ALAMEDA -- Better marketing to realtors and using existing business to attract new tenants can help generate jobs at the former Alameda Naval Air Station as the area is redeveloped, according to a study the Planning Board reviewed on Monday.
The study, which will next be reviewed by the City Council, also found that parceling out the 918-acre site into separate areas could help focus redevelopment efforts by creating a sense of place, helping make it more attractive to someone launching a business.
The U.S. Defense Department awarded the city $225,000 to draft the strategy in September last year, which in turn led city officials to contract with Keyser Marston Associates, a real estate advisory firm that has worked on redevelopment at the former Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato and at the former Fort Ord in Monterey.
The study is a "road map" for developing a leasing strategy, board member Lorre Zuppan said.
"It's a step in the way of figuring out what that ultimate strategy can be and what's going to work there," Zuppan said. "Or at least, what's going to work there for the next 10 years or so."
A key selling point for the former Navy base is its location along San Francisco Bay, including having a spot for deep water docking suitable for maritime businesses, said Tim Kelly, the real estate firm's president.
But the area, now known as Alameda Point, also has ageing infrastructure and large warehouses that are difficult to rent, he said.
The firm also found that the current surplus of vacant commercial space in the East Bay -- due to the overall sluggish economy -- will likely need to diminish and market rents adjust before city officials can expect that upgrading existing buildings will be financially feasible.
The release of the study comes as city officials are moving on a variety of fronts toward redeveloping Alameda Point, including drafting a master infrastructure plan and taking title of the property from the U.S. Navy next year, said Jennifer Ott, the city's chief operating officer for the site.
The city also expects to issue a Request for Proposals within the next few weeks for the construction of a waterfront center, Ott said.
Officials are now adopting an "incremental approach" toward redeveloping the former base, she said.
"We just haven't been in a place to make some of the longer-term decisions (until now) because things were so up in the air," Ott said.
Along with recommending the former Navy base be parceled into between 15 and 25 acre sites to promote redevelopment, the real estate firm said the city could offer potential tenants the option of a 10-year lease so that anyone launching a business can secure easier financing.
Board member Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said the city should consider the idea, as well as streamlining permits and other requirements to attract businesses.
"You really would hate to be losing existing businesses because you are neglecting their needs or making it more difficult for them to renew their leases," Ashcraft said.
Board members also said the plan to generate jobs should reflect an economic vision for the entire city and not undermine other areas, such as Harbor Bay Business Park.
"We don't want this to be a study that goes on the shelf and gathers dust," Ashcraft said. "We want to actually follow it and see these recommendations are implemented."
But Doug Biggs, executive director of the Alameda Point Collaborative, called the study "strongly flawed."
It does not feature the collaborative, which offers housing and other services at the former base to about 500 people who were once homeless, including veterans, Biggs said.
"We need to be involved in the economic development of Alameda Point," he said. "That's why we were created. That's why we are out there."
When the former Navy base closed in 1997, the city lost about 14,000 military and civilian jobs.
Alameda officials now believe up to 6,000 permanent jobs will be created and millions of dollars in local and state tax revenues will be generated as the former base is redeveloped.
Two years ago, a proposal from Irvine-based SunCal Companies to become a master developer and build up to 4,500 homes at Alameda Point fell through after coming under fire from some residents, who said the ambitious plan would cause too much traffic and create other problems in the city's West End.
The City Council is set to review the study Dec. 5. But Boardmember John Knox White said city officials should possibly postpone putting it on the agenda, especially since three new councilmembers will be taking their seats in the new year and will likely wish to weigh in on it.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty/.