The Concord Naval Weapons Station sits on hallowed ground. It had been part of a munitions depot complex that was originally constructed in the mid 19th century, when in 1857 the first ammunition magazine was completed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Nearly one hundred years later, during the height of World War II, the Navy built an annex near Concord by the town of Port Chicago. The U.S. Naval Magazine in that city was the scene of a massive explosion in July of 1944, when 320 people were killed in a blast that destroyed a pier and two munitions ships. 200 of those killed were African-American sailors, and a memorial stands on the site today that commemorates the event.[contextly_sidebar id=”cMSz4WSlk6G87sSObC7nSpPyxCOncqX9″]In the seventy years following that tragedy, Port Chicago had been returned to service, expanded, redesigned and eventually decommissioned. In 1999, Congressman George Miller facilitated a study of potential joint uses for the facility. Over the next few years several plans were floated, but it wasn’t until 2006 that the Department of Defense designated the Concord City Council to serve as the Local Reuse Authority, which launched a three-phase, multi-year process to develop the Reuse Plan for the base property. This process commenced in 2006, when the initial public outreach started, and today, with the detailed reuse plan developed, the city is evaluating three proposals for master developments.
The three master developer candidates are well known developers with a strong a West Coast presence. Each has provided a different approach to the opportunity, both in size and scope. Whichever selection is final, it will not only redefine the 5,170-acre inner inland area of the Naval Weapons Station, but it will also provide a massive residential and commercial development fort the East Bay city—as many as 5,417 new residential units and as much as 3.4 million square feet of new commercial/industrial space. In all, the total revenues to the city could be more than $1.5 billion with additional development costs approaching $1 billion.
The largest of the three proposals is from Miami-based Lennar, which wants to develop over 1,000 acres of the area. The Hunters Point Shipyard and Mare Island developer submitted a proposal that calls for 5,417 residential units (25 percent affordable) and 3.4 million square feet of commercial/industrial space. It calls for a wide range of residential uses, from single-family to high-density multi-family housing. It would concentrate most of the density along the BART station, and it would also include a college campus development located off Will Pass Rd., although the possible academic institution had not been identified. The Lennar project would bring over $1.5 billion to the East Bay city, and the developer was committing another $983 million for various Phase I development costs.
The second largest proposal is from the Irvine-based SunCal. This proposal is for less than half of the Lennar’s total area, 467 acres. It is pitching just over $1 billion for the land and proposing another $848 million in development costs. SunCal would develop 3,150 units (25 percent affordable) along with 777,000 square feet of office/industrial space. The development would feature primarily low- and medium-density residential uses, with the exception of affordable housing and limited additional multi-family housing, according to the summary document submitted to the city. It would offer agricultural opportunities throughout—including orchards and/or vineyards as part of the neighborhood frame.
The third proposal comes from another company that has deep roots in the Bay Area, and has had an opportunity to develop some very important parcels throughout the years. The Oakland-based Catellus has fielded the smallest of the three developments. The Mission Bay and Alameda Landing master developer is proposing construction on 413 acres, yet it would be the most dense residential development of the three with 4,285 proposed units (25 percent affordable). The development would feature a Town Center near BART (proposal would bring all the development within a 15-minute walk to the BART station) would include office, retail, multi-family residential and a hotel. In addition to that, it would also build 333,324 square feet of commercial/industrial space for a total development cost of $717 million. The overall cost for land would be an additional $815 million.
The city had prepared its own baseline development limits. Its estimate called for 2,700 units, which all three surpassed. It also called for 609,000 square feet of commercial/industrial space and estimated development costs to be in the neighborhood of $735 million. The city staff also presumed the revenues from selling 384 acres would amount to $701 million, or roughly $1.6 million per acre. That average price point was only surpassed by SunCal, whose effective price came to $1.9 million per acre. Catellus’ figure comes under the city’s estimate at $1.5 million, while Lennar’s proposed number is the lowest at $1.2 million.
On March 14, all three master developer proposals were heard at the special Concord City Council meeting, where each proposal was given 90 minutes to present details of its development, although the meeting went close to six hours with public comment and council member questions. The meeting was not scheduled for the City Council to make specific decisions about which master developer to choose at this point in time. According to Mike Wright, executive director of the Local Reuse Authority, there is no deadline set for that decision, either, and additional time will be provided to city council members to make an informed decision. Council member Dan Helix expressed his inability to go through all the documents in time for the meeting.
The final recommendation, which will be delivered by Wright’s team in April, will narrow down the selection process to two firms. The city will then commence extensive negotiations to develop a framework that would outline a process for the work with the city, including phasing, scheduling, risk management and compensation to the Navy, to name a few. The final agreement will be captured in a Disposition and Development Agreement, which would be signed with just one firm.