Here’s my story on the Blake Hunt redevelopment project in Centerville.

I didn’t harp on proposed the $1 sale price for the 6.6-acre parcel. Fremont folks said it’s common for a Redevelopment Agency to effectively give away land to a private developer and that Jim Tong would have gotten the same deal if he could have moved ahead with his plans for the site several years ago.

Still I took a negative tone, which I thought reflected the lack of enthusiasm from the four councilmembers with whom I spoke. They seemed resigned to approve the project.

Maybe it’ll help the neighborhood, but the city did spend $12.5 million to buy all the parcels and get the land ready for development and it’s going to pony up another $13.5 on infrastructure improvements.

That’s a lot.

When you’ve got $26 million in taxpayer funds, you want — to borrow the words of a well-dressed man — a “Wow” project, or at least something that you know is going to bring a lot of residents/shoppers to Centerville.

Here we’ve got $26 million in public funds for 188 apartments (122 studios and 1-bedrooms) and 14 stores. You could say that’s $138,000 in city money per apartment or you could say that’s nearly $2 million per store. Wowser.

Matt Artz


  1. Not a bad article, Matt – – –

    Follow-up question – – when Tierney says “That’s how redevelopment works – – – it takes a long time and a lot of money.” – is she saying that the Centerville progress or lack of same is typical of other RDA projects ? (The answer is “No – Centerville has been hampered by a number of issues – — one of which is the larger “economy” (which BTW has also created challenges for OTHER Fremont RDA projects but, for whatever OTHER reasons have been able to move forward with some modicum of succes).

    Another thought – — Dale is expanding – and I can’t help but feel that (on a smaller scale) this is good news for Centerville and ensures a certain amount of traffic and “draw” – – – and while this consideration is not on the scale of a Target or WalMart (thank goodness !!!!) their superior service and customer loyalty ensures a constant flow of activity that is reasonably expected to grow with their development plans. Someones’ missing the mark here – – – Dale’s success and growth is, by itself, a catalyst which needs to be levered. BUT WE’RE GIVING THIS AWAY ??????!!!!!!!

    What am I missing here – – ??

    Developers like “anchor tenants” with “draw” – but for some reason, we haven’t made the connection – or haven’t been able to leverage same. Why not?

    Think small – med-sized retail. Now sell an established and very loyal volume of customers who appreciate KNOWLEDGEABLE service and aren’t afraid to pay a slightly higher price for that excellence – but who can only buy nuts and bolts and flowers – – anybody else want a crack at THAT customer base ???????

    How do we make it really convenient for Dale Customer to access . . .. . something else ????

    Random thoughts –

  2. Wow Bbox, what a great observation. I live down near Warm Springs/Mission and drive up to Dale for everything but the most common bits. I think my husband even goes up for those. Dale is a draw and should be nurtured, and encouraged to grow. That area is sorely lacking in everything but grocery stores, and surely other home related stores (appliances, lighting, decor, furniture, landscape design, garden/pool, related service businesses, etc.) might thrive with proximity to this high quality establishment.

    If there is no “Wow” proposal, why not open the opportunity to a wider audience; subdivide the land after putting in that $13.5 million, pedestrian- friendly infrastructure, and sell the lots to the highest bidder; or just wait to see what interest is generated after Dale has completed its renovation? At least, we would get some of the investment back, and might even generate some new ideas. For a $1 gain, I can’t see how we could lose by waiting to spend another $13.5 million (- $1) on this lackluster proposal.

    Again, we are looking at this as the only option. It isn’t. If we could wait all these years, then what’s a little longer to see the impact of the new Dale? Better to wait than make a bad decision.

  3. Gosh Kathy –

    I couldn’t disagree with your observations more –

    The area is (IMHO) QUITE lacking in quality grocery (opportunity !), and it already posesses a high quality supplier of landscape design / garden / pool – all the things Dale already supplies, or is planning on expanding into.

    Sorry – but you missed the point entirely.

  4. Box, your willingness to use your trademark abrasive tone with even Kathy McDonald is amusing.

    On the topic of Centerville, I think a broader vision needs to be met in place of the usual RD routine of plopping a work-live Utopia in the middle of an otherwise auto-centric city.

  5. Dale Hardware wants NOTHING to do with Fremont Redevelopment Agency and who can blame them.
    Dale is a local business that is successful without the meddling of Fremont politics.
    I think we all thought that the Centerville Project would be something special, that would stand out and make Centerville a destination.
    Instead we are getting apartments?
    The Fremont City Council will vote on this tonight, we get to vote on this in November!

  6. Gosh Marty – great ideas – I wish I had come up with those thoughts !!!

    I agree with you completely – the usual Fremont RD approach in this area seems like it would be a wasted opportunity – -And as you say – – the opportunity is emphasized because there’s a well established presence of a loyal and higher-end customer base that values service over price . . . . .

    Perhaps the “broader vision” you have so aptly (and generally) characterized could LEVERAGE this opportunity to POTENTIALLY deliver MORE to this well-established base of traffic which originates from an obvious demographic.

    Good thinking !!!!

    P.S. – but let’s not give THIS opportunity away for $1 – right ????

    Oh – and if the alias posting as “Kathy” is ALSO “Kathy McDonald” of FCN fame – – as you seem to have so quickly concluded . . . . well, tell you what – I am completely comfortable allowing Ms. McDonald to evaluate for herself – which of the two of us she finds more “abrasive”.

  7. The city Council is confused, no ideas, no decision making capacity and incapable taking a visionary decision by WAITING AND WAITING. Waiting is no option. The best lot in the city should be used by giving the required space for Dale Hardware and the remaining used for GREEN mixed used Condos/Apartments, Shops, Day Care,Community and Arts Centers, Health Club, Best Park and kids play ground to improve the Economy and create Jobs and bring the community closer. To have more parking Spaces, we should have Verticle Parking. Let there be conversation on it to come to a common conclusion to put this excellent lot to use. Whatever the majority decision of the people, if elected in Nov by the People’s Movement for Change and Action , I will not WAIT and the decison of the people will be implement in letter and spirit in January, 2011. Please join the People’s Movement to repower contol of the City Council.www.YourAmericanVoice.com

  8. If somebody could just explain to me what the City of Fremont would be getting from this “deal”.

    The developer gets 6.6 acres of property for one dollar, plus a pass on the standard impact fees.

    The taxpayers are paying $13.5 million for improvements to the site on Post Street and Fremont Boulevard.

    The taxpayers are paying for hazardous materials testing and cleanup.

    The taxpayers have already paid to have the old structures removed from the site.

    The taxpayers will only share in any profits if the developer pays all of its lenders and investors a healthy return plus a 22% return to the investor.

    How is this a good deal for the taxpayers of Fremont? And how are we supposed to trust these same City managers to negotiate a stadium deal that won’t give away the farm to MLB?

    If this project must go forward, it seems like the City of Fremont should be in the position of being a lender or investor in the project. At least that way we’d have a chance of making some money on the deal.

    Clearly those in charge at City Hall have no respect for or sense of the value of property within the City limits, and no problem giving away taxpayer assets. If they vote to approve this disasterous plan, I say that we hand those who choose to run for re-election their hats in November. Once we replace a couple of Council seats, we can proceed to terminate Diaz’ contract.

  9. $26M of public money to replace a strip mall full of small businesses that served the local community with 188 apartments and 14 maybe occupied storefronts. Isn’t that how redevelopment usually works? A bonanza for developers, maybe not such a great deal for local taxpaying citizens.

  10. That part of centerville is ghetto. Thats why no one wants to build anything other than aprts there. Have anyone visited that area? Can you imagine a whole foods in that empty lot.

    What they should do is get the performance arts center going. If that succeeds, there will be some interest in that area. Then if they build some good quality apmts, we can get some high density of *normal people* in there, which will help in *future* attract whole foods and others to that area. But right now, the demographics of that immediate area does not support any upscale stuff.

    Sorry this is the truth. I know I kind of sounded like a snob, but if you visit the area we are talking about you will know what I am saying.

    I dont get it that the city spent $12.5m to buy that land. Did they buy it in the bubble time? Its probably worth only $3-4 million now. And $13.5m on infrastructure improvements? like what marble pathways? If they want to throw away $13.5m, I would rather have the city give that as a check to the developer and ask him to do whatever he wants with it for the project.

    Some peope just dont get it. Palo alto is what it is because of the people living there. Walnut Creek is what it is because of the people again. Centerville lot is what it is, again for same reason. City has got it right this time. We have to fix the people issue before any development there. If are averse to that then that area as it is right now can only support for subways, burger kings…

  11. I am advocate for verticle parking, whatever that is. CARS should BE parked on their nose so that the people decide. Council cannot DECIDE so I personally will build debate center, seniors PLAYGROUND, and head shop. NO CHARGE to peoples since CHANGE is needed. Corrupt neighbors SHALL not stop peoples need for all possible business TO be placed in vacant lot. All POWER to the peoples VACANT lot. Except if As want to go there, THEN no. Visit peoples all knowing communications orb: youranamericanimbecile.com

  12. Well, here’s the reality. The projects built by redevelopment are often unviable. Anchor tenants have little interest in being placed in the center of low income housing because low income people haven’t much money to spend – and the high density doesn’t allow enough parking for shoppers from outside of the project.

    Portland, Oregon was a big pioneer of this sort of development; the end result has been urban sprawl into counties surrounding Portland, the destruction of farmland, vacant storefronts in the high density developments since no one can park there, and surrounding single family neighborhoods turned into by-the-room rentals, also known as Single Room Occupancies or “flop houses” due to noise, crime, and tenants parking blocks away from the high density housing due to inadequate parking at the housing site.

    The problem is that high density housing bears a disturbing resemblance to a Dickensenian slum when new – and can be worse than Whitechapel during Jack the Ripper when occupied.

  13. Nadja, if I may politely say, please do your homework about redevelopment and how it works, and how it has worked in Fremont or Union City, before you spout your opinion. By state law, 20% of RD tax increment has to be spent on housing, but nothing says the housing should be merged with commercial. In Fremont, the Irvington district improvements, including the Safeway center, the Monument Park, street improvements in the 5 corners area, would not be there withut redevelopment. The same in Niles where the streetscape improvements, signage, plaza, parking, facade improvements, etc., all paid from RD increment, have upgraded the town. In fact, the only RD failure has been Centerville and I believe that to be a temporary situation. It will be resolved.

    There have been no SROs and the highest density in town in 39 units per acre, not in a redevelopment project but in a really nice apartment complex near BART (where the highest densities should be.) Last year, I moderated two cable TV shows for the League Women Voters on Redevelopment, one with the RD director from Union City and one with the Business Manager from Fremont RD. I believe they are available at the Fremont Main Library. They are only 30 minutes each and include lots of reality about RD in this area.

    Your Portland example, I think, is not due to a redevelopment program, but more likely the state of Oregon establishing Urban Limit Lines, taking the question of zoning away from the locals to a great extent.

  14. Nadja, the last line in post #14 is excellent! Sad to say, Fremont can only wish.

  15. Gus, Nadja wrote “The projects built by redevelopment are **often** unviable.”

    Every once and a while, RDAs get it right. But she is spot on when stating that mixed use crap shacks are undesirable places to live, and as a result attract lower income residents who can not support the commercial element.

  16. Marty; once again you have shown how little you know. For example: historic Niles is mixed use! Is it c…?

  17. Anon, Niles is mixed use – it absolutely resembles one of these prefab urban wannabes!

  18. …and speaking of Centerville. I thought this might be an appropriate topic for our friend Charlie to comment on . . you know, with regard to the myriad benefits our city has received from the developer(s) who have graced us with their many efforts in this war-zone-cum-retail-district known as “Centerville”. Whatdya think, Charlie – – – how has Centerville benefitted from our relationships with “developers” over these past many years and millions of dollars?

  19. All I have to say is post #11 by “Fizzlur Lawn” made me lolz.

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