UPDATED: August 3, 2014
Following Fremont City Council’s approval last week of the Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan and its environmental impact report, the city is now moving to kick-start an 850-acre planned development—dubbed “Innovation District”—surrounding the new, under-construction Warm Springs/South Fremont BART station.[contextly_sidebar id=”q61fEpdSuHDXeHFBXXm5BYSrZ2nGqCl9”]The district, bounded by Interstates 880 and 680, Auto Mall Parkway and Mission Boulevard, currently houses a number of industrial and manufacturing companies, including Thermo Fisher, Boston Scientific, Delta Products, Western Digital and Tesla Motors Inc., which took over a 212-acre plant following the closure of New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) in 2010. That closure resulted in a $330,000 federal Economic Development Administration grant to the city that boosted the new district planning efforts as well as helped to find ways to reuse the plant and make up for the loss of at least 4,000 jobs. Architectural and design firm Perkins + Will was contracted to develop the community plan.
After completion of the BART station in December 2015, the city expects available key parcels to develop in accordance with the plan, which allows for commercial and research and development offices, hotels, entertainment, public facilities, 4,000 housing units (apartments, condos, single-family homes), along with retail spaces and schools, according to Kelly Kline, the city’s economic development director.
The five largest parcels located within a half mile of the station will start the ball rolling, Kline said, with Lennar leading the way on a 112-acre site north of the Tesla factory and west of the station. Just north of the planned Lennar mixed-use development, Valley Oak Property Management will develop on a 30-acre site, Toll Brothers will develop a 33-acre site just east of the BART station and The Sobrato Organization will oversee a 21-acre project southeast of the station. Over time, BART is expected to seek development partners to build on its available land or contract out multiple retail projects, Kline said, adding that the particulars of each private development project will need to be approved by the city.
Connecting most of the new development will be the construction of Innovation Way, a new east-west thoroughfare and bridge from the BART station over the adjacent Union Pacific train tracks to Fremont Boulevard. San Jose-based structural engineering firm Biggs Cardosa Associates is managing the conceptual design of the bridge.
The idea of building an “innovation district” was at least a decade in the making, enhanced by a recent Brookings Institute research series on geographic areas where leading-edge companies, research institutions, startups and business incubators are located in dense proximity.
“The Brookings research revealed that Warm Springs clearly fits the bill for an innovation district and has the potential to be a cutting-edge, national example of how diverse users mix and mingle, resulting in the elusive conception of innovation,” said Jeff Schwob, the city’s community development director, following the city council vote last week.
Schwob said he anticipates that the district would probably take up to 20 years to fully build out. Meanwhile, the city last week broke ground on what it hopes will be the beginnings of a traditional downtown atmosphere with an upgrade project on the main drag, Capitol Avenue. The $5.8-million project, funded in part by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, will improve pedestrian, bicycle and automobile connections between downtown and the existing Fremont BART station, which is located between Mowry and Walnut avenues. Capitol Avenue will be improved from Paseo Padre to Fremont Boulevard, connecting downtown’s retail district between The Hub and Gateway Plaza.
Kline said the downtown upgrade has long been a priority for city officials. Since Fremont incorporated in 1956 by the merger of five small towns—Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs—the city has not experienced a true, socially engaging downtown area.
The city also is looking at building a city hall and/or civic center in the downtown corridor, though specific plans and funding alternatives have not yet been unveiled.
Rendering courtesy of Perkins + Will