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Fremont’s downtown ain’t going to be in Warm Springs

I felt a little bit behind the curve at tonight’s public workshop on how to redevelop 850 acres in and around the former NUMMI site.

Last time I wrote a long story about it, I was quoting the likes of Anu Natarajan saying the site could be Fremont’s long awaited downtown and Mayor Wasserman anticipating a development that would be like Bay Meadows on steroids.

But it was pretty clear on Monday that things have changed. The consultants and city staff members kept talking about jobs and industry. It was as if Vinnie Bacon had inserted chips into their brains. Midway through the presentation, I half expected one consultant to start barking, “Bacon, Bacon, Bacon.”

What gives?

Don’t these people know Fremont already has too many tech dorks in pleated pants. Fremont doesn’t need another clean technology firm, it needs a place where you can buy super fancy knives, or $80 pajamas or the best vegan cheese ever, available at Whole Foods.

Apparently this is what’s changed:
1) The feds gave Fremont $333,000 to study how to replace NUMMI jobs, not to build a better mall
2) Tesla’s arrival. It’s hard to build a new downtown when the center of the 850 acres is still a giant car plant.
3) The city isn’t convinced that there’s a market either for office space or high-end retail near the former NUMMI site. Apparently, south Fremont residents are a 20 minute drive away from several of the best malls in the Bay Area, and that might be convenient enough for retailers, even though none of those malls are in Fremont proper and one of them is over the Dumbarton bridge.
4) It doesn’t look good for the A’s

(In fairness to other folks, Wieckowski and Harrison both talked up job creation at the NUMMI site)

Anyway, the most frequent comment I was reading Monday was that Warm Springs needs more … schools.

Matt Artz