By Meghan Hall
Fremont, Calif. is the fourth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, public transportation and its location at the juncture of two of the regions busiest arteries, Interstates 580 and 680. Although it’s economy is growing, pockets of the city have been slower to develop, including the city’s Mission San José Town Center. In June 2018, the Fremont City Council directed city staff to determine how development in Mission San José should move forward in the future. The initial phase of the review kicked off in mid-October, when the city hosted a community outreach meeting at the Oliver Hyde Program Center to garner input for the project.
“I think the council wanted to take a fresh look at what the real demand for commercial activity looks like in Mission,” said Christina Briggs, the Economic Development Manager for the City of Fremont. “Then we’ll take a look at what types of strategies we might consider for supporting commercial activity up there.”
Mission San José is one of Fremont’s commercial districts and one of five designated town centers. The neighborhood is known for its strong cultural heritage and historic monuments such as Mission San José, founded in 1797. Mission San José is situated on the southeast side of the city off of Mission Boulevard, and the Ohlone Community College is also within the district. According to Wayne Morris, the city’s Interim deputy director of community development, between 5,000 and 6,000 cars use the road per day in an effort to circumvent traffic on the highway.
“I think we want Mission San José to be successful for the community, serve the needs of the community and play a part in the broader retail story of Fremont,” said Briggs. “With the consolidation of retail, retailers have very specific criteria such as population density that play into those decisions. It’s part of a bigger retail portfolio.”
Like the rest of the city, Mission San José has strong demographics with which to support a sizeable trade area. According to the 2016 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey, the average annual family income is $144,131, while the estimated annual household spending potential is $2.7 billion.
“The demographics [in Mission San José] are off the charts,” said Briggs. “They are the strongest in the city from an education perspective and from an income perspective. It is a retailer’s dream.”
However, despite the city’s strong economy, Wayne estimates that it has been six to seven years since Mission San José has seen steady retail and commercial development. Both Briggs and Morris hope that the study will provide the city with strategies to encourage the establishment of a broad array of businesses in the neighborhood.
“More recently there’s been strong demand in what I’ll call family-serving commercial activity, such as educational services or activities for children,” said Briggs. “Those have been very popular in Mission San José, and so the question is [if] there are things we can look at or strategies we can employ to cultivate a broader diversity of commercial activity.”
According to Morris, the October community outreach meeting was well attended, but landowners in Mission San José indicated they were not receiving the community support needed to establish additional retail. The greater community, however, hopes to see more restaurants added to the area in the long run, while concerns were also raised about traffic and the pace of future development.
“There was an active discussion,” echoed Briggs of the meeting’s outcome. “There were some common themes and concerns. Our goal is to capture all of that information and take it back to our consulting team and see where it leads us.”
The city released a request for proposals for consulting services in July and has since selected San Francisco-based Urban Field Studio to complete the study. The city hopes the team’s expertise in retail market analysis and urban planning will provide several strategies to revitalize Mission San José’s retail and commercial sectors in the coming years.
City officials will be meeting with Urban Field Studio in mid-November to discuss the community’s feedback and potential solutions. Morris believes the report will go before the Fremont City Council in January of 2019.
“If one or two businesses can get up there and take off, then I think the others will follow,” said Morris. “Hopefully that will spur things on.”