December 26, 2006 > Adam Tennant, Senior Vice President, SummerHill Homes
Adam Tennant, Senior Vice President, SummerHill Homes
by Vidya Pradhan
TCV: How did SummerHill Homes get involved with the project?
Tennant: SummerHill's parent company, an investment brokerage company called us about this investment opportunity in 2004. When we first became involved, we knew that commercial use had been approved for the property. We began to discuss with staff the potential for building a residential community. In March of 2006, rezoning went through. We received an approval for a Concept Plan Amendment in March and final approval in December 2006.
TCV: Can you elaborate on the live/work plan?
Tennant: When we went to the council for a Concept Plan Amendment in March 06, one of the recurring themes raised by the City Council was to allow flexibility of use. Our response to the City Council's comment was a live/work component. So we have ten live/work homes along State Street. There's no such concept at present in Fremont. You can live in one of these 2 or 3 bedroom condos or convert the space by taking down partitions to make it into one large area.
TCV: Would a permit be necessary to convert it into a business?
Tennant: My understanding is that the zoning would allow for such use.
TCV: Do you feel that there is more potential for residential development in Fremont than commercial?
Tennant: In today's market, undoubtedly. There is a better market for residential properties.
TCV: These are 1000-1600 sq ft. homes, on the smaller side compared to the existing homes in Fremont. What kind of people are you hoping to attract to this project?
Tennant: We are looking at a range of buyers; young couples and first time buyers. There is also room for move-down buyers who perhaps don't want a yard. There will also be amenities like a fitness center and pool.
TCV: Has SummerHill undertaken projects like these before?
Tennant: We've done this kind of podium low-rise project before. Mixed-use is not something we have done a lot of in the past. We are primarily a residential builder. But we do recognize that this is a sign of things to come. We're probably going to see more such projects in the area.
TCV: Is mixed-use construction a common feature for downtown projects?
Tennant: It has happened in Pleasanton and in the South Bay. Personally, I think you want to have this kind of residential use near the Bart station and close to the business district. You want to have some synergy between retail and residential use. In the two years we took to get this project approved, one of the things we did is go to a City Council study session on the Central Business District. A comment made at this session was that retailers want to see [residential] rooftops. In order to have a vibrant retail setting, you need to have housing units close by.
TCV: Isn't this a small number of residences to make a difference to retailers in the area?
Tennant: I think you are going to see other developers come in. Hopefully this is just to kick-start the downtown. Whether there is going to be more residential or more retail is a City council decision. But I do think what everyone wants to see is a 24 hour downtown where people can walk to mass transit or shopping.
TCV: Is there a move in Fremont to build vertically?
Tennant: Our original proposal for this project was a lot less dense. We had town homes and condominiums but the city said they were looking for more urban solutions, something in excess of 50 units per acre. They wanted us to build more housing than we were originally proposing. I think that was the right decision from a planning standpoint. You don't want it to feel like any other residential community in Fremont. You want it to feel urban. We're seeing more of that in the Bay Area because of space constraints.
TCV: Do you have any green initiatives incorporated into this project?
Tennant: We are still looking into that. In the Villa Savona Community in Fremont we had some green building techniques and we are incorporating the same into Walnut Avenue. There is nothing concrete at this point.