FREMONT — A developer is getting another try at building on a 6.6-acre city-owned vacant lot near the Centerville train station where five previous projects have bitten the dust.
The latest proposal by Danville-based Blake Hunt Ventures for the lot bounded by Fremont Boulevard, Post Street, Bonde Way and Thornton Avenue, tentatively calls for a mix of shops, live/work units and apartments, with many of the homes slated to be built above the stores.
The plan is a scaled-back version of Blake Hunt's previous proposal, reducing the number of housing units from 300 to 160, and the height from about five to about three stories. The plan still would call for about 35,000 square feet of retail space, mostly along Fremont Boulevard and a proposed street linking Fremont Boulevard and Post Street.
The previous plan, which would have cost about $100 million, died earlier this year when Blake Hunt's then-partner, housing developer BRE Properties, pulled out of the deal. The new proposal, which can still be amended, would cost about $50 million to build.
The council, acting as the city's redevelopment agency, unanimously agreed last week to negotiate exclusively during the next eight months with Blake Hunt and its new partner Center Street Housing. However, council members Bob Wieckowski and Anu Natarajan criticized the developer's site plan and said they still want the project to include more housing.
"Given the financial mess "... I struggle with a project that we're doing just for the sake of doing it," Natarajan said. "I'm really underwhelmed with what we're seeing."
The developers said the less expensive new project would be easier to finance, but they couldn't promise whether it would ever be built given the poor economy.
City leaders decided to give Blake Hunt a third chance rather than try to find a new developer or wait out the recession and try again in a few years.
"This project has had a history that none of us want to even think about," Mayor Bob Wasserman said.
Originally a Ralph's supermarket was slated for the Centerville site. After the chain backed out, developer Jim Tong twice was unable to get financing for the projects, one of which would have included stores and town homes.
Blake Hunt won exclusive negotiating rights more than a year ago by promising to deliver a supermarket, but after it failed to land one, it switched gears and proposed a mix of rental housing and retail.
Reach Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. Read his blog posts at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat/