By Meghan Hall
After over a decade, the Navy is finally preparing to transfer the first 500 acres of the Concord Weapons Naval Station to the city, and Concord officials have partnered with Five Point to come up with a Master Plan that will lay out a 30 year roadmap for the redevelopment of the weapons station, which will not only include 13,000 housing units, 6.1 million square feet of commercial, industrial and office space and 2.3 million square feet for a higher-education campus and institutional space, but also emerging Smart City technology.
“We’re at a crucial point right now,” said Guy Bjerke, the director of community reuse planning for the City of Concord. “From a clean-up and paperwork perspective, we’re right at the point where the Navy has checked most of the boxes to transfer some of the property.”
The entire naval base is nearly 5,000 acres; however, the city and greater concord community decided to split the property. Roughly 2,600 acres will be preserved as a conservation area to protect endangered species and serve as an Easy Bay recreational park with publicly accessible outdoor space, while the remaining 2,300 acre will accommodate the City’s vision for denser development.
“The idea early on was not to do traditional suburbia, but to do a transit-oriented development that made use of the North Concord BART Station, which right now is the least used BART station in the entire system,” said Bjerke. “That’s the macro-thinking of the project: higher-density, transit-oriented development around the BART station, and lower densities as you move south in the project, but with good pedestrian and bike connections. The entire project will be less reliant on the automobile.”
Bjerke added, however, that even though this project and several developments slated for downtown are geared toward-higher density activity, Concord’s long standing single family neighborhoods won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
“The traditional suburban neighborhoods are here because Concord was largely developed in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Bjerke. “They are not going anywhere.”
After a competitive RFP process, the City of Concord has selected Lennar Concord LLC to be the master developer, and Five Point Communities to lead the development and aid in developing a master plan for the site. Lennar and Five Point are also anticipated to develop the first 500 acres—known as Phase I—of the property. Bjerke said that Lennar and Five Point were chosen in part because they understood the need to create a vision for the entire 2,300 acre development prior to submitting plans for the initial phase of the project.
“They understood the need to master plan the infrastructure work to make sure we were dotting all of the Is and crossing all of the Ts, making sure the plan worked overall, beyond the first phase they are likely to be the developer for,” said Bjerke. The two subsequent phases have yet to be awarded to a developer.
Part of Lennar’s and Five Point’s plans are the use of Smart City technologies, and the development team has enlisted the input of global technology firm Bosch for the project. Smart City solutions are integrated into a town’s infrastructure to improve efficiency and connectivity, leveraging a network of computing devices known as the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect and analyze data.
“By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities, which obviously creates challenges with regards to things like traffic and energy consumption,” explained Pierre Maillot, business development director at Bosch. “The combination of both technology and market evolution led to this concept of smarter cities, and how we can use data and information to improve the ways our cities are operating today. With the emergence of IoT, you have the possibility to employ sensors, which will provide data [that] can then be analyzed, processed and used by the City to provide additional services.”
In the San Francisco Bay Area incorporating data-driven solutions into city infrastructure would fit the region’s innovative and knowledge-based character. While the planning for the Concord Weapons Naval Station is still in the early stages, the development team hopes to incorporate technologies that will lower the development’s emissions and ease traffic concerns.
“It was always understood or desired that we would utilize as many of the smart and new technologies as possible in different aspects of the development,” said Bjerke.
However, the extended project timeline can make planning for specific Smart City solutions difficult given the rapid rate at which technologies evolve and change. The development team, including Bosch, is planning for the future and building as much flexibility as possible into the project.
“One of the fundamentals of our solutions is to develop technologies [that] are based on open platforms,” said Maillot. “By doing that we are enabling third party partners to come and integrate additional services into the architecture. The idea is we need to allow for enough flexibility for innovations to be updated accordingly.”
“We don’t know what we don’t know yet,” added Bjerke.
Additionally, Bosch is working to develop solutions that are modular and scalable, so that the technology can be updated further down the line as new innovations or tech trends hit the market. Overall, though, Smart Cities are still an emerging concept, and according to Maillot, many of the solutions need to be tested before they are applied on a larger scale in order to make sure they will be relevant long term.
“A lot of other solutions, because they need to be validated on the technical side, because they involve different stakeholders, they need to have a proven business model, because what we want to achieve at Bosch and Five Point are solutions that are sustainable,” said Maillot.
The development team will have plenty of time to test and decide on which Smart City technologies will be incorporated into plans for the Naval base. According to Bjerke, the city hopes that its plans for the development will be approved and adopted by the City Council before 2020. Preliminary infrastructure improvements, such as plumbing and gas, will take an additional two years, before vertical construction can truly begin as early as 2023.
“I think everyone is excited about the prospect of development, but everyone is also somewhat anxious about the details,” said Bjerke. “So, we’re doing the best we can to be consistent with the previously approved plans. Ultimately, over the next year when we take the draft documents through the formal review process, I’m sure we’re going to get even more feedback, but hopefully the council will adopt our specific plan.”