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June 3, 2009 > Imagine Irvington moves forward

Imagine Irvington moves forward

By Miriam G. Mazliach

"Imagine Irvington." What ideas do you have? Public input is an integral part of the redevelopment plan for Irvington district. At the initial "Imagine Irvington" community meeting held in April, participants were asked, "What are the unmet needs of the Irvington District that could be addressed through redevelopment projects?"

Responses from the attendees indicated that upgrading the Five Corners area at Bay and Fremont streets, and seeking more upscale retail or dining tenants, were of primary importance. Other priorities mentioned were: increasing amenities for young people, creating community gardens, becoming more bicycle/pedestrian friendly and developing a consistent urban design for Irvington.

Continuing to expand on these suggestions, a follow-up meeting took place on May 11. Community members had the opportunity to listen to Jeff Schwob, Director of Planning for the City of Fremont, Barbara Szudy and Josh Huber, Project Managers for the city's Redevelopment Agency.

Meeting facilitator Mary Anne Mendall asked the attendees to brainstorm and provide clarification for the eight priorities resulting from the previous gathering:
1. Improve the Five Corners' physical appearance and streetscape
2. More and higher end shopping and dining destinations
3. Revitalize Monument Center
4. Revitalize retail at Grimmer & Fremont
5. Establish consistent and community-supported urban design standards
6. Pedestrian & bicyclist focused improvement
7. Increased code enforcement
8. Youth focused amenities

Several times during the meeting, Monument Center owner, Diana Shih, expressed her frustration with the City of Fremont and the Redevelopment Agency. "The City wants me to tear down Monument Center. I want to fix it up to get better tenants and they aren't listening to me." (Szudy stated that after the meeting, the city representatives met with Shih.) Szudy commented, "We're working with the owners on their plans to make changes for a revised Monument Center."

Attendees suggested making some simpler changes to Monument Center to help it look more upscale as well as adding different shops in the area to attract people and businesses. Another idea involved faŤade improvements to the buildings, utilizing a consistent design to unify the identity of Five Corners. The recent remodel of the Safeway shopping area, across the street from Monument Center, was cited as an example of exterior upgrading.

Partitioning the center's large parking lot, to make it more visually attractive, was another comment. Benches, trees, and more pedestrian areas could be added to Five Corners, Monument Center and all of Irvington. "We are continuing to rehabilitate Bay Street,"
said Szudy. "We want a pedestrian-oriented street to make Five Corners more bike and pedestrian friendly, including a landscaping plan."

According to the city representatives, Five Corners involves three suburban roads with a lot of traffic, which makes it difficult for pedestrians. Bay Street itself could become a nice pedestrian area if more family friendly restaurants and retailers are secured. However, most retailers want to be with other major retailers. "Having a lot of traffic go by encourages business," states Schwob.

Schwob was asked about the trees that were planted on Roberts Avenue as part of the redevelopment upgrade, and which were already dying. He responded. "In regard to watering them, the neighbors were supposed to help maintain them. We have limited resources to upkeep the trees."

Under the current structure, the five-year redevelopment plan runs through June 2013.

Szudy explains, "We'll be doing the Plan Amendment for all of Fremont. Tax increment funds, the income from property values, will go to the Redevelopment Agency to add extra funds for future projects beyond the five-year implementation plan. With this captured money, we hope to revitalize Irvington, Centerville and Niles."

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