Progress promised on Landing plan
Managers with Catellus promised City Council members quick movement forward on the developer’s long-stalled Alameda Landing development, which the council agreed to turn over to the developer’s new owners on Tuesday night. They said they could break ground on the project as soon as the end of this year.
“We’ve spent close to $20 million on this project. We plan to implement it,” Catellus’s managing director, Tom Marshall, said.
Council members ultimately offered unanimous approval of the transfer of Catellus’s development rights to the developer’s new owners, TPG Capital. But they said they’re concerned about the company’s ability to deliver the project, the first phase of which is due by 2012.
“I hope you’re getting the sense that the community wants this project. I’m excited about it. What many of us are saying is that nothing is going to speak louder than action, and seeing some significant action there, soon,” Vice Mayor Rob Bonta said.
Marshall said the company’s new owners are ready to pump cash into the Alameda Landing project to move it forward and that it will get more attention than it did when Catellus was owned by warehousing giant ProLogis.
“We’re reintroducing the Catellus brand. Catellus is back, and it will be on us to execute these projects well,” Marshall said.
Catellus Vice President Sean Whiskeman said the company met with city staff in January to show them some preliminary development plans and that they plan to work with staff through the spring to refine their Landing plan. He said the company is hoping to be before the Planning Board with a plan this summer and back to the council in the fall, and the developer wants to break ground on the project in late 2011 or early 2012.
The company has entitlements to build up to 400,000 square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, 20,000 square feet of health club space and 300 homes.
The company’s first phase of development would involve preparing 10 acres of the 97-acre site for sale to Target, which has said it intends to build a 140,000-square-foot store there that would be open for business by 2013. But council members said they’re looking for more proof that will happen as Catellus helps Target erect new stores in nearby Emeryville and Fremont.
“It is a concern that Target is opening sites in close proximity to us,” City Councilwoman Beverly Johnson said. “When are they going to reach that point of market saturation?”
Johnson and Councilman Doug deHaan pressed the developer for more details on changes they hope to make to the development agreements they have with the city. Marshall didn’t offer specifics, though he said the changes would be technical in nature.
Council members also asked the developer if they plan to reimburse the city for $3 million city officials spent to build the Wilver “Willie” Stargell extension, which was considered a critical component of moving the development forward, and also the $2 million the city spent to demolish an administrative building on the property that was destroyed in a 2009 fire.
Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott and Marshall said they’d discuss the city’s costs and others incurred by Catellus.
One other concern: The project’s financials included $18 million in redevelopment funding for backbone infrastructure on the site, money which may not be available if Governor Jerry Brown succeeds in his quest to eliminate redevelopment in California.
“It’s not an insurmountable loss, but it’s just another thing we would have to overcome,” Marshall said.
Catellus signed on with the city in 1998 to develop the Navy’s former Fleet Industrial Supply Center property, and they partnered with Warmington Homes to develop the Bayport housing project. The developer inked an agreement with the city in 2006 to build the Alameda Landing project, but the development never got off the ground.
Catellus had hoped to bring Clif Bar to the site, but delays in moving the project forward that included the discovery that a wharf they planned to build near was unstable led the company to ultimately relocate elsewhere.
ProLogis bought Catellus five years ago, but the company’s fortunes slide with the rest of the economy. ProLogis announced in December that they planned to sell Catellus’s assets to TPG for $505 million, a sale that Marshall said should close at the end of this month.
As part of the sale, TPG, which manages $48 billion in assets, would pick up four shopping centers, two office buildings, 11 mixed-use development projects, two residential development ventures and a number of ground leases, Marshall said. The managers who have handled the Landing development are leaving ProLogis and would continue with the project, he said.
In other council news, the council opted to hold off on plans to raise parking ticket fines, saying they wanted to see rates predicated on the severity of the offense instead of uniformly applied to parking offenses. City staff had asked that fines for nearly two dozen offenses be set at $50, up from $30 to $35 for most of the offenses. The council did move forward with charge a late fee on unpaid tickets of 35 percent of the fine.
The council also opted to create three advisory panels to interview candidates seeking to become Alameda’s next city manager. They’ll select community stakeholders to form one panel to interview finalists for the job, with department heads and the city’s unions manning the other two.
Council members are set to interview six candidates for the job on Saturday, and they’re hopeful to have two or three finalists at the end of those interviews. The panels would interview those finalists and offer their thoughts to the council for them to consider before making a selection.