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January 30, 2007 > Union City paints a big picture

Union City paints a big picture

By Arnie Becker

You can give credit to the city council and Mayor Mark Green for successfully pushing through a far-reaching redevelopment project that will make Union City a major regional transportation hub in the next four to six years. To this end, plans are well along toward building a new Intermodal Regional Transit Station (IRTS) surrounded by residential town homes, single-family dwellings, community buildings and commercial space. The seeds for this project first began to germinate in 1998 when Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority officials and BART authorities looked to Union City as an ideal site for the an IRTS.

TCV sat down to discuss the IRTS with several Union City planners: Economic and Community Development Director Mark Leonard; Redevelopment Agency Manager Mark Evanoff and Planning Manager Joan A. Malloy. They presented a picture of a city that is rapidly shedding its small town image while moving toward a completion date in 2012 for its IRTS and associated landmarks including a major community center facility and expansive open greenbelt area.

More than a typical city redevelopment project, this one is a partnership between public and private developers working with regional transit planning authorities, federal, state and local environmental control agencies, and existing transportation agencies. It is hard to imagine a more complex, demanding undertaking. In many cases, it is hard enough getting everyone on a city council to agree, let alone achieve harmony between an array of state, local and federal agencies.

The land being redeveloped in the vicinity of Decoto Road and Railroad Avenue is made up in part, of the old Pacific States Steel plant and land once owned by Pacific Gas and Electric. A major amount of environmental clean up work was required at these two sites at costs running into the millions of dollars. Securing all the required clean-up certifications provided Union City with a pivotal role in seeing the whole project come together.

Private developers, Avalon Bay Properties, have contracted to build 463 residential units entirely from their own resources and investment. Construction has already begun on these units and the final landscaping plans are in the approval process. Fifteen percent of all residential spaces will be sold as affordable housing at subsidized prices.

In order to accommodate the Avalon Bay part of the project, eight automotive repair businesses must be relocated. After some controversy over a $600,000 relocation fund negotiated by the mayor, private and public officials are working to find new locations for the existing business owners, preferably still in Union City.

K&B Homes, another private company, is building 216 single-family homes in an area bounded by Decoto Road and 11th Street. This development, known as Pacific Terrace, will feature homes ranging from 1,203 to 1,675 square feet in three different models and three separate floor plans. All homes will have two-car garages, 2.5 bathrooms and two or three bedrooms.

Upon completion, the IRTS will be accessible from the east and west with connections to BART, Union City Transit, AC Transit, the Capitol Corridor trains, Dumbarton Rail, VTA and the ACE trains. With talk of building two sports stadiums in the area, planners are already looking at how to make public transit access easy and affordable.

Additionally coming into the picture is the Highway 84, Option 2 link between Interstate 580 and I880. This link has been incorporated into the rest of the master plan already approved or under consideration.

As with every major redevelopment concept, the end results are often long in coming; 2012 remains half a decade in the future. However, thanks to persistent and consistent foresight of Union City leaders and its many partners, the Intermodal Regional Transit Station is steadily moving closer to reality.

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