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NUMMI site at the corner of Fremont and South Grimmer Boulevards. (Anda Chu/Staff File)

FREMONT -- Christmas came early for Fremont when Union Pacific decided two months ago to sell most of its recently acquired land in the south part of the city rather than build a major rail yard.

While the railroad continues negotiating with developers over 150 acres adjacent to the former NUMMI auto plant, the city is once again moving forward with plans to incorporate the parcels into a business park plan that would be larger than downtown San Francisco.

A recently released report found that the 850-acre development would generate 23,200 jobs if no housing was included and about 18,000 jobs along with more than 3,000 homes.

But those preliminary concepts aren't guaranteed to be a hit when the City Council weighs in on them early next year.

"We've never really dreamed big; we've just settled," said Councilman Dominic Dutra, himself a developer. "We need to be visionary on this property."

The demise last year of NUMMI, which for years fought new construction around its plant, and the railroad's decision to sell most of its holdings, has opened the door to a wide range of development possibilities in south Fremont.

With an abundance of vacant and underutilized private land adjacent to two freeways and a BART station that is scheduled to open in 2015, city leaders have envisioned a major business center in addition to amenities not otherwise found in Fremont, such as a performing arts center or a high-end shopping center.


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But the early concepts stemming from a federally subsidized study focus almost exclusively on attracting technology firms and industry. Housing would mostly be sandwiched between the future BART station and Interstate 680, and the shops wouldn't be a regional draw. There also was no mention of a convention center or a high-end business hotel, which the study determined wouldn't be feasible anytime soon.

"To me it seems the proposals are so grounded in today's reality," Councilwoman Anu Natarajan said. "We weren't creating a vision of what we wanted and a vision of how we wanted to get it."

City officials say the ultimate plans will have the flexibility to incorporate higher-profile projects, if there's a market for them.

The council is expected to solidify a plan for the site next year, but money still must be acquired for infrastructure improvements.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002.