Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone board zeros in on frontage plans

Group trying to decide what should be built on property

By Todd R. Brown, Staff Writer.

Thursday, September 6, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont— Although the Ohlone College board recently decided to put out a request for development proposals for its frontage property, several trustees said the language was too nebulous.

This week the group held a special meeting to pinpoint just how the members hope the land along Mission Boulevard will be transformed into a mixed-use gateway to the hillside campus.

Some called for student and faculty apartments, while others said office space should be noted in the request. The group eventually agreed that the plan could benefit from a little more guidance for developers.

"It's going to be there for decades to come," Trustee Trisha Tahmasbi said. "The bottom line should not always be profit. A thousand Jiffy Lubes, a Hooters and a Wal-Mart might be a great investment but are not in the long-term interest of the college."

Tahmasbi urged that the proposal include student residences, which could trim some income from the project but would foster on-campus camaraderie and perpetuate the popularity of the now-hot ticket to a university education.

Yet college President Doug Treadway said profit is precisely the motive for building out the roughly 19-acre area to pay for improvements to the commuter school's aging infrastructure, including its athletic fields.

"This surplus property is for revenue," he said, noting that the board has honed the plan through years of discussing Ohlone's future financial needs.

Board President Nick Nardolillo said the request was initially left vague so developers would have the latitude to include retail, housing or office space, or any combination of the three.

"I don't want to stifle their expertise," he said.

Student Trustee Ken Steadman supported the campus housing idea, noting: "When there are students on campus, the culture flourishes. There's a sense of permanence. It'll do nothing but bring more students to Ohlone College."

He said students are trying to organize a battle of the bands and taking other initiatives to bring a little joy to the everyday Ohlone experience, while the college's high transfer rate to University of California, Berkeley, is a testament to its academic reputation.

In the past few years, 42 percent of Ohlone applicants got in, according to the college's Web site.

Trustee Bill McMillin said while the office market has cooled off lately, the proposal should at least mention commercial space so developers have the option down the road.

"A multistory office complex could bring in more revenue than one-story retail," he said.

The short notice of the special meeting, which was announced late lastweek, irked some trustees, including Bob Brunton, who could not make it to the Tuesday gathering but sent comments by letter. Newer members Tahmasbi and Rich Watters said they juggled their schedules to be there.

On the other hand, Garrett Yee, who joined the board about four years ago, said he once attended 10 meetings in a single month.

"We are here to serve the college, not at our convenience. And sometimes we forget that," he said. "You have a tough job coming in and filling in on a process that has been going on for years."

Nardolillo, who convened the meeting, said this time of year is particularly challenging for him because of his Livermore winery, yet he decided the meeting took priority.

"I'm in the middle of harvest," he said. "We go 24/7 when the grapes come in."

The group, minus Brunton and Trustee John Weed, who owns property nearby and excused himself to avoid a possible conflict of interest, agreed to add a non-binding list of preferences for the property. They include building "an upscale grocery store, bookstore, deli, coffee shop, music and electronic stores," and stressing that retail parking should dovetail with the college's plans to add parking.

Reach Todd R. Brown at 510-353-7004 or todd.brown@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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