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An undeveloped stretch of land along Fremont Boulevard is seen here, in the Centerville district of Fremont, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010.(Anda Chu/Staff)

FREMONT -- If it's possible for an urban planning site to be cursed, a 6.6-acre Centerville district parcel haunted by several past failed proposals certainly fits the bill.

Now, those demons might be exorcised at the long-empty property on Fremont Boulevard, where the City Council has approved plans to build 185 apartments and 28,000 square feet of retail.

"We think it's a great project that would revitalize Centerville," said Cliff Nguyen, a city senior planner.

BHV CenterStreet Properties, a Dublin-based development team controlling the land, is calling its proposal, "Artist Walk."

It calls for constructing a 2,000-square-foot community center where musicians can perform and artists can show their work. The proposal also would build homes with sizes ranging from one to two bedrooms. Buildings standing three and four stories high, with heights reaching 63 feet, would be surrounded by 334 on-site parking spaces. A common area, featuring a swimming pool, clubhouse and barbecue area, would be open to all residents, according to the developers.

Brad Griggs, a BHV CenterStreet executive, said plans include building a private road called Artist Way, which would be closed on select weekends for street parties and other events.


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"The idea is to open it up for the community to use," Griggs said. "There really isn't a sense of place in Centerville and we thought this was an opportunity to create that."

For more than a decade, a similar optimism surrounded several previous star-crossed concepts, which included constructing upscale Asian restaurants, senior housing, a supermarket and town houses, among other ideas.

Officials say those proposals' failures stemmed merely from woeful luck and bad timing.

"The rising cost of steel made the first project not pencil out, and then there was the bad economy," Mayor Bill Harrison said.

He said developers' plans were delayed again in 2011, when the state dissolved redevelopment agencies, which sent many cities, including Fremont, scrambling to find new ways to kick-start housing and commercial projects.

"The property is a poster child for the new state redevelopment policy; it was one of many left hanging," Harrison said. "There've been several unfortunate circumstances at the site."

The lot is bounded by Fremont Boulevard, Post Street, Bonde Way and Thornton Avenue, near the Centerville train station.

In 2000, the city spent about $13 million to purchase the property and remove contaminated soil. Fremont intends to sell the land to BHV CenterStreet Properties, but first must spend about $1.75 million on final soil remediation.

Officials say the developers hope to start construction in about a year, and finish the job sometime in 2017. That would be cause for celebration in Fremont, especially after all of the obstacles and frustrations from the site's abandoned plans through the years.

"It's definitely had its challenges but I'm confident and optimistic that this project will move forward," Harrison said.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.