In 2007, San Leandro approved a plan to revitalize its downtown with quality mixed-use development, improved transportation connections and other amenities, but the global recession stalled the work.
As the Bay Area economy has recovered, however, the city has been able to pursue its vision in the Downtown Transit-Oriented Development Strategy steadily over recent years with such projects as the Class A office complex Creekside Plaza, a LEED-certified parking garage with ground-floor commercial space and neighborhood retail center The Village Marketplace.
Now the city is adding Marea Alta, a residential project catering to those who often are left behind or pushed out when new developments move forward. The project, which officially broke ground Feb. 19, will feature 115 affordable apartment homes for families and a child care center when finished early next year.
The $58 million project by the San Francisco-based affordable-housing nonprofit BRIDGE Corp. is going up along San Leandro Boulevard opposite the downtown BART station on land owned by the regional rail agency.
The project features a Mission-style architectural design and will have studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units. It will include a 5,000-square-foot community area on the ground floor and more than 240 below-grade parking spaces for BART patrons.
“It will help families of modest means,” BRIDGE President and CEO Cynthia Parker said during the groundbreaking ceremony at the dirt site, a former BART parking lot. It will serve tenants such as “a single mother who might make $30,000 [per year] and is spending more than 60 percent of her income on rent,” she said.
“There’ll be a daycare center, which will make all the difference in the world to people who are trying to get ahead and want to put down roots in this community,” Parker added.
Marea Alta will offer rents to households earning 30 percent to 55 percent of the area median income, which is $26,600 to $50,600 annually for a family of four. Monthly rents are expected to range between $493 and $1,155, depending on the unit, family size and household income.
Marea Alta, formerly known as Cornerstone, is actually the first phase of a two-part development. The estimated $30 million second phase would bring 85 units of affordable senior apartments to the site and could begin in 2016 or 2017.
Marea Alta’s architect is Ankrom Moisan Architects Inc., based in the Pacific Northwest, and the general contractor is Cannon Constructors North Inc. in San Francisco. Financing came from Wells Fargo, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the City of San Leandro and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
Rebecca Saltzman, BART director for District 3, an area that includes San Leandro, sees Marea Alta as an example of a regional approach to tackling the Bay Area’s housing crunch. “We have a housing crisis right now, and no one city can solve that,” she said. “So it’s great San Leandro is doing its part with this project.”
With the second phase, she said, “It’s so important to have seniors be able to live near transit so they can get around.”
Marea Alta will help San Leandrans stay in their city, she added.
“As somebody who’s a renter, I’ve seen firsthand how the rates have been skyrocketing for housing, particularly near transit,” Saltzman said. “We want to make sure that people don’t have to get pushed farther and farther away and have longer and longer commutes so that they’re trading the expense of housing for the expense of a car and gas. We want to keep their investments here and local.”
Marea Alta also is an example of how the city is “really coming online, especially down San Leandro Boulevard with all of our improvements,” Mayor Pauline Cutter said.
Another big part to the city’s rejuvenation—especially downtown—will be the San Leandro Tech Campus, Cutter said.
The 500,000-square-foot Class A office campus is about to break ground immediately adjacent to the BART station and right across from Marea Alta. The estimated $200 million office project by San Mateo-based developer Westlake Urban LLC will be constructed in three phases over the next few years.
San Leandro’s own OSIsoft technology firm plans to move its headquarters into the campus once the first phase is done by summer 2016.
OSIsoft CEO Patrick Kennedy, a development partner in the campus endeavor, believes San Leandro increasingly represents a good investment opportunity partly because it is one of the few places in the Bay Area that has available land.
“There’s $2-$3 billion being invested in San Leandro right now,” said Kennedy, who attended the Marea Alta groundbreaking event. “The city wants people to build here. San Leandro is becoming a hub.”