“Fremont’s turn to rise”

Ten years ago, when I was struggling to find  a place to live in Berkeley/SF, Fremont was “bursting at the prospects.” of Pacific Commons, which back then was going to transform Fremont from bedroom community to the heart of Silicon Valley.

How big was the hype? Here’s the beginning of one Argus story from Sept. 29, 1999

A city within a city is on the verge of sprouting in Fremont.

Pacific Commons — a 20,000-job technology business park in the south western part of the city — got its final environmental clearance earlier this month …

Construction could begin by early summer. Proponents are bursting at the prospets of adding so many high-tech jobs to a city long known as a bedroom community.

“You’ve got to love it,” said Tim Reilly, chairman of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce. “It’s Fremont’s turn to rise and be our own city instead of that commute city.”

So what happened? The high tech office market tanked with the dot.com bust. And the only thing that got built at Pacific Commons was a bunch of stores, mostly large national chains. Three of them — Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Costco — ended up helping kill the A’s project which would have gone on land that Cisco had originally planned to develop.

Matt Artz


  1. Sadly that is Fremont for you. Its my opinion Fremont has Pleasanton envy, since “P-Town” has a nice walkable downtown area, lots of nice office parks, and a mall. Fremont has historically been unable to embrace or handle any large scale projects. Along with its multiple personality disorder of having 8, 9, who knows how many districts now it is impossible to propose a project without stepping on someones toes. Should the economy rebound and my business thrive again I am reluctant to invest in or develop any projects in Fremont. Its reputation for being difficult is no longer a secret or whisper since the debacle with the A’s made the national news. I also find the city unwelcoming as it only caters to upper affluent households with children, everyone else is a second class citizen and not worthy of better public transportation or, dare I mention – entertainment.

  2. Mr. (or Ms.) Commercial Real Estate –

    Wait a minute – Fremont is the town that “only caters to upper affluent households with children”?!? Have you been to Pleasanton lately? It’s summer and school’s out – check out any shopping area, sports field or movie theater on that side of the hills and try to tell me that Pleasanton isn’t more conspicuously affluent and child-obsessed that poor old Fremont. Wasn’t the soccer mom invented there, and isn’t it still the home range of the helicopter parent?

    Yes, Fremont has its problems. Yes, our Planning Department has probably scared off more businesses than an IRS audit. Yes, our electorate has finally been shaken out of it’s hibernation into a long-overdue involvement in local issues. Yes, Pleasanton is a very nice town that has a lot to recommend it. That’s why God gave us the internal combustion engine. If Fremont doesn’t work for you, keep driving until you find a place that does, like Pleasanton.

    Speaking only for myself, I do admire Pleasanton’s schools and their decision not to comply with ABAG’s housing requirements, but I certainly do not envy them.

    By the way, Fremont has five districts; Mission, Centerville, Irvington, Niles and Warm Springs.

  3. Please – a lot of us knew from the start that Pacific Commons was going to turn out to be exactly what it is. If City management, Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce are trying to position a project as the greatest boon to the economy since the invention of the credit card, you can bet it’s going to end up being another mall. That’s the way things are around here, and you’ve been covering Fremont long enough to know it. Cut 75% out of the press release and you’re approaching reality. And if you ever hear the phrase “city within a city” or “central business district”, know that they’re totally talking through their hat. Unfortunate, but true.

    On the up side, we did get some big businesses who were able to throw their commercial weight around in objecting to the stadium proposal, so the downgrade from high-tech to big-box didn’t turn out to be a total loss. Matt, why not just give up the pretense of impartiality on the stadium issue and admit that you supported it from the start?

  4. God, Lifer’s statement is probably as old as s/he is: “If Fremont doesn’t work for you, keep driving…” or “We don’t need anyone in this town with an alternate viewpoint or vision of what Fremont can become. Us old timers know it best.” Stale and weak.

  5. Of course a statement that I make will be the same age that I am; logically, how could it be otherwise? How do you know how old I am? I don’t know how old you are.

    Of course we need alternative viewpoints from people who live here, who have businesses here, who pay taxes here, who vote here, who have a dog in this fight. Are we to make decisions about our town based on what people who live in other towns think is right for us? That kind of decision-making is generally left behind shortly after high school commencement.

    Old-timer’s don’t know best, but they are a voice among the residents. Are the opinions of old-timers to be dismissed simply because they may have lived longer than you have? Do you realize how ageist that would be?

    What you are basically saying is “shut up”. That’s not really a constructive comment, is it?

  6. FL, I don’t have a problem with your basic arguments, I have a problem with your belief that folks who feel that Fremont is not working for them should just “keep driving”, which basically means, “get out of town”.

    I can’t respect that belief and for me it taints anything constructive you have to say.

  7. Looks like the TCB (not to be confused with TCV) is (again) getting marginal BLOG traffic . . . time for Ourgas employees to assert some extreme positions in hopes of whipping up some dialogue before anyone notices.

  8. If Fremont is not the right place for them, why would they choose to stay here? The original poster already said that he/she would choose Pleasanton over Fremont – that’s not my choice, it’s his/hers. Like people, places have their own personality. Apparently Mr./Ms. Commercial Real Estate and Fremont were not a love connection. I sincerely hope that he/she finds what he’s/she’s looking for in Pleasanton.

    On the other hand, if Mr./Ms. Commercial Real Estate wanted to stay in Fremont and work to correct the problems he/she feels we have, that would be another matter. I just don’t understand why people who exercise their choice to live in other towns think they have grounds to spitball Fremont when their interests are clearly lie elsewhere.

  9. As the past has taught us, forcing things does not end well for the city. Note the A’s project. on the other end of the spectrum being too open, water park, wont give us the results we desire either. Its all about balance and I think everybody here has made valid points.

  10. The old saying about hindsight being 20/20 is really true. I was part of the approval process for Pacific Commons over the 3 1/2 years it took to get all the local, state, and federal approvals. I traveled to DC and to Sacramento frequently and met with top level people at a myriad of agencies explaining the project.

    At the beginning, we all (everyone) believed it would end up as a huge hi-tech office park with more than 8 million square feet of space. While, there might have been a bit of retail, it was only intended to be support for the employees who were working there. In the same vein, a train station was envisioned to support access for the employees, along with a shuttle system to bring them to and from the station.

    From the time we started until all approvals were achieved, the Silicon Valley world changed. Suddenly, there was 50 million square feet of office space vacant in the Bay Area. Cisco, which effected a lease on half of the space in February, started laying off in March and cutting back on their space needs drastically.

    It was only at that point that the change to retail became a consideration. It took a while to work through the changes in design, but it became what it is now. Had the plan been for retail in the first place, it would have been there several years earlier.

    Like it or not (I like parts of it and thing other parts are not well connected and should have been done differently), it serves its purpose. PC provides a huge sales tax benefit to the city and requires a very low level of city services. It provided the 40 acre site at the end of Auto Mall to the city free of charge and it provided funds to build a permanent Fire Station 11, which breaks ground this month. The big box stores (Costco and Lowe’s, primarily) need to be on large lots and don’t work in downtowns, so this location is perfect for them.

    While it wasn’t what we originally wanted for the site, it has become an asset for the city. Anyone who has studied (or lived, as I have) the history of that site, would have to agree that most of the other proposals were worse than the result by a long shot. And, fifteen years ago we didn’t have the advantage of hind sight.

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