WALNUT CREEK -- Ever since the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center abruptly shuttered nearly two years ago, developers and neighbors have watched and waited to see what would be planned for the six-acre site near Rossmoor.
And the answer might finally be materializing -- homes.
Officials with builder Pulte Homes confirmed that the company is in escrow to purchase the property at 2071 Tice Valley Blvd. in southwestern Walnut Creek.
The JCC closed in December 2011 after officials there said they could no longer afford to keep it open and planned to sell the land.
Details, such as how much Pulte will pay for the site or when it will take ownership, are not being disclosed yet, said Jacque Petroulakis, a spokeswoman for Pulte.
According to county records, the total assessed value for the property in 2011 was around $8 million.
Last year, Pulte representatives said at a community meeting they would likely propose medium-density housing on that land, which could range from 12 to 20 units per acre. The center and pool would likely be demolished and be replaced by new homes. The city gym would remain.
But none of those plans were confirmed by Pulte on Thursday.
"We look forward to producing and finalizing a plan with the city and the community," Petroulakis said. "We want to create a sustainable pedestrian-friendly community that is appropriate for the site."
There is no formal application yet with Walnut Creek, said Planning Manager Steve Buckley. Over a year ago, city planners saw early draft plans that were later revised, he said. Parking is a bit of a stumbling block because the city's Tice Valley Gym is adjacent to the JCC and the parking lot is shared, eating into Pulte's development potential, he said.
But the major concerns for city officials revolve around traffic and how residents in the area -- many who have Walnut Creek addresses but live in unincorporated Contra Costa County -- feel about housing on that site, Buckley said.
In August 2012, Pulte held a community meeting and invited nearby residents to give their opinions about housing. At that meeting, approximately 30 residents showed up, many somewhat suspicious and not supportive of higher-density housing on the site.
The history of proposed housing developments on JCC land has soured many in the Tice Valley area. In 2009, the JCC tried to get a four-story 80-condominium complex built on part of their land in an attempt to raise money for a new $40 million community center. The proposal went to the City Council for a preliminary review, with the council saying they would consider such a development. But the condo complex was never built. In 2008, the City Council passed on a similar plan for 120-unit project on 2.6 acres.
Robert Rich, president of the JCC board, confirmed that Pulte was in escrow to buy the property but would not comment further on details of the sale. Last year, Rich told this newspaper, that after remaining debt is paid off, any money from the sale of the property would be saved for a new future JCC.
If and when Pulte moves forward, the company will have to go through the city planning process, including an environmental review, traffic analysis and public meetings. Pulte also plans to have additional community meetings, Petroulakis said.
And any building on that land would require a general plan amendment to change the zoning, giving the City Council the final say.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.