Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone shifts course

Trustees consider new frontage land plan

By Angela Woodall, Staff writer.

Friday, February 16, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area .

Area of Mission Boulevard in front of Ohlone College.OHLONE COLLEGE trustees are re-evaluating plans to develop the strip of land fronting Mission Boulevard below the Fremont campus. (ANDA CHU Staff).

Fremont—Plans to develop the strip of land at the front of the Ohlone College campus on Mission Boulevard are up in the air—again.

Just when it looked like the college was about to reach an agreement with Sobrato Development Cos., trustees instead gave administrators the green light to re-evaluate what should go on the 22-acre parcel between Pine and Anza streets.

Now they favor the plan offered by a group of four developers, The Ohlone Team, which was the runner-up behind Sobrato in 2005, when the college put out the call for proposals.

"We haven't abandoned Sobrato, but we wanted to shift to The Ohlone Team (proposal)," college President Doug Treadway said.

The Ohlone Team wants to "move forward immediately," said Gary Hansen, managing partner of the Orchard-Aspen Retail Group, a San Jose-based high-tech and industrial developer that is part of the Ohlone Team. Hansen also is the project coordinator for the development team.

Other members of the group are Birmingham, Ala.-based Capstone Properties, a national developer of student and teacher housing; Fountain Glen Properties, a seniorhousing developer based in Irvine; and, possibly, The Mission Peak Co., which specializes in single-family housing, such as the Peralta Commons homes in Fremont, where the firm is based. It will be years before ground is broken, but "there is no reason we can't come to an agreement over the terms within 60 to 90 days—no longer," Hansen said.

The Ohlone board has been mulling over what to do with the strip of land for about a decade. Plans took off two years ago, when trustees chose Sobrato—known for its high-end Silicon Valley business centers—to develop and lease the land.

But negotiations with the Santa Clara-based company stalled recently over the terms of the deal and because the amount of land that could be developed was reduced.

Retail on the strip needed a certain number of residential units to make it economically viable, said Tim Steele, vice president of development for Sobrato.

But the number of units kept shrinking.

"It is a good site. But (the plan) is different from what was originally proposed. It got to a point that it was too different," Steele said. The new plan is more retail-heavy than the Sobrato plan, which favored more housing. Other terms that Sobrato favored—a 75- to 90-year lease and a revenue-sharing arrangement—also were sticking points, Trustee Bill McMillin said.

The Ohlone Team is proposing a 35- to 55-year lease, which is closer to what the college wanted. Also under the proposal, the college would receive a fixed percentage of the revenue generated—7 percent to 8 percent is the figure being negotiated, regardless of how profitable the housing and retail prove to be.

A fixed percentage could be less profitable over the long term for the college, but also is less risky, McMillin noted.

The Ohlone Team proposal entails 10.5 acres of commercial development, including boutiques, a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's grocery store, a bookstore, a fitness center and cafes. Office space would be built above the retail shops.

Other businesses could include a drugstore and fast-food restaurants.

The plan also includes affordable housing for teachers, students and middle-income families, as well as a senior housing complex with walkways and parks. Even if Ohlone chooses to go with the development team, the college must, by California law, open the project to bidders again.

Sobrato still could take on the project, however, and is waiting to see what package is presented for bidding, Steele said. "We're keeping an eye on it," he said.

Staff writer Angela Woodall covers Newark, Ohlone College and Washington Hospital. She can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.

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