July 4, 2017 > A new beginning
A new beginning
By William Marshak
The historic district of Centerville, one of five original villages of the Washington Township that formed the city of Fremont in 1956, has gone through many changes. From small settlement to bustling business center in the past, Centerville is currently comprised of a collection of disparate interests that represent a variety of ethnic and social concerns. At its heart, Fremont Boulevard offers storefronts that are often vacant. Designated a ÒTransit Oriented DistrictÓ due to the location of the Centerville Train Depot, significant opportunities for economic revival are possible. Artist Walk, a mixed-use development of 185 residential units and approximately 28,641 square feet of commercial space fronting Fremont Boulevard between Bonde Way and Thornton Avenue is currently under construction.
SiliconSage Builders has proposed a significant transformation of Centerville, altering the eastern frontage of Fremont Boulevard between Parish Avenue and Peralta Boulevard. Along with 25,000 square feet of new retail space, the project is currently designed to include 136 living units - apartments and townhouses Ð as well as the seismic retrofit of a vacant fire station for civic use.
Established in 2011, SiliconSage is the result of President and CEO Sanjeev AcharyaÕs passion for real estate development that began to produce tangible results in 2001. Following out-of-state residential development success, he purchased his first local residential property in Sunnyvale (California) in 2007, and successfully navigated the economic recession that followed. He says, ÒThe challenge to raise money for construction became an opportunity and a new career.Ó
Acharya transitioned from a 20-year career as a software engineer when his real estate transactions proved successful and attracted private investors who admired his canny ability to anticipate market conditions. ÒI had never raised money privately in my life and thought, ÔWho is going to lend money to an engineer?Õ but I raised $500,000 in two weeks!Ó A project with a timeline of a year was completed in six months and investors were very happy with the result. One project led to another and a part-time passion blossomed into a full-time career. Acharya says, ÒI realized I had a flair for real estate; buyers were appreciative of the quality I produced and my high-tech background gave me a different and innovative approach.Ó
A ÒholisticÓ approach proved to be a winning formula - to own, construct and sell developments resulting in control of the process from beginning to completion. A residential builder, primarily in the Sunnyvale/Santa Clara area, Sanjeev developed a property that allowed him to live in one of his condominiums in downtown Sunnyvale and avoid traffic. His wife was expecting their first child and he didnÕt want a long commute. The Òcommute in an elevatorÓ allowed him to enjoy an urban lifestyle and spend precious time with his family.
SiliconSage has completed nine projects including about 155 units with another 350+ units under construction and 300-400 units in the design phase. In the span of about six years, the company has become a much larger enterprise; 50-60 people in the core group and 200 people in construction.
Fremont is transitioning from a suburban to urban environment, says Acharya. It is becoming a destination; he personally travels to the movie theater at Pacific Commons and patronizes restaurants in Fremont. ÒThe timing is right, there is great demand and the school district is phenomenal.Ó He adds, ÒThe Centerville project is a great opportunity at the right time. We had hoped to develop the land at Regan Nursery but timing wasnÕt right, but we believe that the Centerville development will uplift the neighborhood and create value. This project makes sense; it makes us feel good and people are ready for this change.Ó With an increased presence in Fremont Ð one development completed and another under construction - Acharya plans to locate a SiliconSage Builders office in Fremont, possibly as part of the Centerville development. He notes that a portion of the units are dedicated to affordable housing to help alleviate high demand for living spaces in the city. Located in a Transit Oriented Development area, he believes that traffic impacts will be mitigated by a focus on public transportation and retail opportunities within walking distance of housing. SiliconSage is in communication with Fremont Unified School District to discuss how associated developer fees can be utilized to expand capacity.
ÒWe started in early 2016 to refine the design so it makes sense for everybody,Ó says Acharya. One-on-one meetings with neighbors elicited positive comments about increasing retail space, retrofitting the fire station, creating a pedestrian promenade, including affordable housing and widening Jason Way with a connection to Peralta Boulevard. ÒThese improvements have made the project more attractive.Ó The plan shown is the result of a formal submittal and subsequent changes through suggestions by the City of Fremont and the neighborhood. Once traffic and environmental studies are completed, a public hearing will be scheduled. Under a best-case scenario, Acharya anticipates construction could begin in the third quarter of 2018 following a 9-12 month building permit process.
If approved, construction will be in phases; first retail spaces and apartments above, then pre-sales of townhouses and construction in rapid succession. ÒBy the time we complete underground parking for the retail and apartments, the townhouses will also be constructed. Our goal is to complete this project by 2020.Ó Acharya adds, ÒWe have received a tremendous amount of support from businesses across the street that anticipate increased foot traffic. I strongly believe this will development will have a positive impact and energize the area. I personally live in an urban lifestyle and often walk to access shopping and services. I hope to help create the same environment for those living in Centerville.Ó
SiliconSage has actively forged bonds with the Fremont area including sponsorship of the Fourth of July Parade and support of nonprofit organizations including Abode Services. ÒWe hope the community will brainstorm with us to bring the desired and practical mix of retail to Centerville.Ó Sanjeev invites the community to contact him directly at (408) 228-7302.