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Expanding our Towne Centre

Submitted by on 1, August 11, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

Is there any development proposal we don’t all just looooove to fight about? This week’s battle royale is over expansion plans at Alameda Towne Centre.

Harsch Investment Properties wants to be able to expand the Centre to just over 700,000 square feet; the plans include putting a second story on the soon-to-be-open Kohl’s and building a three-story parking garage across the way from that. (They’re also hoping to put an Orchard Supply Hardware into the old Safeway, in case you wanted to know.)

Some neighbors of the project are unhappy, saying the plan would increase noise, pollution and traffic; they want it stopped. Towne Centre neighbors and others are circulating this online petition to try to stop city leaders from allowing a change in the development plans for the center and from certifying an environmental impact report for the expansion, which could effectively halt the project. So far it’s been signed by about 95 people; names listed on the petition include slow-growth notables such as onetime City Council candidates Eugenie Thomson and Pat Bail, Action Alameda head David Howard and blogger Don Roberts. They say:

Alameda is an island. We have a finite amount of land. Development rules that work for other cities simply do not apply here. If we are to retain the quality of life that beckoned us to live here in the first place, we must give more careful consideration to the way we develop our city. We cannot afford to rush to judgment. The problems with this project began when it was originally built on the bay side of the island, instead of the estuary side. Now, City Staff plans to compound that error by significantly increasing the size of the centre. That will bring more traffic, more noise and more air pollution to surrounding neighborhood streets. We cannot allow this to happen!

The Towne Centre folks are fighting back by asking supporters to attend tonight’s Planning Board meeting to speak in favor of the project. In an email obtained by The Island, retail portfolio manager Michael Corbitt says:

(W)e have been working on the redevelopment for the past seven years and we are ready to wrap this up. There is a petition circulating by a few disgruntled people saying that the traffic will get horrible if the planning board approves this final Environmental Impact Report which is not the case at all. We have had independent experts analyze the traffic study numerous times along with all the City staff and they all said the information is solid … We have spent over $80 Million of our own money and worked hard to bring you the best shopping center we could and we want to finalize City approvals.

The Planning Board is meeting on this at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall. City staff is recommending approval of the plan. All the info is right here.

Speaking of development stuff, the city has released its draft strategic plan for the area of Park Street North of Lincoln, formerly known as Auto Row. We’ll have more on that soon. But to tide you over in the meantime, it’s here.

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