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June 8, 2004 > Bay Street Project Design Nears Completion

Bay Street Project Design Nears Completion

Application Will Be Submitted for Capital Grant

In 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) awarded a $68,000 grant to the City of Fremont through its Transportation for Living Communities (TLC) program. This grant, matched and supplemented by the city's redevelopment agency, focused on Bay Street between "Five Corners" and Chapel Way.

A final review of the Irvington District Bay Street streetscape plans and Planned District were reviewed by community members at a meeting held Wednesday, May 12th at the Irvington Presbyterian Church. TCV interviewed Jake Lavin, Project Manager, about the future of the project.

TCV: Can you briefly tell our readers what is currently happening with the Bay Street project?

Lavin: We are nearing the end of schematic design of the project. That means we would, if the plans are approved, lock in a concept for the street design as the basis for constructing the improvements. We still need, again assuming approval of this concept, full funding and environmental clearance, then construction level drawings. The project would be coordinated with utility undergrounding planned for Bay Street. While we have reached an important milestone, we are still very early in the overall project.

TCV: Will we be ready to submit this proposal for consideration of a capital MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) grant within the specified time limits?

Lavin: We will be ready. The grant is due June 30th. We have a street design. We have completed the community engagement process, we have a planned district proposal and we have final work products that are the basis for an application. While we don't have much time to spare, we are going to meet the deadline.

The current round of grant monies will have $27 million in it. This is substantially more than in previous grant cycles.

TCV: You have mentioned that the city has allocated an additional amount of money to Bay Street. Is this contingent on approval from MTC?

The Redevelopment Agency proposal is $1 million for the Bay Street project, then an additional $1 million for public parking for Bay Street. A future Redevelopment Agency board could reallocate that money to some other project, or say, "We need to add more to this project to make it fully funded." With the MTC grant and the redevelopment money, we expect the project would be fully funded.

If we don't get the MTC grant, there would be a gap. We would need to evaluate our options. One option would be to pursue additional funding for the project, from the redevelopment agency or in a future grant round. We could also scale back to fit within the funds we have.

TCV: What is the process now? Does the plan go back to the agency or is it just simply written and sent to MTC?

Lavin: We want to get the plans approved by the city council. We will first seek a recommendation from HARB and then from the planning commission. Staff will prepare that grant application. When we ask for approval of the plans by the city council, we'll ask them to authorize us to submit for the application.

We will present this plan to HARB (Historical and Architectural Review Board) on June 3rd and the Planning Commission on June 10th.

TCV: Something called a PBID was mentioned at the community meeting. What is that?

Lavin: A PBID (Property Business Improvement District) is a way for property owners to fund enhancements of city services, in this case maintenance. Property owners would be assessed a fair share to maintain increased street improvements.

TCV: Would basic maintenance still be the responsibility of the city? If so, what would Improvement District funds be used for?

Lavin: Enhanced maintenance of the improvements. Basic services do not include maintenance of flower beds, planting beds, the increased level of pedestrian street lamping, street trees and street furniture. All of these things are above and beyond typical street maintenance.

TCV: When will we know the results of the MTC grant application?

Lavin: We should know in August.

TCV: Okay, let's say we know in August and let's also assume that the grant is approved. What happens then?

Lavin: Well, then we really start a discussion with the property owners on forming that district. Prior to the city council presentation, we (steering committee members and me) are going to try to get all of the affected property owners to indicate support for an assessment district. We're obviously not going to have a district formed by the end of June, but we should have information on whether property owners are willing to form a district. So that is one of our top priorities between now and the end of June.

TCV: Now that the conceptual planning has been done, let's follow that along a little further. If we assume that the money comes in or is promised by MTC, the property owners and the business owners start to form the assessment district and everything is moving ahead, when would anybody expect to see a physical change?

Lavin: It's going to be a fairly complicated project because we need to coordinate with the utilities. Utility undergrounding work needs to occur before our project. In addition, if we get the grant, we are going to have to work through the grant requirements. While the funding comes through MTC, it originated with federal sources, so we have to play by some different rules. As a result, we are expecting that it will be a little more complex than an equivalent street improvement project somewhere else. We're going to have to work through the CalTrans Local Assistance Program and have our environmental document meet Federal standards.

Based on current information and conversations with our engineering staff and PG&E, construction on the street improvements would probably not start until 2007. Utility undergrounding would occur before then. We would be obligated under the grant agreement to have construction underway in 2007.

TCV: The Washington overpass construction may be going on at the same time.

Lavin: Yes, and we have Fremont Boulevard widening underway now, so potentially a project that's a little further out, 2007, would be hopefully be at the conclusion of the grade project based on their current schedule. Timing may be okay.

We have done a lot of work looking at ways to encourage investment through zoning modifications to the properties in the area. I think that's really an interesting aspect of the project. The street improvements are accompanied by these other measures that will hopefully encourage investment. Property owners and potential developers are given far greater rights with these modifications to improve their properties.

We're increasing the allowable density significantly. In addition, we've allowed for mixed use development to occur here, which is something that would have been very difficult for a developer to achieve. We are requiring that the area remain commercial. All first-floor uses must be commercial. Any residential that is currently on the first floor would be nonconforming under the zoning modifications. If there is a rental unit on the ground floor, it could continue to be rented out as a residential unit but you could not develop a new residential unit on the first floor. The unit could be converted to commercial use or maintained as a residential unit.

We have included, when the public parking funds are approved, parking requirement wavers for the first investors in retail and restaurant uses in the area. These are the kinds of incentives and modifications to zoning that will, hopefully, catch the eye of investors -either current property owners or other investors. With the installation of a major public improvement project of this type and this quality, I think the next five to ten years will be an exciting time for Bay Street.

TCV: What about parking? Are negotiations with the post office ongoing?

Lavin: Yes. We have a traffic expert looking at ways to produce public parking spaces that could serve Bay Street.

TCV: Any thought given to a parking structure?

Lavin: Not at this time. If the agency approves $1 million for parking, we wouldn't get much in the way of a structure with that kind of funding. To be honest, given the current scale of Bay Street, a structure would be out of place. You see structures where you have four, five, six story buildings.

TCV: How about a two story parking structure with only one deck?

Lavin: With parking lots, you can build them at surface level and when the demand warrants and funds are available, put a deck on it.

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