said...

As an Oakland A's fan from Oakland, I want the A's to stay in Oakland. But I have to admit, San Jose makes sense, and Fremont makes no sense. San Jose has or will have all the transportation--BART, Amtrak, and highspeed rail. It is also a better long-term business model for the on-field success of the A's. The ballpark village is a short-term get-rich-quick scheme for Wolff and a hoodwinked Fremont population. San Jose has good sports fans. They've been loyal hockey fans, which is no small feat in California. There are two camps in Fremont—those who want to protect their property values and quality of life (NIMBYS) and those who want to boost business in their backyards (BIMBYS). These are legitimate viewpoints. But for the most part, Fremont does not care about the well being of the A's. If they did, they would have insisted on the ballpark being built on the BART line in the first place. Why would anyone want to fight traffic year in year out to see the A's in Fremont? It's going to get old real fast. Ballparks are long-term investments, so the ballpark should be put in the right spot. It’s time to stop pounding a square peg into a round hole. Put the A’s where they belong, in a city with an existing urban core.