HAYWARD — Everybody likes Big Mike.
The towering Mission Boulevard muffler man who has stood sentinel for decades at the northern edge of town was a hot topic at a City Council work session last week, where he was pitched to be the centerpiece of a future park near his current post.
"We heard from so many people about growing up with Big Mike, going to see him, or being scared of him, or saying, 'Hey, meet me up by Big Mike,' " city consultant Laura Hall said.
Hall's presentations to the City Council and Planning Commission were part of a process that ultimately will produce a blueprint for the future of Mission, from Harder Road to the northern city limit, downtown excluded. It includes about 600 parcels on 240 acres, and stretches for two miles.
Hall's firm has been working on the vision since late last year, holding an intensive public-input session as well as meetings with city planners to create a document that will dictate the look and feel of the area.
A phased-in renaissance would take shape according to regulations for street-scaping, building heights, density and land use. The vision that's jelling is of a stretch that puts high-density uses near transit hubs, yet continues to serve as Route 238.
"We have two systems right up against each other," Hall said. "We need to move cars really fast through the area, but also make it high-density and pedestrian friendly."
Hall said the vacancies along Mission should be looked at as opportunity — redevelopment can start "while everyone is taking a big breath."
"Many of the buildings are inexpensive construction," she said. "It's a chance to redevelop it and have it catch on and get momentum going. Something more than just a hodgepodge."
While the timeline holds that the plan will be finalized by the middle of next year, Hayward Development Services Director David Rizk said it may take decades to see the envisioned neighborhoods.
"It will be done as new projects come forth," he said. "It will happen like it does now, incrementally over a period of time."
For example, the land to create Big Mike Park would have to be acquired. So would Big Mike himself — and his current owner also likes Mike.
While he couldn't be reached for comment Friday, Ross Fogarty's daughter-in-law said he is very fond of the fiberglass statue.
"Oh, he loves that thing," Kelli Gonzales said. "We're getting ready to redo Mike — maybe put some rims in his hands, since we're a tire store. Make him a little blinged out."
She said it might take a pretty penny to pry Mike from the family.
"They may have to settle for a replica," she said.
Hall said the main thing is that the area needs a park, and the stretch they are looking at makes perfect sense for one because it sits atop fault traces — no new shops or homes could be built there anyway. And Mike just seemed to be a good fit, she said.
"We'd like to give him a bit of an honorary spot, and there's nothing iconic or civic there now," she said. "But it's just one idea."
Hall's firm will present a draft plan to the City Council and Planning Commission this fall.
For more information about the Mission Corridor Specific Plan, visit www.hayward-ca.gov and click on its entry under "Projects and Studies."