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November 28, 2006 > Rest In Peace, Centerville Market Place

Rest In Peace, Centerville Market Place

Tucked into the end of the November 21st work sessions of the Fremont City Council was a report out of closed session by City Attorney Harvey Levine. He quietly remarked that the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) between the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Fremont and James Tong, Inc. (Charter Development) had been terminated by mutual consent. No fanfare and little response from those in attendance except an occasional startled, shocked expression and a question of “Did I hear what I thought I heard?” So ends another chapter in the saga of Centerville redevelopment that has accomplished little except the premature destruction of buildings and businesses

The Centerville Unified Site was to be the crown jewel of redevelopment efforts in Fremont and yet, from the very beginning, the Redevelopment Agency has been unable to put a “W” in that win/loss column. From the Ralph’s grocery store fiasco of 2001 to the unwillingness of the council to listen to staff and a community advisory group when the selection process was in its final stages to award a DDA in 2005, this project has been the poster child of redevelopment failure. I agree with terminating this contract since the Centerville Market Place appeared to be in continuous morph mode from retail to residential. At least we now have an environmentally clean, graded lot. But do we really need all of the redevelopment personnel and overhead to end up with a vacant lot? Centerville needs vibrancy and foot traffic that encourages the entire community to participate.

Redevelopment’s job is to eliminate blight by entering into arrangements that may not make sense to a private developer but provide economic clout to help a community. Time after time, the community has pointed to a prime example of what the redevelopment agency can do immediately to help Centerville, but the agency stubbornly refuses to move forward. The concept of using the Center Theater as a primary focus for the community at large is nothing new. Theater events have proven the viability of this venue for all area citizens and yet, even with a willing seller, the city stalls.

Using this venue for narrowly focused ethnic events is not its best use and does not contribute to the vitality of the area. It encourages a “laissez-faire” slum mentality. Currently, the name of the theater is being changed and the capacity limit of its use permit is being ignored. Redevelopment’s attitude is that as long as the site is in use, there is no problem. If that is the case, why were the businesses that used to reside on the unified site razed? Redevelopment is supposed to look ahead and work toward a better vision but instead of taking a chance where it is clearly indicated, agency response is obstructive. It is hard to understand such intransigence.

Fremont, again, is looking at a similar situation it faced when the Center Theater became the NAZ, continuously creating headaches for surrounding businesses and doing nothing to help the economic vitality of the area. I guess redevelopment would note that restrictive use of the theater and slum housing next to it gives character to the area. Well, here is a news flash for you bureaucrats, for most of us it is a reason to shy away from the area and not patronize its businesses. Why is this tolerated and why doesn’t redevelopment recognize an opportunity? Are we being too politically correct to understand what is best for our city? It is time for a change and newly appointed permanent redevelopment director, Elisa Tierney, needs to take action.

Redevelopment is an agency that should be considering how best to wind up its operations, but the opposite appears to be the case. Why not consider cutting staff and concentrating finances on specific projects with a lean department that can make things happen. Work seriously with the arts community, cultural arts council, Centerville Business Association and the theater preservation group to form a board to govern and then BUY THE CENTER THEATER! You have seen the results of waiting as costs escalate. This is something you can do now and make a difference for our community. It will be a win for you and the city. In the meantime, you can go back to the drawing boards for the unified site with a vibrant venue across the street and this time, make a reasonable and viable choice.

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