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January 3, 2006 > Editorial: Through the looking glass

Editorial: Through the looking glass

Since January is the anniversary month of the birth and death of Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, it is only proper that the Fremont City Council revisit the Central Business District at its first meeting of this New Year. Even though Mr. Carroll lived and died in the Nineteenth Century, he had a pretty good grasp of the politics and planning that, at times, envelops modern day decisions. A dreamy Alice says:

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

The infamous "downtown" is really a question of what to do about a dream that has yet to find definition. The city is about to embark on a path toward a significant development on Walnut Avenue that will influence the character of the proposed "Central Business District." Without first developing a comprehensive vision, this may be putting the proverbial cart before the horse. In a city council work session last year, fuzzy concepts immersed in planning jargon, were presented that clarified little and underscored the disarray of the "Superblock/CBD/Downtown." While city councilmembers would love to create a brick and mortar monument and are putting away $1 million each year toward this legacy, it would be nice to have confidence in their ability to plan and create an urban commercial success. Centerville Market Place will be an important barometer of such efforts.

The council will consider a concept plan amendment on January 10th to allow high density residential development at the site bordered by Walnut Avenue, California Street, Beacon Avenue and Liberty Street. In keeping with state mandates and Fremont's headlong rush to fill every available space with high density residential development, this project fills the bill. However, how much retail will be involved and its orientation are important factors for this development. Are planners simply filling every space with housing or using their expertise to develop the area in accordance with a solid course of action resulting in balanced growth?

In an economy that currently rewards residential development, is it wise to focus on how many people we can squeeze into an area or should there be a factor for quality of life and integration of the end product as well? So far, the city of Fremont has yet to produce a winning combination in this regard and might be well served to focus on a well-defined plan for the central core before going too far shaping individual pieces of the puzzle.

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