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February 28, 2012 > Warm Springs heats up

Warm Springs heats up

A report to Fremont City Council on Tuesday, February 21 outlined progress of federally-financed studies of the South Fremont/Warm Springs area. In addition to peripheral Fremont City Council decisions such as naming the new BART station in Warm Springs, the critical business of designing 850 acres of prime Fremont real estate the future is now in play. The City received a $333,000 federal grant from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) last Spring to study and plan for economic expansion and recovery. The study area includes large undeveloped acreage near the former NUMMI and current electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla Motors, facility.

The focus of planning efforts is concentrated in four areas: Economic & Market Analysis Strategic Plan; Land Use Alternatives; Infrastructure & Cost Analysis and Financial Assessment. At stake is future use and development of this large area and a major definition of Fremont's role in the Bay Area. Job creation and economic impact of this area is directly related to the style, density and land use defined by the City.

A critical component of the study area is immediately north and south of the Tesla facility. Former NUMMI land - 160 acres - is now owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and being actively marketed. Additional vacant and under-utilized parcels are also within the study area.

Closure of NUMMI and the subsequent failure of Solyndra has focused South Fremont/Warm Springs planning on creation of high-wage, skilled jobs, promoting innovative technology uses and employment-focused transit-oriented development (TOD). Fremont is expected to grow significantly over the next 25 years with a 48% increase in demand for jobs by 2035, a rate exceeding the rest of the region.

The Warm Springs BART Station is scheduled to open in 2015 and by 2016, BART will extend an additional 10 miles to San Jose.

The series of studies comprising this plan are now complete and include market/economic analyses, land use alternatives, infrastructure and cost analyses, and a financial assessment. Three land use scenarios were studied and show employment growth ranging from 10,000 to 26,000 jobs, and housing development ranging from none to 3,900 units. All scenarios can accommodate catalyst projects, such as conference facilities, and all three scenarios are financially feasible.

Next steps outlined at the council meeting include completion of a hazardous materials study and continuance of the planning process toward a "Community Plan." A future work session on jobs and marketing (branding) strategies will be scheduled. Councilmember Natarajan termed this process as "one of the biggest planning projects" in Fremont and "potentially the entire region as well," noting that it is critical to the vision and identity of a "complete and connected" 21st century workplace and community. She emphasized that "place-making" and "highest design standards" are critical. This sentiment including attention to the integration of services and type of development was echoed by other councilmembers during the discussion; Councilmember Harrison spoke of a "new" and "special" place. It was noted by Mayor Morrison that the impact of possible residential development on schools was left unanswered. Cost analysis of the expense associated with additional infrastructure and services in the area are currently at a preliminary stage. A comment by Nina Moore representing the Fremont Chamber of Commerce noted that this area represents a "tremendous transformational opportunity" for the City of Fremont.

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