CONCORD -- In development since early 2013, a plan to transform downtown into a thriving, pedestrian-friendly area with housing, shopping, dining and entertainment is almost complete.
The downtown specific plan encompasses policies and strategies for developing the area. The plan's goals include attracting housing and office building development, jobs and businesses to the area around the Concord BART station and west to Market Street.
Most of the funding to develop the specific plan came from a $480,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The City Council is expected to review and adopt the plan in May.
Joan Ryan, Concord senior planner, provided an update on the specific plan at the Feb. 4 City Council meeting.
"When this plan is completed ... it's going to give us a positive fiscal impact, it's going to enhance our eligibility for grant support from the state and regional agencies and, what I'm happiest about, it's going to streamline future development in the downtown area," Councilman Dan Helix said.
During the first phase of development, the focus will be on mid- and high-density, market-rate housing with the goal of building more than 3,400 units in the downtown.
By 2040, the city projects that more than 4,000 additional housing units will have been built and the number of residents downtown will more than double to 20,800.
In addition to the 2.8 million square feet of existing downtown office space, 586,400 square feet of office space is projected to be built during phase one, and an additional 981,500 in the second phase for a total of 4.4 million square feet by 2040. The city expects to add about 743,000 square feet of retail space in that time.
Noting that leasing the ground-floor retail space at the Pleasant Hill BART station transit village has proved difficult, Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister asked Ryan if the downtown specific plan allows flexibility in where developers place the commercial space in mixed-use projects.
"It seems that somehow, in the suburban marketplace, that just hasn't connected with being accepted or the critical mass isn't there," Hoffmeister said.
Ryan assured her that the plan recognizes that each project site is unique and that ground-floor retail may not always be the best solution.
Hoffmeister also said she would like to see a stronger retail component as the plan is implemented because property tax dollars don't pay for the services Concord provides residents.
"The city already has a lot of retail for the population but it's underperforming," Ryan said. "So as growth occurs, as the housing occurs, then the concept is that we would get some retail that's better performing and higher end that would certainly be attractive to the new homeowners."
The specific plan aims to make downtown attractive to residents, visitors and employers by creating an area that is vibrant, safe and walkable. Along the stretch of Grant Street from the BART station to Todos Santos Plaza the plan calls for installing bike lanes, bulb outs at major intersections, wide sidewalks with outdoor seating and wayfinding signs.
Additional elements include a looping shuttle connecting BART, Todos Santos Plaza and major office and retail sites and a greenway and a public parking strategy and management plan.
Once the council adopts the downtown specific plan, Concord will be eligible for grants from MTC and other sources to pay for the public infrastructure and pedestrian projects.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.