East Bay Times

East Bay Times

Open space group holds up Hercules plan as model development

Tom Lochner

 

Two projects at the core of Hercules’ next wave of development have received accolades from a venerable Bay Area environmental organization as models of walkable, cyclable, mass transit-accessible communities with jobs and reasonable-sized homes for a variety of incomes.

The Greenbelt Alliance endorses Hercules Bayfront and New Town Center as examples of developments that would limit greenhouse gas emissions as part of a “holistic” push to prevent suburban sprawl, preserve wildlands and farmland and combat global warming that includes endorsing developments that minimize the footprint they leave on the Earth.

Among highlights of its 50-year history, the alliance takes credit for stopping a massive subdivision in the Marin Headlands; saving Angel Island from being flattened and paved over; and protecting the Pleasanton Ridge, the Suisun Marsh and the Bear Creek Redwoods.

In Contra Costa County, the alliance recently gave its seal of approval to plans for Bonanza Heritage, with 15 homes, and for a 599-home Transit Village, both in Walnut Creek. The alliance also has endorsed projects in El Cerrito, Pittsburg and Pleasant Hill.

“We must design new communities with homes, jobs and shops nestled together, so residents are able to get to work, to the store or to a friend’s house without having to drive,” said Marla Wilson, a sustainable development associate with the alliance. She praised the “compact” design of homes among other desirable features of New Town Center and Bayfront.

Hercules New Town Center is a multiphase, mixed-use project on seven parcels totaling 35 acres around the Interstate 80-Highway 4-Willow Avenue-San Pablo Avenue maze. A first phase, Market Town, will be on the 6-2/3-acre BART Park and Ride lot and WestCAT bus transfer station that is being rebuilt further east. Market Town would have more than 300 homes, 55,000 square feet of retail space, 80,000 square feet of office space and a town square. The next phase would be Cinema Town, envisioned as a regional retail and entertainment draw. The developer is The Red Barn Co. in association with the Hercules Redevelopment Agency.

“Other cities should see the New Town Center as proof that good development can reduce their impact on climate change while also being financially sustainable,” said Christina Wong, East Bay field rep for the Greenbelt Alliance.

On Feb. 24, the Hercules City Council affirmed a general plan amendment for New Town Center and created a New Town Center Mixed-Use Zoning District. Two weeks earlier, the council certified the Final Environmental Impact Report for New Town Center and approved initial and final planned development plans for Market Town.

Hercules Bayfront is supposed to have more than 1,200 homes, 42,000 square feet of retail space and more than 200,000 square feet of office and flex space, anchored around a Bayfront Boulevard of shops and an intermodal transit center with ferry service to San Francisco, an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train station and a WestCAT bus station. It also envisions an 11-acre park at Hercules Point. The developer is AndersonPacific LLC in a consortium with the owners of the land.

On July 22, the council approved the developer-sponsored Waterfront Now Initiative by ordinance, pre-empting a ballot initiative. The initiative ratified a development agreement between the developer and the redevelopment agency and approved a zoning amendment and a general plan amendment. It also contained a provision, little-known at the time, that angered some residents when they got wind of it: a redrawing of a zoning boundary to incorporate the historic Civic Arts Building, thus permitting a restaurant there just two weeks after the Planning Commission turned it down under the old zoning.

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