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Berkeley Bowl in Fremont?

For the uninitiated, Berkeley Bowl is an independent supermarket in Berkeley known for a produce market that seemingly has every fruit and vegetable grown on the planet at prices cheaper than anything found this side of the equator.  

Needless to say, it has a cult following. 

At last night’s City Council meeting, with city officials recommending the City Council reject developer Ray Tong’s retail and office project on 8.7 vacant acres on Auto Mall Parkway and Technology Court, Tong dangled the prospect of a Fremont Berkeley bowl anchoring the site.

The council bit.

They voted 5-0 to allow Tong to move ahead with the project, although no final approval was given.

Developers, of course, have been known to promise the moon to get a project approved only to supply the brick and mortar version of moldy cheese.

Fremont’s City Council need only go back a few months when it awarded development firm Blake Hunt the right to redevelop a vacant lot in Centerville because the firm promised a new supermarket at the lot. A few months later the supermarket idea died, but the firm is still in charge of the development.

However, Tong promised (actually, he guaranteed) that this would be different. If the owners of Berkeley Bowl decide not to come to Fremont, he told the council that he’ll development a copycat market himself. “By hook or by crook, we are going to bring (the Berkeley Bowl) concept here,” he said.

The primary objections from Fremont’s top city planners were that the development would cause unavoidable significant traffic impacts at the intersection of Auto Mall Parkway and Osgood Road and that the city shouldn’t rezone more land from industrial uses to commercial uses.

It seemed a peculiar argument considering that the city seems amenable to rezoning lots of acres of industrial land for the A’s. No one asked why they were drawing a line in the sand over 8.7 acres off of Auto Mall Parkway.

I’ll try to ask that question and write a newspaper story about this, but not today. All of us at The Argus, who are used to writing our stories in a DOS-based word processing system (ctl + shift + P = print) are getting trained in a new system this week. It’s based on some technology that I think techies call Windows.  It’s even supposed to be compatible with those little mouse thingies. My training is today.

Matt Artz

  • Tony

    In response to the article referencing Tong’s comments:

    “Tong said he isn’t as interested in Whole Foods…I think that a Berkeley Bowl concept would work here better…I don’t think in Fremont you have the deep pockets that you find in other communities.”

    is a criticism about the Fremont residents. If you do the research… we are one of the most educated cities in the bay area with high incomes. I know of many residents who want Whole Foods to come to Fremont because importantly, we want quality produce and least important, we can afford it.

  • Carol Palinkas

    I know this story is ancient, but I wonder if there has been any follow up. I’m so tired of waiting for Whole Foods to get its act together about Fremont, and being a former Berkeley resident, I would absolutely love having any kind of alternative to the sad, tired offerings at Safeway and Lucky’s. The farmer’s market is great if you have the time to get there, but we need a Berkeley Bowl.

  • Matt Artz

    Carol,

    Whole Foods only wanted to be on the corner of Mowry and Fremont. That couldn’t be worked out. Considering the state of the economy, I’m not sure how eager Whole Foods is to expand anywhere.

    The Council last week certified an environmental report for a project, whose developer promised to bring the Berkeley Bowl or some similar store to Auto Mall. We’ll just have to see if it really happens.

  • Doug

    Matt says, “…considering the state of the economy…”

    Yup, here’s a business news report of 11/5/08:
    Whole Foods reported earnings of $1.5 million, or one cent a share, a huge drop from $34 million, or 24 cents per share, in its fourth quarter of last year. Analysts, according to Thomson Reuters data, were expecting 13 cents per share.

    Wal-Mart sales are up. No surprise there.