IISTPS Report 97-1

Public Land with

Private Partnerships for

Transit Based Development


May 1997

(reprinted 2001)

Dr. Scott Lefaver, AICP

a publication of the

Norman Y. Mineta

International Institute for

Surface Transportation Policy Studies


Created by Congress in 1991


Technical Report Documentation Page

1.          Report No FHWA/CA/OR-96/26


2. Government Accession No.


3. Recipients Catalog No.


4.          Title and Subtitle:

Public Land with Private Partnerships for Transit Based Development

5. Report Date

May 1997


6. Performing Organization Code


7. Author:

Dr. Scott Lefaver, AICP

8. Performing Organization Report No.                                        



9. Performing Organization Name and Address:

California Department of Transportation

New Technology and Research, MS-83

P.O. Box 942873

Sacramento, Ca. 94273-0001

10. Work Unit No.


11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address:

California Department of Transportation

 Office of Research- MS4

 400 7thStreet, SW Sacramento, CA 94273-0001

13. Type of Report and Period Covered:

Final Report


14. Sponsoring Agency Code

15. Supplementary Notes: This project was conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration.The project was conducted under the original title of “Zoning and Financing of Transportation Interchange Point Densification (Analysis of Opportunities and Barriers in Project Development).”

16. Abstract:

The Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies (IISTPS) at San José  State University (SJSU) conducted this project to examine opportunities for transit based developments based on public land and private partnerships. The ten case studies include a variety of financing and ownership arrangements, with the buildings constructed for residential, commercial and office uses.


The report examines the differences in expectations and objectives between public and private entities and suggests strategies for more realistic relationships. It includes detailed “Decision Check Lists” for both private developers and public agencies to consider before embarking upon a transit based development project.


The report reviews different purposes and intended uses for transit oriented development, as well as the importance of appropriate location, design and market timing. It included a discussion of financing mechanisms, including traditionally private-based, as well as various methods of public funding and subsidies. Relevant federal and California legislation is summarized. The document includes a Glossary and an extensive bibliography.



17.  Key Words: Transit based development; Public/Private partnerships; Financing; Redevelopment; Zoning; Transit Oriented Development, Density; Market Analysis, Real Property

18. Distribution Statement:


No restrictions. This document is available to the public through   The National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161

19. Security Classification (of this report)


Security Classification. (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price


Copyright © 1997 by IISTPS

All rights reserved



Library of Congress No. 97-67199



To order, please contact us via the following:



San José  State University

College of Business

San Jose CA  95192-0219

Tel  (408) 924-7560

Fax  (408) 924-7565







Prepared in cooperation with the State of California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration, University Research Institutes program.


The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of California or IISTPS. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation, University Research Institutes Program, in the interest of information exchange.  The U.S. Government, State of California and IISTPS assume no liability for the contents or use hereof.






EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.................................................................................

PLAZA DEL SOL..............................................................................................

DEL NORTE PLACE.......................................................................................

ATHERTON PLACE.......................................................................................

SEQUOIA STATION......................................................................................

LA MESA VILLAGE PLAZA........................................................................

MERCADO APARTMENTS.........................................................................

BALLSTON METRO CENTER....................................................................

GRESHAM CENTRAL..................................................................................

RESURGENS PLAZA...................................................................................

ATLANTA FINANCIAL CENTER...............................................................

SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS.................................................................

METHODS OF FINANCING.......................................................................

LESSONS LEARNED...................................................................................


GLOSSARY OF ACRONYMS.....................................................................



List of Tables


Table 1-1 Plaza Del Sol Number and Type of Units...........................................

Table 2-1 Del Norte Current Rental Rates.........................................................

Table 3-1 Atherton Place Demographics............................................................

Table 3-2 Atherton Place Apartment Details......................................................

Table 5-1 La Mesa Demographics...................................................................

Table 5-2 La Mesa Building Use......................................................................

Table 5-3 La Mesa Building Space Allotment...................................................

Table 5-4 La Mesa Funding.............................................................................

Table 6-1 Mercado Apartments Building Use...................................................

Table 6-2 Mercado Apartments Demographics................................................

Table 6-3 Mercado Apartments Project Use....................................................

Table 7-1 Ballston Planning Application...........................................................

Table 10-1 Buckhead MARTA Station Ridership............................................

Table 10-2 1991 Atlanta Financial Demographics............................................

Table 10-3 Existing and Projected Development..............................................

Table 11-1 List of Livable Communities Projects..............................................


List of Figures


Figure 1-1 Location of Plaza Del Sol, San Francisco, CA...................................

Figure 1-2 Plan of Plaza Del Sol........................................................................

Figure 1-3 View of Building A of Plaza Del Sol..................................................

Figure 1-4 View of Play Area and Building A of Plaza Del Sol............................

Figure 2-1 Location of Del Norte Place, El Cerrito, CA.....................................

Figure 2-2 Advertisement for Del Norte Place....................................................

Figure 2-3 View of Del Norte Place from BART station.....................................

Figure 3-1 Location of Atherton Place, Hayward, CA........................................

Figure 3-2 Plan of Atherton Place......................................................................

Figure 3-3 Atherton Place from the northeast.....................................................

Figure 3-4 Atherton Place from the southeast.....................................................

Figure 4-1 Location of Sequoia Station, Redwood City, CA............................

Figure 4-2 Plan of Sequoia Station...................................................................

Figure 4-3 CalTrain depot in Redwood City.....................................................

Figure 4-4 Sequoia Station from El Camino Real..............................................

Figure 5-1 Location of La Mesa Village Plaza, La Mesa, CA...........................

Figure 5-2 Plan of La Mesa Village Plaza.........................................................

Figure 5-3 Aerial view of La Mesa Village Plaza..............................................

Figure 5-4 View of trolley station at La Mesa Village Plaza...............................

Figure 6-1 Location of Mercado Apartments, San Diego, CA..........................

Figure 6-2 Site of Mercado Apartments...........................................................

Figure 6-3 Mercado Apartments and the Coronado Overpass..........................

Figure 6-4 Mercado Apartments from the east.................................................

Figure 7-1 View of Ballston Metro Center, Ballston, VA..................................

Figure 7-2  Another view of Ballston Metro Center..........................................

Figure 8-1 Gresham Central and MAX tracks, Portland, OR............................

Figure 8-2 Central parking at Gresham Central.................................................

Figure 9-1 MARTA tunnel and Resurgens Plaza, Atlanta, GA..........................

Figure 9-2 Resurgens Plaza at night..................................................................

Figure 10-1 Location of Atlanta Financial Center, Atlanta, GA.........................

Figure 10-2 Plan of Atlanta Financial Center....................................................

Figure 10-3 Atlanta Financial Center................................................................ 217

Figure 10-4 MARTA and GA400...................................................................




Plaza Del Sol, San Francisco, California

Joe Sorti, Planner, County of San Mateo and Graduate Student, San José State University


Del Norte Place, El Cerrito, California


Phil Nameny, Graduate Student, San José State University


Atherton Place, Hayward, California

Monique Mayeaux, Graduate Student, San José State    University


Sequoia Station, Redwood City, California

Maureen Riorden, Planner, City of Redwood City and Graduate Student, San José State University


La Mesa Village,

La Mesa, California

Monique Mayeaux, Graduate Student, San José State University


Mercado Apartments,

San Diego, California

Monique Mayeaux, Graduate Student, San José State University


Ballston Metro Center, Ballston, Virginia

R. Stephen Mattoon, President, Madison, Chrisjon, Mattoon Developers and IISTPS Research Associate


Gresham Central, Gresham, Oregon

John Hugunin, Transportation Planner and Graduate Student, San José State University


Resurgens Plaza,

Atlanta, Georgia

Phil Nameny, Graduate Student, San José State University


Atlanta Financial Center

Dr. Larry Frank, RLA, AICP, Professor, Georgia Tech University and IISTPS Research Associate


Public/Private Partnerships

Dr. Scott Lefaver, AICP, Professor, San José State University and IISTPS Research Associate and Michael Bernick, Partner, Lofton, De Lancie and Nelson, Attorneys, and IISTPS Research Associate


Editor and Publication Layout

John Vargo, President, Deixis Software Company and IISTPS Research Associate


Team Leader and General Editor

Dr. Scott Lefaver, AICP, Professor, San José State University and IISTPS Research Associate






Project Overview

The Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies (IISTPS) has received funding through the federal Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to conduct policy related activities in the areas of research, education, and information sharing to benefit the U.S. surface transportation industry. The project which is the subject of this report was jointly sponsored by Caltrans and RSPA under the original title of “Zoning and Financing of Transportation Interchange Point Densification (Analysis of Opportunities and Barriers in Project Development).” The publication title of this report was changed for simplicity.


As communities become more urban, local governments are encouraging higher density developments adjacent to transportation corridors. Public policies that lead to transportation oriented developments encourage higher transit ridership, less auto use, and more efficient land use. However, the private sector is often reluctant to build higher density projects for a variety of reasons. To pioneer these efforts and begin the implementation of these policies, transportation agencies are using their surplus land as the basis for transportation oriented developments. Many agencies have formed partnerships with private developers to construct these higher density projects. Some have been successful, but others have faced great difficulty.


The Project

This document will examine several transportation-oriented developments. It will also recommend methods by which public transportation agencies can successfully implement high-density, mixed-use developments adjacent to transportation corridors.

Definition of Transportation Oriented Developments

For the purposes of this study, transportation oriented developments will be defined as higher density, residential or mixed-use developments built along transportation corridors. Transportation corridors include all intensely used surface transportation passageways, i.e. rail and major bus lines as well as freeways. These developments are constructed through partnerships between public agencies and private developers. In this partnership the public agency contributes land or capital or both and may assist in the financing. The private developer may be a for-profit or a non-profit entity. Their role in the partnership is to finance, build, rent or sell, and maintain the project over time. Each of the partners, private and public, expects to receive a return on its investment. For the public agency it may be a lease amount for the land or simply the implementation of public policy. For the private developer it is usually the developer’s fee and the net profits from managing the project.

This research project will review only transportation oriented developments that are constructed by a public/private partnership.

The Case Studies

Ten transportation oriented projects located in eight different cities were used as case studies. The cities include: Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Portland, Oregon; and San Diego, California. Several of the projects are located in the San Francisco Bay area: Redwood City, Hayward, and El Cerrito. In the course of studying these projects it was noted that all experienced difficulties with developing and completing the projects on time and within budget. At this point in time it is unknown if some will do well financially.

The case studies focus on the relationship between the public partner and the private entity. Employees of the public agencies and the private developers were extensively interviewed. In most cases the principal of the development company was directly interviewed. They were specifically asked about what difficulties they encountered, which aspects of the public/private relationship should be changed, and which retained. The main concern of the developers was that, because the public entities are not driven by issues of budgets, payroll, and cash flow, they often ignored the realities of business finances. They also found that the public agencies were inflexible, could not change when circumstances altered, and were generally unprepared to work in a business environment.

Two case studies in this report are different from the others. Plaza Del Sol in San Francisco had no public land and is not immediately adjacent to the BART transit station. The Redevelopment Agency loaned money to the project to purchase the land needed. Atlanta Financial Center in Atlanta, Georgia was a private development on private land that invited the public entity, MARTA, to build its station. In this case it was private land and public participation. Despite these differences, each case study provides additional insight into the public/private dimension of financing and joint development.

Some very interesting projects were not studied. For example, the research team attempted to study a project in San Jose, California. However, neither the local transit district nor the developers would supply information about the project, nor would they give interviews. The financial advisor to the developer, an attorney, told team members that they would have to sign a “non-competitive disclosure form” in order to do research on the project. This form was to ensure that any information about the project would not be sold to or used by competitors. The project team was fortunate that no other developer or public agency felt the same.

Other projects in Boston, Portland, and Los Angeles were considered and are worthy of being studied. However, because of time constraints, they are not included in this study.


Team Members

The project was fortunate in having an excellent team whose members contributed a variety of backgrounds and interests. The Department of Urban and Regional Planning Department at San José State University supplied a number of intelligent, hardworking graduate students: James Worthley, Monique Mayeaux, and Phil Nameny. Joe Sordi, graduate student and planner with San Mateo County, did the San Francisco case study. Maureen Riorden, city planner for the City of Redwood City and a graduate, did the Sequoia Station study. John Hugunin, transportation planner in Portland and a graduate student, did the case study on Gresham Central. IISTPS Research Associates Steve Mattoon, Michael Bernick, and Dr. Larry Frank, RLA, AICP, all assisted with major portions of the project. George Gray, IISTPS Research Associate, gave us assistance in San Diego. IISTPS Research Associate John Vargo did the editing and production layout. Dr. Scott Lefaver, IISTPS Research Associate and faculty member at San José State University, was the team leader. A list of contributors and their part in the studies is located after the List of Figures in this report.





The team thanks the developers and their staff for assisting in the gathering and reviewing of information and accuracy of the case studies. All were cooperative and willing participants. Without their help the team could not have produced this document. The developers included Richard Juarez of MAAC, Mercado Apartments, San Diego, California; John Heaphy, CMS Development, La Mesa Village Plaza, San Diego, California; Todd Regonini and Mark Kroll, Saris Regis, Atherton Place, Hayward, California; David Irmer, Sequoia Station, Redwood City, California; Bill Condo, Ballston Partnership, Ballston Center, Ballston, Virginia; Charlie Oewell, Pacific Valley Housing, and Jeff Loustau, John Stewart Company, Del Norte Place, El Cerrito, California; Robert L. Nelson, Executive Vice President, Noble Properties, Atlanta Financial, Atlanta, Georgia; Douglas Tollett, American Resurgens Management Company, Resurgens Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia; and Stan Christiansen and Frank Piacentini, Gresham Development Company, Gresham Station, Gresham, Oregon.


Project Tasks

The following section outlines the tasks given to the team by Caltrans and the U.S. DOT. Team members were then given specific items to accomplish, including an extensive review of the literature on public/private partnerships. Ten specific cases were studied.

Task 1: Literature Review.

Search the literature for projects and circumstances that are similar to, or exactly like, those described in the definition of transit oriented development. The scope includes the following general topic areas:

a)      Public/Private development along transportation corridors

b)      Public-sponsored development along transportation corridors

c)      Public/Private development partnerships in general

d)      Privately developed transportation oriented developments

Task 2: Identify and Develop Case Studies

Using the literature review and interviews, case studies were selected for close review. These case studies included a national sampling and considered historical cases. The discussion of each case includes:

a)      Description of the project

b)      Description of the partners

c)      Roles of each partner

d)      Description of the purpose of the partnership

e)      Review of the partnership arrangements

f)        Outcomes of the partnership

g)      Lessons learned

Task 3: Project Development: Problems and Barriers

Using the literature review, case studies and interviews, a general review of problems and barriers to development of transit oriented projects will be discussed. Categories for discussion include:

a)      Land use issues

b)      Types of partnerships

c)      Expectations and goals of each partner

d)      The agreement

e)      Financial arrangements

f)        Perceptions of each partner

g)      Legal restraints

Task 4: Private Sector Roles

The responsibilities of the private sector when involved with a public/private partnership are:

a)      Site analysis

b)      Analysis of the market

c)      Product planning and design: types of product to be built

d)      Plan preparation and government process

e)      Environmental analysis

f)        Legal aspects

g)      Construction operations

h)      Marketing the product

i)        Managing the product

Task 5: Partnership Agreements

Review kinds of agreement reached in the past with other public/private partnerships. Examine what worked and what did not. Provide examples and recommendations for public/private partnership development agreements. Specify various scenarios for different types of development.



After study and discussion, the team drew several conclusions. Flexibility on the part of the public agency, together with a better understanding of the constraints imposed by financial markets, is the most important lesson for public agencies. Public agencies that imposed public policy criteria too strictly and still wanted to “make a profit” from the project had the worst record. Those public agencies that brought the land to a developable state including general plan changes and rezoning, and that sponsored public outreach, had fewer problems. Under those circumstances the developer was able to quickly begin construction. With quicker construction, market projections are more likely to be reached.

The team also learned that this type of project is financially difficult to fund and to maintain. None of the projects reviewed, with the exception of the Atlanta Financial Center, would have succeeded without financial subsidies from the public. This implies that there is no natural market for these projects and that without assistance, financial or operational, from the public agencies, private/public partnerships for transit oriented development projects cannot succeed.


While each study in this report uncovered separate problems with varying solutions, they had some issues in common and it became apparent that there are some general principles that will help to further smoother relationships between agencies and developers and lay the foundations of successful partnerships.

Private developers should:

Receive a good return on investment

Create a positive reputation

Positively identify the project

Avoid litigation

Public agencies should:

Increase density and mixed use

Create a successful partnership

Establish pedestrian and transit links

Obtain financially successful results

Add to the existing neighborhood

Provide for long term future growth

For more specific advice to agencies and developers involved in public/private partnerships see the Decision Check Lists at the end of the Successful Partnerships section.


San Francisco, California



Plaza del Sol is a residential development containing 59 apartments located in the Mission District of San Francisco. The apartments, which are a mixture of two, three, and four bedroom units, are rented only to very low and low income families. The project provides convenient access to the 16th Street and Mission BART station located one block west.

The Plaza del Sol project cost $13.1 million to construct and was developed by the Mission Housing Development Corporation primarily with the financial assistance of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, State Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, and the State Rental Housing Construction Program. The Mission Housing Development Corporation acquired the 37,900 square foot site with an acquisition loan from the Redevelopment Agency in 1991.

This project is not on public land and is not directly adjacent to a transit facility. It is important to our case studies because it showed that transit based development can be implemented in close proximity to a transit station and can accomplish the same public policy objectives of pedestrian access to transit and to other facilities. In this partnership the Redevelopment Agency played an important role by lending needed money and it expects a return on its investment. Without the agency and its concern for affordable housing and pedestrian access to amenities, the project would probably not have been built.

Construction of the project began in December 1992 and was completed in December 1994. The project has been leased to full capacity since the initial leasing period in January 1995.



The Plaza Del Sol project was initiated by the Mission Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), which specializes in the construction and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing for residents of the Mission District of San Francisco. MHDC has been heavily involved in the development of housing and mixed-use projects within the Mission District since it was established in 1971. The MHDC is a non-profit, community-based organization which creates and preserves affordable housing for low and moderate income persons and families. The MHDC was created to address the need for affordable housing in the Mission District and has launched a multitude of collaborative efforts with individuals, agencies, and organizations interested in securing safe and affordable living conditions for the Mission District. As of August 1996 MHDC had 268 housing units under development and was providing technical assistance on an additional eighty-eight units.[1] MHDC’s technical assistance consists of helping owners rehabilitate buildings by preparing loan packages, assisting with construction scheduling, and selecting qualified contractors. MHDC has a housing management subsidiary called Caritas Management Corporation. The MHDC shares an office with numerous agencies which provide educational assistance, counseling services, and child care services to residents of the Mission District. The Plaza Del Sol project idea and site selection were the result of a group effort by these interested community groups.

Initial Involvement

At the beginning of the project, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) was approached to provide financial assistance for site acquisition as it had done in the past for MHDC projects. The SFRA worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) to gain political support for the project. Initial land acquisition money consisted of a temporary loan provided by the SFRA which was refinanced to provide permanent financing. The MOH and the SFRA have been partners in various projects, often teaming up to provide the funding and political support for projects in needy areas. The Mission District has historically been a focal point for the SFRA which distributes assistance throughout the city. The City’s role was to implement housing policies which address the need for very low and low income housing, particularly in the working-class Latino Mission District. The SFRA is required by State Law to use 20% of the tax increment they receive from several redevelopment districts within the city on affordable housing. Plaza Del Sol is one effort of many to provide low income housing in the Mission District.



Mission District History

The Mission district derived its name from Mission Dolores, founded by the Catholic Church in 1776. Although still a semi rural community during the Gold Rush years, the district grew rapidly in the late 1800s when it was linked to downtown San Francisco by the city’s first streetcar line. Much of the distinctive Victorian architecture in the Mission survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but substantial portions of the north section of the district suffered damage that led to demolition of entire city blocks. As the large Victorian homes in the area were subdivided to accommodate increasing residents after the earthquake, the Mission became a working class neighborhood populated by Irish, German, Scandinavian and Italian immigrants and their descendants. After World War II, many Mission residents joined the movement out to the suburbs of San Francisco and were replaced by immigrants from Latin American countries, turning the area into a predominantly Latino community by the 1950s. In the 1960s, the Mission suffered from real estate disinvestment as suburban growth continued. This led to the physical and social deterioration of the area. Today, the Mission District is a thriving business district which offers all retail and general commercial services within walking distance of Plaza Del Sol.

Area Demographics and Issues

The Mission District already provides a substantial number of affordable homes for those who live in San Francisco. It is also a large provider of housing for minorities. Approximately 52% of Mission District residents are Latino, 29% are Caucasian, just over 13% are Asian American, and about 5% are African American.[2] Mission District residents are predominantly low income with the median income reaching only 54% of the citywide median and one out of five Mission residents earns below the poverty line.[3] Homebase, an organization that tracks homelessness in the Bay Area, estimates that over 2,000 homeless persons are “based” in the Mission District. Although rents are generally lower in the Mission than in the rest of San Francisco, the MOH reports that average market rents in the Mission District are 61% beyond the reasonable attainment of very low income residents and 17% beyond that of low income residents.[4] The fact that only 19% of median income wage earners can afford to buy a home in San Francisco makes it the least affordable city for home-buying in the nation. Due to lower incomes, the buying power for the average person in the Mission District is much lower than that of the rest of San Francisco. Even so the median home sales price is $270,000, just $15,000 less than the city in general.[5] This makes home ownership impossible for most residents of the Mission.

Transit Options and Agencies

Like much of San Francisco, the Mission District has a considerable number of alternative transit routes. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system has a station one block away from the project, at 16th and Mission Streets. The BART line continues north from the 16th Street station with stops at the San Francisco Civic Center, Powell Street, Montgomery Street, and the Embarcadero Center before entering the “transbay tube” and running to the East Bay. To the south, the BART line runs to the Glen Park station and Balboa Park Station on its way toward Daly City. San Francisco MUNI bus lines run up and down Valencia Street, connecting the Mission District with other San Francisco neighborhoods. While quietly supportive of the Plaza Del Sol project, neither BART not MUNI took an active role as a partner in the development project.

Project Site Selection

The beginning of the Plaza Del Sol project resulted from the search for an office building to house social service agencies in the Mission District under one roof.[6] In the late 1980s, the local Operating Engineers Union made plans to sell their office building and a large adjacent parking lot and to move to a different location in San Francisco. The social service agencies, including MHDC, moved into the office building now named Centro Del Pueblo. However, they found that the adjacent parking lot exceeded their needs and thought that the site might be used for affordable rental housing if it were designed to provide parking in a underground garage. The site was considered an ideal in-fill property because it was a relatively large, under-utilized group of parcels in a neighborhood with little vacant land. The project site had been used as a parking lot by the Operating Engineers Union and had once held buildings, but these were demolished after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.




The Plaza Del Sol affordable housing project is located on Valencia Street between 15th and 16th Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco. Initial planning for this project began in 1989 with site acquisition occurring in late 1991. Construction began at the end of December in 1992 and was completed by the end of December 1994.[7] The site is one block west of the 16th Street Mission BART station. Another BART station is located on Mission Street at 24th Street.

Site Improvements, Layout, and Use

The development provides 59 dwelling units of various sizes for very low and low income families. Since large apartment units for families are hard to find in San Francisco, Plaza Del Sol is comprised of two, three, and four bedroom apartments. Plaza Del Sol sits on a 0.87 acre parcel and has a site density of 67.8 dwelling units per acre. There is also an on-site day-care center of 26,200 sq. ft. accommodating forty-five school age children with tutoring rooms for school age children who live in the housing project. Student tutoring is provided by the adjacent Centro Del Pueblo educational services social program housed in an adjacent building.

The project consists of four separate buildings, A, B, C, and D (see site plan). An underground parking garage lies beneath Buildings A and B which are three stories each. Buildings C and D are four stories and are each 44 feet in height. The unit breakdown within the housing development consists of five four-bedroom units, 29 three-bedroom units, and 25 two-bedroom units.

The site fronts along 16th Street and is landlocked on the other sides by an adjacent development which includes two and three story apartments and town homes. Land uses on the project site include residential rental apartments (primary use), child day-care (secondary use), and subterranean parking. There is no commercial component to the project.

Interrupting the project’s street frontage along 16th Street is the Intersection for the Arts Theater, which has been on its existing site for many years. Buildings A, C, and D of the Plaza Del Sol project wrap around the theater with Building B set further back to the rear of the parcel. Adjacent land uses along the same side of the street include the Centro Del Pueblo office building immediately south and the Apollo Hotel, a four story hotel which is immediately north. Across the street lies the Hotel Sunrise, a plumbing and electrical supplies warehouse, and an auto glass repair warehouse. Both the Apollo Hotel and Hotel Sunrise are projects which have been rehabilitated with MHDC assistance to add to the number of affordable housing units in the Mission District.

Project Unit Size and Economics

The number of project units, number of bedrooms, and current monthly rental rate (August 1996) are illustrated in Table 1-1.

Table 1-1 Plaza Del Sol Number and Type of Units

by Monthly Rent Payment (1996)

Income Level

Number of



of Units

Monthly Rent

Very Low Income










Low Income











Market Rate*



No Rent

Total Units

(59 units)








* Resident Manager





Project Development Team

The project team for Plaza Del Sol consisted of MHDC, the architect, Hood Miller Associates, and the project contractor, Nibbi Brothers. Consultants involved in the project included: Alan Martinez (architectural consultant); Martin M. Ron Associates (Surveyor); Harding Lawson Associates (soils engineers); KCA Engineers (civil engineer); Simmons Structural Engineering; Hawk Engineers (mechanical engineer); Paoletti Associates (acoustical engineer); Antonia Bava and Daniel R. Osborne (landscape architects).

The specific role of the MHDC was to provide much needed family housing in the Mission District. While the Mission has numerous housing projects, few cater to the larger family. From a design perspective, the relatively large size of the site enabled them to design and construct “a secure urban village.” A primary goal of MHDC was to establish safe and affordable housing for families with more than two children. The MHDC has been a proponent of affordable housing in the Mission District and their interest in the Mission District is clear. They are a non-profit developer and only attempt to make enough profit per project to cover their in-house costs and general business expenses.

Hood Miller Associates is a well respected residential design firm that has worked for both profit and non-profit housing developers and has had project experience with MHDC in the past.

When choosing a builder, MHDC generally selects from a small group of contractors (five or fewer) who specialize in low cost housing and construction projects that involve public subsidies.[8] The Nibbi Brothers were the general contractor for this project and have done substantial work for MHDC in the past. There are only a few contractors that have the capacity and interest to do low cost housing projects and have established relationships with the non-profit developer and with staff from the SFRA and MOH, who regularly provide project funding. The Nibbi Brothers have done numerous public works projects for the City of San Francisco as well as recent upgrade work to Candlestick Park.

Governmental Agencies

The governmental agencies participating in the project included the SFRA, MOH, and the City Planning Department. The roles of the SFRA and MOH consisted primarily of financial and political support for the project. Details of the involvement of these two agencies with regard to the project will be discussed later in this report.

The City Planning Department guided the project through the City Planning Commission review and approval process, assuring consistency with the City General Plan and Zoning Ordinance. Their analysis included consistency with City housing policies and justification for several exceptions to the zoning code. These issues will be addressed later in this report in the discussion of agreements made between MHDC and the City of San Francisco.

Financial Partners

The project was financed with temporary construction loans, and much of the funding was converted to permanent loan status. Financing for this project came from various sources: the State Tax Credit Program, the State Rental Housing Construction Program (RHCP), SFRA, and a combination loan from Wells Fargo Bank and First Nationwide Bank.

The largest source of project funding was the State Tax Credit Program. The Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 created an innovative program called “Tax Credit of Low Income Rental Housing.” The intent of the program was to provide an incentive on the part of private investors and corporate entities to seek a tax credit that would increase the supply of affordable housing nationally. The tax credit financing may be used to construct new housing, support “substantial rehabilitation” projects, and for the acquisition of existing properties with moderate rehabilitation needs. It can, therefore, cover a modest one-unit rental property or a new development with hundreds of units. The limited partner contribution was applied for through the State Tax Credit Allocation Committee. The amount of funding for this project totaled approximately $5 million for project construction and was converted to a permanent loan after construction.

The State RHCP program is sponsored by the State Department of Housing and Community Development and is intended to finance new rental housing in California. The RHCP program provided $4.3 million for construction roll-over financing for the Plaza Del Sol project.

The SFRA was the third largest financier, contributing $1.6 million in site acquisition funds and an additional $771,000 in construction financing, for a total of approximately $2.4 million. Both temporary loans were converted to permanent loan status.

Wells Fargo Bank provided a temporary construction loan of $750,000 for the project. However, Wells Fargo does not provide permanent financing, and most of this loan was paid for with a permanent loan of $690,000 from First Nationwide Bank.



City Government Review

Design Phase

MHDC and the project development team first met with the City Planning staff in October of 1990 to discuss the project, presenting a scheme of 62 apartment units and 100 parking spaces. At the meeting the Assistant Planning Director indicated that the project was “approvable” as designed, and encouraged the design staff to continue with their proposed development scheme. A second review meeting with the City staff took place in January 1991 to discuss technical code issues and to outline the tight schedule for approval needed by MHDC if they were to meet State financing and tax credit committee limitations. The proponents met again with the City staff in May 1991, at which time the staff suggested that the smallest of the proposed four buildings on the site (containing just three housing units) be removed from the plans to allow for more open space. At another design meeting in June 1991, the Planning Director supported the removal of this building, but the Planning Director was present for only the last 10 minutes of the meeting and did not comment on the project as a whole.

After the June meeting the Planning Director sent a letter to MHDC that called for a substantial redesign of the project. The City staff evidently felt in the course of the previous meetings they had not committed to a specific design. This was a misunderstanding because both MHDC and the project architect felt that the city had pledged support for the project as designed.

In his letter the Planning Director said that while the City staff was “supportive of family housing at this location,” the project was “too intensive for the site.” He felt that with 50% of all units in the complex consisting of three or more bedrooms, there would be a substantial number of children living on the site, at least 100 and perhaps as many as 200. His comments addressed plan deficiencies including narrowness of hallways and courtyards that would limit light and reverberate noise. He also felt that the confined corridors and back stairwells would invite children’s playing in areas not intended for the purpose. The proposed design would result in community spaces which would be difficult to service and expensive to maintain. He initially recommended a substantial redesign with attention paid to noise, privacy, security, light, air, and unit exposure to open space. He concluded his letter by saying that “the whole concept may need to be rethought.”

These comments were not well received by MHDC staff and architect Hood Miller Associates since much thought and preparation had gone into the project design before the City review. Changes were made to the project design throughout the process including reducing the size of the basement and generally responding to the “light, space and air” comments of the Planning Department but the number of dwelling units remained roughly the same. Further, a consultant was called in to address design issues relating to “children’s use of space.” This specialist provided some recommendations for minor design changes but mostly provided rationale as to why the project’s design would work. This analysis was ultimately accepted by the Planning Department staff.

General Plan and Zoning Review

Once the basic design concept was agreed upon, the project was formally submitted to the Planning Department and underwent Planning Commission review. The City General Plan identifies the project site for mixed use development. The site falls within the Valencia Street Neighborhood Commercial District and is designated on City Zoning Maps as “NCD.” The zoning classification provides for general retail sales and services on the first floor, and residential units on the upper floors. Residential development is limited to one unit per 600 square feet of site area with a parking space required for each residential unit. This would have resulted in 63 dwelling units and the same number of parking spaces for residential use alone. In addition, it was necessary for the project to provide parking for the Centro Del Pueblo Office Building because the housing development eliminated the previous parking lot for the office building. Ultimately, this project was processed with a Conditional Use Permit and as a Planned Unit Development to account for the various exceptions granted from the underlying zoning standards.

Minor Subdivision

Relatively early in the process (early 1992), an application for a minor subdivision was processed so that the Centro Del Pueblo Associates could sell just the site intended for housing development (the former parking lot) to MHDC. This subdivision was mapped and recorded before MHDC proceeded with other permits from the City so that financing for the project could be arranged without waiting for the other permits to be approved.

Conditional Use Permit

According to the San Francisco Planning Department regulations, a conditional use permit is required for the new development of sites greater than 10,000 square feet in size. Under the provisions of the City Code, the Planning Commission can authorize a conditional use permit after finding that the proposed use will provide a development that is necessary or desirable for, and compatible with, the neighborhood and community.

Planned Unit Development Permit

The Planned Unit Development (PUD) permit enabled the project to move forward without having to pursue variances. Because it is an infill site, it was difficult to design a project that met the strict zoning standards for the NCD district and still carry out the design objectives of the project. The following exceptions were sought by MHDC for development of the project.

·        Rear Yard Living Area. The San Francisco Planning Code for an NCD District requires that the rear yard be 25% of the lot depth with a minimum 15 foot depth. Building B was placed within the site’s rear yard in order to better distribute open space on the site. Requiring the rear yard to take up a full 25% of the site (9,494 sq. ft.), would preclude the type of design on this parcel which could take advantage of the maximum density available and still stay within building height limits. Therefore, an exception to the 25% rule was granted.

·        Parking Spaces. The Planning Code requires that one parking space be provided for each of the 59 units. According to code, one parking stall for each 500 sq. ft. of the Centro Del Pueblo office building was required as well. Additional parking, one stall for each 25 children, was also required for the day care facility. The office and day care uses together created a demand for an additional 55 parking stalls, totaling a demand of 114 stalls overall (including residential demand of 59 stalls). The architect’s design proposed 60 parking stalls for the residential units (exceeding the requirement by one stall), and another 36 stalls for the office use and day care center. A parking study prepared by the project engineer showed that the number of parking spaces proposed (96 stalls) would meet the overall demand of the project based on a shared parking analysis and the flexible work hours of some personnel working in Centro Del Pueblo offices. An off street parking exception for 18 stalls was therefore granted.

·        Parking Stall Size. Construction of an underground parking garage often creates difficulties with meeting the minimum dimensions of parking spaces due to the structural support columns in the garage, required aisle widths, and space taken by ventilation equipment, elevators, and stairwells. The Bureau of Engineering and Public Works requires standard spaces to be a minimum of 160 sq. ft. and 127.5 sq. ft. for compact spaces. The architect requested an exception to the space dimensions for 32 of the required parking spaces which fell slightly short of the minimum size due to physical constraints. This exception was granted as well.

·        Unit Exposure. Each dwelling unit is required to face on-site open space area. However, the site layout required an exception to this requirement for three of the units. Due to site layout constraints, this exception was granted as well.

Environmental Review

The project was granted a Negative Declaration which involved written analysis of potential environmental impacts of the project by the Department of City Planning’s Office of Environmental Review. The primary environmental issue was the contaminated soils in an area that had once held underground storage tanks. Mitigation measures were incorporated as conditions of approval for the project. These measures included excavations of all contaminants on the site, aerating the contaminated material or removal from the site by a licensed hauler, monitoring of groundwater and removal of excessive contaminants as needed. The mitigation measures were incorporated as conditions of approval for the project.

Another site contamination issue surfaced during construction when it was discovered that four to five feet of ash existed on the site, left over from the buildings destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake. This material tested positive for low level lead contamination and required a substantial project delay to conduct remediation which increased the project budget by approximately $1 million. This issue will be discussed again later in this report along with other unforeseen expenses that occurred with the project.

Conditions of Approval

The project conditions of approval included the requirements for the submittal of specific design review and landscaping plans to address design, street trees, and landscaping issues prior to issuance of building permits. These issues were to be dealt with by the developer and the City staff but required no subsequent public hearing as long as they proceeded in substantial conformance with the drawings presented to the Planning Commission. The City also included detailed findings and conditions requiring the project to provide housing affordable to persons or families earning no higher than 80% of the median income for the San Francisco Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. This restriction was, however, intended to be subordinate to the affordability limitations of the State RHCP and State Tax Credit programs which are more restrictive.

Permit Review Priority

The City Planning Commission has a policy which establishes “preferential permit processing” for affordable housing projects. The Director of the Mayor's Office of Housing formally requested that the Planning Department grant this project “Priority A” status. The justification for this priority was that: 1) the project developer is a non-profit agency; 2) the project will be subsidized with public funds; and 3) the project would be 100% affordable to low income households or individuals. Although this status was granted, the typical permit applications still needed to be made and reviewed by the Planning Department.



San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Agreement

MHDC was required by the SFRA to enter into an agreement stipulating that all project funds be utilized either to acquire the site or for the construction of low and moderate income housing. The SFRA is required by California Community Redevelopment Law to distribute 20% of all the monies from its tax increment to a low and moderate income housing fund.

When funding becomes available for housing projects, the SFRA issues a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). In the case of Plaza Del Sol, an initial $1.64 million was provided by the SFRA to be used for land acquisition and to leverage financing from other available sources, specifically State funded programs. This was the only portion of the project the SFRA planned to fund. However, hazardous materials were discovered on the site during construction. A costly clean up and construction delay ensued which nearly halted project construction. The SFRA provided an additional $770,737 of construction financing to carry the project through this delay.

Rental Housing Construction Program (RHCP) Regulatory Agreement

The 38 very low income units (see Table 1-1) are those held to the restrictions of the State RHCP. This is a program sponsored by the State Department of Housing and Community Development. Very low income unit rent prices cannot exceed 30% of 50% of the median income for the City of San Francisco. Further, family income cannot exceed 50% of the median for San Francisco. MHDC entered into a Regulatory Agreement with the State RHCP to address housing rent restrictions. The agreement also addressed the number of units and overall square footage of development in the project. The State is liable for construction injuries, assignability of the loan without written consent of the state, interest rates and loan payment terms, compliance with local and State laws and regulations, and the State’s right to inspection of the project with regard to hazardous materials clean up liability. The State RHCP contributed approximately $4.3 million for project construction. Assistance for these 38 units came from other funding sources as well.

State Tax Credit Program Agreements and Funding Adjustments

The 20 low income housing units are those held to the restrictions of the State Tax Credit Program. The units supported by this funding are the subsidized low income units which have long term rent and occupancy restrictions that equal or exceed those required by the State Tax Credit Program. Allowable rents cannot exceed 30% of a wage that is 60% of the area median income, less a reasonable utility allowance. The maximum allowable income for a household occupying a unit is also 60% of the area median income. The California Equity Fund, which is the State Tax Credit Program limited partner for the project, contributed approximately $5 million for project construction in four installments.

State and federal law requires that all projects awarded low income housing tax credits in 1990 or later enter into a Regulatory Agreement with the Tax Credit Allocation Committee. The agreement outlines the conditions under which tax credits are awarded and must be recorded in the county where the project is located. The terms of this agreement between MHDC and the State are very similar to the RHCP agreement in terms of disclosures and liability.

The difficulty in striking an agreement with the State for tax credit funding is that the project must be slated for a specific target date so that credits can be utilized for that tax year. Therefore, after the application process with the State has begun, project construction must adhere to the time commitments stated in the funding application. Further, funding is not granted all at once but is released to the housing developer when milestones have been reached. There are, therefore, specific deadlines for construction progress that are often difficult to meet. In the case of Plaza Del Sol, once tax credit financing was obtained, MHDC had to adhere to a project schedule that would result in completed construction by the end of December 1992. While financing from the State RHCP and Wells Fargo was “approved” at the time, funding was not yet available from these sources. The schedule for the State Tax Credit Program, therefore, could not be met. The State Tax Credit Program funding for the project had to be returned to the TCAC and MHDC had to reapply in the following tax year. Tax credit financing was re-awarded to the project for a subsequent tax year which aligned with the timing of other construction financing, putting the project on a construction schedule that would lead to completion by the end of December 1994. As a result, MHDC lost their initial application fees paid to the TCAC which are non-refundable.

Wells Fargo Bank and First Nationwide Bank Commitment of Funds Agreement

Wells Fargo Bank provided a construction loan of $750,000 for the project. As a matter of policy, Wells Fargo Bank provides construction loans, but not permanent loans, for affordable housing. First Nationwide Bank provided a permanent loan of $690,000, which resulted from a refinancing of the construction loan made by Wells Fargo Bank.

In their respective commitment letters, each financial institution included information on project type and size, identification of the borrower, the purpose of the loan, the principal amount, the loan terms and the interest rate, loan security (secured by title to the property), lease and rental schedule, subordination agreements to state loans, appraisal, property survey, additional legal disclosures, and statements exempting each from liability.



Physical Changes

The project resulted in a notable change in the appearance of the urban block along Valencia Street between 15th and 16th Streets. However, the project has not had a profound effect on the neighborhood because of the many other problems that exist in this part of the Mission District. The project is gated and no one can enter the development other than residents and their guests. For security reasons, the residents are separated from the street life along Valencia. Just down the street (at Valencia and 16th Street), the Valencia Gardens housing project (constructed in the 1970s) continues to decline. The Valencia Gardens are in disrepair and the immediate neighborhood is considered unsafe by many Plaza Del Sol residents. One cab driver stated that he would not stop at Valencia Gardens since a driver was killed about two years ago. Drug dealers loiter along the street frontage of this struggling housing project and some individual living units have been condemned due to fire. This project has a negative effect on the neighborhood because its inhabitants and visitors, many of whom are unemployed or working poor, create a hostile atmosphere in the neighborhood. The Valencia Gardens project attracts unwanted visitors, is not policed well, and is not physically secure.

Effect on Business

The Plaza Del Sol project has had a positive effect on the neighborhood retail businesses in the area. The grocery store at 16th Street and Valencia has increased business as it is frequented by residents of the housing project. However, most properties across the street are light industrial, and therefore have not been affected.



Project Success

The Plaza Del Sol project was a success from the point of view of providing affordable family housing to those in need. Because it provides affordable housing in the Mission District, the response to the project was very favorable. The application process was begun far in advance of occupancy and all 59 units were reserved the day the project opened.

The concerns of the Planning Department, while well founded in the case of other projects, have never been an issue at Plaza Del Sol. There is adequate outdoor play area, open space, and “light and air” for residents. The day-care and child play area within the project is very important because the site is gated preventing outsiders from entering without proper credentials. Children can play within the development unattended but in safety.

Financing Issues

The State Tax Credit Program differs vastly from the State RHCP program complexity. While the State RHCP procedure involves typical loan or grant applications, the Tax Credit program involves numerous players in the transaction including professional tax consultants and syndicators. A limited partner used in the Tax Credit Program is the corporate investor. The limited partner for Plaza Del Sol was the California Equity Fund, which is a local spin-off of a national organization called Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). This organization syndicates low income housing projects and the dispersal of tax credits. California Equity Fund, as the limited partner, is responsible for selling the tax credits to corporate entities. Such tax credits provide a dollar for dollar reduction in tax liability to the corporation for a specified number of years. The use of tax credits for a specific development project is determined by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC), which uses a formula to determine the percentage of a project that can be funded. This percentage is determined through the use of tables that account for housing construction costs in various parts of the State.

City Permit Review Process

The project experienced some difficulty during the City design and permitting process due to some apparent miscommunication between City Planning staff and the project development team, specifically the project architect. The City Planning Director decided, after numerous meetings between MHDC, their architect and lower ranking City staff personnel, that the density should be reduced. MHDC did not agree because construction of affordable housing relies on efficiency in the planning and design phases, and financial resources for the construction of a new project are always limited. Also, in an urban area such as the Mission District, where there is a need for safe, affordable housing, there is pressure to build at a high-density. In suburban areas of the Bay Area, non-profit housing developers (for example, Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition) seek to construct projects at a density of about 20 units to the acre. The Plaza Del Sol project is constructed at a density of 67.8 per acre, far exceeding the density of suburban projects.

The comments of the Planning Director late in the design process were a surprise to the MHDC because in numerous meetings with the City staff, the City seemed to support the project design. MHDC and the project architect learned that it is best to get the support of the planning director himself and not to rely on the opinion of the planning staff during the design phase of the project.

Hood Miller Associates is a well-respected residential design firm. However, it can often be a challenge for an architect to implement specific design objectives and still meet the objectives (and often the personal opinions) of a local agency planning staff. One member of the project design team mentioned that initial conflicts during the design phase of the project were related to some differences of style and opinion between the architect and City staff on past projects.

Project Cost Overruns

As the Cost Reconciliation Schedule indicates, the project went over budget by approximately $1.25 million. Of this total, approximately $918,000 of the budget overrun could be attributed to unforeseen soil remediation costs for lead contamination. The Project Manager for MHDC, Philip Dochow, indicated that the biggest lesson he learned was in managing the consultants on the project, specifically the soils engineer who conducted tests. The tests were later invalidated which resulted in the biggest problem with the project budget.



The Plaza Del Sol housing project was initiated by MHDC with the initial political support of local community groups and the MOH. The initial financial player in the project was the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The Mission District is a focal point of important City policies which relate to the construction of new affordable housing units for persons of very low and low incomes. The Mission District has a history of providing housing for working class persons and families of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, primarily Hispanic families. The selection of the Plaza Del Sol site was a team effort of several community organizations which were looking for additional office space to house community services. The discovery of the project site was a result of good luck and timing. The project provides 59 units of very low and low income housing, primarily for families with children. The project design has resulted in a successful and secure urban village atmosphere. The developer made use of an oddly shaped parcel and was granted some exceptions to the City’s Zoning Ordinance after some challenging negotiations with the City of San Francisco. The Mayor’s Office of Housing provided political support for the project and was instrumental in getting the project approved in a relatively short time.

The project financing came primarily from State programs but was supplemented by two conventional lending institutions. All of the public money used to finance the project construction has been refinanced to provide permanent financing. The affected local transportation agencies (BART and MUNI) supported the project but played no major role in the project.

The effect of the project has been to reduce housing pressure on low income families in the Mission District. However, no substantial change has taken place in the neighborhood which is still adversely affected by the surrounding properties and a nearby decaying housing project built in the early 1970s.


Plaza Del Sol, San Francisco, California

A three and four story residential project located in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Development consists of 2-4 bedroom units to provide for families.

Location is one block from the 16th Street BART station.

Agencies Involved: San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; Mayor’s Office of Housing


Special Features:

Housing exclusively for very low and low income families;

26,200 sq. ft. child day care center with capacity for 45 children; tutoring rooms.

Underground 96 stall parking garage for Plaza Del Sol and adjacent office building (Centro Del Pueblo)




Mission Housing Development Corp.

Hood Miller Associates

474 Valencia Street, Ste. 280

60 Federal Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

San Francisco, CA 94107

Philip Dochow, Project Manager

Principal-in-Charge: Bobbie Sue Hood


Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                           0.87 acres

                                                            37,900 sq. ft.

Site Acquired                                             1991

Construction Begins                        Dec. 1992

Total Dwelling Units                      59

Construction Ends                           Dec. 1994

Gross Density                                   67.8 units/acre

Occupancy Begins                            Jan. 1995

Total Parking Spaces                     96 (underground)


Number of Stories                            3 and 4



Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Number Built

Very Low to Low Income Rates

two bedroom


$417 to 685

three bedroom


$453 to 782

four bedroom


$526 to 870

Development Total

                    59 units



Funding Sources

Limited Partner (State Tax Credit Program)

$4.96 million

State Rental Housing Construction Program

$4.34 million

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency

$2.41 million

First Nationwide


Mission Housing Development. Corp. Capital



$13.1 million




Figure 1-1 Location of Plaza Del Sol, San Francisco, CA


Figure 1-2 Plan of Plaza Del Sol




Figure 1-3 View of Building A of Plaza Del Sol



Figure 1-4 View of Play Area and Building A of Plaza Del Sol


El Cerrito, California



Del Norte Place, in El Cerrito, California, is a mixed-use development, containing 135 apartments and 21,500 square feet of commercial space on 4.1 acres of land, located within the City of El Cerrito. The apartments are a mixture of market rate, senior and low income units, while the retail is composed mostly of restaurants and service establishments. Designed to add convenience to the residents of the project as well as to the commuters who use Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), this development is located one block away from the El Cerrito Del Norte Station. BART connects El Cerrito and north Contra Costa County with the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, and Fremont in Alameda County.

The $18.7 million Del Norte Place project was developed through an agreement between the City of El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency and IBEX Group. IBEX Group is a partnership whose main partners included The John Stewart Company, Sandy and Babcock Architects, and Mid State Construction. They formed a limited partnership, called Del Norte Place, to manage the construction of the project. The Redevelopment Agency provided the 4.1 acres of public land to the IBEX Group in a ground lease agreement. The lease runs for 65 years and will cost a dollar a year. The agency and IBEX signed a separate agreement that provided for the agency to receive 20% of the net cash flow of the project for 65 years with payment deferred for the first 5 years.

The project started construction in 1991. Apartment leasing began in July, 1992, and was fully leased in April, 1993 with occupancy rates exceeding 95%. Retail leasing began in 1992 and these spaces are currently 90% occupied.



Project Initiation

Del Norte Place came about largely due to the initial work of the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency. El Cerrito is an older “inner ring” blue-collar suburb that saw its greatest period of growth during the years of World War II and directly afterward as workers filled the new industries in Richmond and the refineries to the north. By the 1970s portions of the city had begun to deteriorate. In addition, it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s that BART was built into the city, opening in 1972. This also had an effect of disrupting some of the commercial areas of the city during the construction.

The El Cerrito Redevelopment Plan was adopted in 1977 in response to these increases in blight in areas of the city, most notably around the El Cerrito Del Norte station. El Cerrito was surrounded by other government jurisdictions. Much of the growth of the 1960s and 1970s in the East Bay eluded El Cerrito, and its population had declined since the 1960 census. In order to attract development, the agency had to make infill development attractive to developers. The Redevelopment Agency was created to bring to life the goals of the Redevelopment Plan, and it targeted various areas of the city for development. The location which was to become Del Norte Place was identified as “Target Area Number Nine.” Proposed development goals identified by the agency included residential, retail, and office uses. In addition, multi-family residential would be encouraged to take advantage of the proximity to BART.

Throughout the 1980s, the Redevelopment Agency had entertained many proposals by private developers to develop some of the target sites around Del Norte Station but all the private projects failed to attract financing. The Redevelopment Agency made the decision that they would have to get more involved with development around the station, especially to help with financing. Thus the agency issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) in 1988 for a mixed use development on Target Area Number Nine.

Party Involvement and Goals

Eight developer/architect teams responded to the Redevelopment Agency’s RFP. All of their plans included multi-family residences but most only offered token retail space in the project. However, one developer submission stood out for its mixed use. This developer was known as the IBEX group, a partnership made up of The John Stewart Company, Sandy & Babcock Architects, and Mid State Construction. The actual partnership of this company was split equally among five members, Richard Moran, James Babcock, Roger Nelson, Peter Wilson, and The John Stewart Company. This group responded to the RFP with a project which most closely resembled what the Redevelopment Agency had in mind. The developers wanted a showcase project, and they wanted to work with the Redevelopment Agency to obtain financing. They submitted a proposal which was truly a mixed use and a mixed income project, details which were weak or lacking in the other proposals. The John Stewart Company, one of the partners in the IBEX group, had not had much experience working on mixed use projects, as their forte was mainly in developing and managing low and moderate income housing projects. Yet, they saw this as an opportunity to create something special. Their insight won them the bid.

Public Policy Issues

The Redevelopment Agency has a goal of attracting higher intensity, mixed use projects around BART stations. To this end, they have worked with the City Planning Department to have these desires reflected in the General Plan and Zoning for the areas. More recently, BART has considered proposals for development on some of their land at the station. Despite other attempts to encourage pedestrian oriented development, Del Norte Place is the only tangible result. The Redevelopment Agency has a reputation for increasing the retail tax base by providing incentives to large retailers such as Target, Home Depot, and Foods Co., to locate near the Del Norte Station. Many residents feel that the establishment of these large chains have come at the expense of losing the smaller, local businesses who could not compete. As a result, the Redevelopment Agency has come under fire for getting involved in decisions that many feel should be left solely to private enterprise.



General Information and Demographics

El Cerrito is a small inner-ring suburb of the East Bay Area, located a few miles north of Oakland and Berkeley and approximately 15 miles northeast of the financial district of San Francisco. It borders the city of Richmond to the North and West, the city of Albany to the South, the town of Kensington to the southeast, and Wildcat Canyon Park to the east. As of 1990, the population of El Cerrito was 22,869 residents, up slightly from the 1980 census of 22,731, but down considerably from the 1960 peak population of 25,437. Much of the development was due to the increase in manufacturing jobs during and directly after World War II. As a result of the earlier growth pattern, the housing stock tends to be smaller, older, and somewhat cheaper than the newer suburbs to the north, and its “blue collar” reputation also seems to place it socially below Albany and Berkeley to the south. The average age of El Cerrito inhabitants as of 1990 was 42 years and the average household size was 2.29 persons. Both of these factors indicate an older population with “empty nesters,” that is, parents whose children have grown and left home. The city has seen an increase in overall minority population, from 13.7% in 1970 to approximately 38% in 1990, with the largest growth among Asian American and African Americans.

Transit Options

BART is a major part of the transportation network of the city and has two stations within the city limits, at Del Norte and at El Cerrito Plaza on the southern edge of the city. BART provides service to areas throughout Alameda and Contra Costa County as well as providing service to the major job centers in San Francisco and Oakland. The Del Norte station on the northern edge of El Cerrito is attractive to commuters from out of town as there is easy access to adjacent San Pablo Avenue and Interstate 80. A large parking garage is provided for the commuter parking. Interstate 80 is the major north/south freeway access, connecting San Francisco with Vallejo and Sacramento to the north and east. However, this freeway is often clogged, which adds attractiveness to BART as an alternative mode of transportation. Interstate 580 runs to the west of El Cerrito and provides access across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge to Marin County.

Besides BART, the Del Norte station contains a bus pullout area providing easy access to several buses leaving the station. Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, (AC Transit) is the main provider of bus service to the BART station. AC Transit was developed when many of the private streetcar lines were converted to public buses. Service has been extended to Western Contra Costa County, where El Cerrito is located. AC Transit currently provides local service on about half a dozen lines from the Del Norte station to the neighborhoods of El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, and into Oakland and provides express bus service to San Francisco from some of the areas without easy access to BART. Golden Gate Transit provides express service from Del Norte to San Rafael, across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. Commuter service is provided by other carriers from Del Norte station to Rodeo, Pinole, and Vallejo to the north along Interstate 80.

Amtrak runs to the west of El Cerrito and has a station in nearby Richmond (adjacent to the BART station) for longer train travel. Another commuter link is a bikeway along the BART tracks through the cities of El Cerrito and Albany.

El Cerrito’s Commercial Uses

El Cerrito does not have a typical downtown commercial district. Most of the commercial development is concentrated along San Pablo Avenue, which runs north and south along the entire length of El Cerrito. Much of this is older, “strip” development. A shopping center is next to the El Cerrito Plaza station, but with the closing of the Emporium Department Store and with many other tenants leaving, the future of this mall could be in jeopardy. The situation is similar around Del Norte Station with many marginal commercial uses. The Redevelopment Agency has attracted some major new tenants to the area, including Target, Home Depot, and Foods Co.

Previous Uses of Project Site

The Del Norte Place project had to be assembled from many different parcels. Target Area Nine of the Redevelopment plan consisted of 13 privately owned parcels. Three of these parcels were vacant, and two contained parking lots which captured the overflow BART parking. The remaining parcels contained shops, offices, residences, a popular restaurant called the Silver Dollar, and the Bay Bridge Motel, which was somewhat run-down and had a questionable reputation. The area had not seen much recent private investment, and therefore had few newer establishments or well maintained buildings.

In addition to the 13 privately owned parcels, three publicly owned pieces of land were needed for the project. One parcel was Kearney Street, a city right of way, which ran behind the existing buildings. This street mainly provided street parking for BART riders. The plan was to ask the city to abandon the roadway and have the Redevelopment Agency purchase the street parcel. The city also owned the old railroad right of way which contained a bike path. This path was also to be purchased but would have to be rerouted. The elevated BART tracks ran through the east side of the proposed project. Thus, BART would need to grant an easement to the Redevelopment Agency to allow access to the land underneath the tracks for parking and other uses for the project.

Based upon initial studies, the city recommended that a mitigated negative declaration be certified. This document labeled the project’s location as one of the mitigating factors in reducing air pollution, expecting that a higher percentage of people would use BART. The city also spent time in the design review phase, considering items such as signs and the placement of shutters and balconies.



Location and Orientation

The Del Norte Place development is located one block north of the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station on San Pablo Avenue, between Wall and Knott Streets. The building fronts on San Pablo Avenue with the BART tracks running along the rear or east side of the building. Interstate 80 lies one block to the west. Its proximity to the BART station allows residents to take advantage of the BART train and the bus routes serving the Del Norte station, including transit to Oakland,Vallejo, Marin County, Rodeo, and Pinole. Bus routes also run on San Pablo Avenue and Cutting Boulevard nearby. The complex and its businesses can be accessed from both the front and the back, allowing easy access from the parking lots and pedestrian routes.

Project Size and Description

Del Norte Place is a mixed use project consisting of four residential buildings containing 135 units, connected in the front by a retail arcade of 21,500 square feet. The total square footage of all buildings is 137,000 square feet, spread over a 4.1 acre lot which also contains parking and the raised BART tracks. The project has a residential density of 33 units per acre. The four story, residential buildings are Mediterranean style, in earth colors with balconies and flower boxes.


The apartments consist of 78 two bedroom units and 57 one bedroom apartments. Twenty-seven of the units are reserved for very low income households. State guidelines define very low income households as those making 50% or less of the median income level for Contra Costa County. These guidelines set the rent at 30% of the very low income median level. These units are spread through the four buildings with 13 of the very low income units reserved for seniors. The senior apartments are all concentrated in the southernmost building, which contains 29 units. This building has the closest access to the BART station and houses the West Contra Costa Older Adults Clinic on the first level. Overall, 92 of the 135 units are set aside for market rate rentals, of which 63 of these are two bedroom. Rental rates are shown in Table 2-1:

Table 2-1 Del Norte Current Rental Rates


Market Rate Units

Affordable Units

Senior Units

One Bedroom Apts.




Two Bedroom Apts.





The residential buildings have common areas for laundry, exercise and meeting rooms, and a children’s play area. Each building has a small central courtyard. The buildings are accessible via a card-key and pathways lead from the buildings to parking in the back or the commercial areas in front. The senior apartments have emergency pull cords connected to the front desk and 24 hour emergency service.

Residential Demographics

As a result of the special senior apartments, the overall percentage of older adults living in this complex is higher than for the surrounding town. In fact, most of the residents are singles or couples without children, either empty nesters or young adults. Initial studies showed that only 17% of the households had children. A survey conducted in 1995 showed that over 43% of respondents were over age 65, while over 20% were also between the ages of 17 and 24 years, possibly reflecting the popularity this complex has with U.C. Berkeley students. Households were generally small, averaging approximately 1.5 persons per household. Income and occupation also reflect the mix of students, low income, and seniors, with 41.9% of the survey making under $15,000 per year. Nearly 33% list their occupation as “other,” which would be the probable response of students or retired persons (Menotti and Cervero, 1995).

The survey shows the importance of BART for the residents of this complex. Surveys by John Stewart and by independent sources have shown between 34% and 40% of households do not own a car, and one-third of all trips were being made by rail (Menotti and Cervero, 1995). Sixty to seventy per cent of the residents have responded that they use BART regularly (Loustau, 1996).


There is a total of 21,500 square feet of commercial space, located at the front end of the first floor, facing San Pablo Avenue. This space is divided into a dozen storefronts. Current tenants include three restaurants and a coffee bar, along with services such as an optometrist, dentist, stock broker, postal annex, dry cleaner, and florist shop. Some of the commercial footage is at the sidewalk line of San Pablo. Most of the commercial area is connected by a covered arcade which provides additional seating for the restaurants.

The commercial space is currently at approximately 90% capacity. The busiest time for the restaurants appears to be at lunch. At that time, the parking area fills up with cars and the overflow parking goes out onto the streets. For true success, it would appear that the service uses such as the dry cleaning need to draw customers from beyond the apartment complex itself.


Residential parking is provided under the BART tracks. There are approximately 160 spaces for residents, a ratio of 1.18 spaces per unit. Some of the residential parking is covered by roof shelters. However, due to agreements with BART regarding the easement, parking spaces under the BART tracks are not covered. The commercial parking area in the front of the building consists of approximately 60 spaces. Street parking is also available on San Pablo Avenue and adjacent side streets. The commercial lot does fill up during the lunch time rush, due to the number of restaurants in the complex. Parking is adequate, although there have been some complaints about the lack of parking during lunch, when people have to park out on the street. The lack of complaints about the residential parking may be due to the large number of residents who use BART or the bus for much of their transit needs and do not actually own a car.

Special Features

Del Norte has many features which attract pedestrians. The buildings are relatively open to public access with only the interior courtyards to the buildings gated. People can enter the commercial area from San Pablo Avenue or from the residential parking and BART path at the back. The complex has successfully re-integrated the bicycle path that led along the old Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe (AT & SF) railroad tracks. This pathway, used by bicyclists, joggers, and walkers, runs near the rear of the complex. Special work had to be done to allow this path to run through the residential parking lot.



The two main partners who worked together in achieving the end result were the IBEX group and the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency. The negotiations began with the drawing up of the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) in March of 1989. The negotiations took over a year and resulted in the execution of the DDA in September of 1990. This DDA provided the details regarding the roles of the Redevelopment Agency and the developer.

IBEX group

The IBEX group formed the limited partnership, Del Norte Place, to construct the project. Their interpretation of the RFP had been closest to the desires of the Redevelopment Agency, offering residential and retail components along with provisions for mixed incomes and mixed ages. One of the partners, The John Stewart Company, had a long history of developing low and moderate income housing but had not worked on a project involving a retail component. They were hoping that this project could become a showcase example of transit oriented development, providing a positive image for future projects. The IBEX group was also hoping that this project would be the first of several in the area, creating more demand for retail and residential space in Del Norte Place. In order to achieve this, they held many meetings and design reviews, secured financing which complied with the National Housing Act, and secured Low Income Housing Tax Credits from 30 individual investing partners (ULI, 1995).

The Redevelopment Agency

The Redevelopment Agency, with the issuance of the RFP, was trying to eliminate blight around the BART station and to develop mixed use projects to foster its vision of a pedestrian pocket. Their role was to assemble and purchase the land, negotiate the relocation of tenants and reach agreements with BART, El Cerrito, and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), regarding parcels under those groups’ control. The agency became a land owner, leasing the property back to the Del Norte Place partnership. The hope was that the success of this initial project would spur private investment of a similar kind to the area, bringing new life to the north side of town. New businesses would bring more property and sales taxes to the city.

The City of El Cerrito, BART, and PG&E

There were some other players in the success of this development. The City of El Cerrito owned the right of way for Kearney Street and the old AT & SF right of way, which contained the bike path. Many BART riders parked on Kearney Street, which runs parallel to San Pablo Avenue. With the BART parking garage nearly finished, the city agreed to abandon the Kearney Street right of way. The city also allowed the purchase of the bike path which would have to be integrated into the project. BART’s role in the project was as the grantor of an easement to allow parking and underground utility lines to go in underneath the tracks. BART worked directly with the Redevelopment Agency on this agreement. Lastly PG&E was brought in, when it was realized that an electric substation on the property would be in the way of the development. PG&E negotiated with the Redevelopment Agency to move and relocate the substation to the rear of the parcel, out of the planned building area. The costs were to be paid for by the agency and the developer in accordance with the agreements in the DDA.



The Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) is a document often created between a developer and an agency to provide an outline for the construction of the project. Once IBEX had been selected as the developer, they and the Redevelopment Agency worked for over a year to hammer out this agreement. The resulting DDA was issued in September, 1990, one month after the approval of the project by the Planning Commission. With some of the changes made to the project, the documents were not stamped “certified” until April, 1991, shortly before construction. The DDA provided the information for how the land was to be acquired, leased, and who was to pay for each of the steps in the improvement process. The DDA could not take effect until the project was approved by the City Council.

City Approval

The first step, even prior to the issuance of the DDA, was to get the project approved by the City. Based upon the Initial Study, the City staff recommended that a mitigated negative declaration be certified. The Redevelopment Agency aided the developer in working with the city. El Cerrito provided some flexibility by allowing some exceptions to the current zoning requirements of the area. These exceptions included allowing buildings exceeding the height limitations under standard policy, the loosening of the setback requirements to allow the two end building facades to approach street side property lines, rather than the usual 5 foot setback, and waiving the approval of the Use Permit for the multi-family and elderly housing. This route was taken, rather than attempting a rezoning for a Planned Unit or Mixed Use Development.

Formulating the DDA

Once the project was approved, the DDA had to allocate responsibility for the acquiring of the land and the relocation of existing tenants. The costs for clearance and construction were to be borne by the developer, who would be leasing the land from the agency on an “as is” basis. Altogether, the agency had to secure a total of 4.1 acres spread between the 13 privately owned parcels and the land owned by the two agencies, BART and the City of El Cerrito. It was soon evident that there would need to be flexibility on both the agency’s and the developer’s part to deal with unexpected circumstances described as follows.

Silver Dollar Restaurant

Most of the owners of the parcels in Target Area Number 9 willingly sold their properties. However, the Silver Dollar Restaurant posed a problem in that it was one of the area’s most popular restaurants. The agency realized that forcing this restaurant out of business would not be a popular move with residents, so the DDA had a special segment written to offer space to the restaurant in the new development. The project construction would be scheduled to allow the restaurant to continue operations until its new facility was available. The owners of the restaurant agreed to be bought out and relocated. However, disagreement arose over the nature of the compensation because the restaurant was only leasing space. This resulted in a lawsuit being brought against the Redevelopment Agency, which has only recently been settled. The Silver Dollar was given additional compensation to cover business interruption expenses and additional rent required at the new location.

Soil Composition

The original negotiation was that the properties be leased “as is,” with the developer bearing all expenses to improve the property. However, soil testing identified a problem with the high concentration of ground water, which makes construction difficult. A large portion of the area had to be excavated and the soils replaced to allow the construction of the building. Utility and sewer lines had to be moved during this excavation. These unexpected costs necessitated changes to the original agreements, resulting in the First Implementation Agreement and Agency Participation Agreement.

Other Problems

As the project got underway, negotiations with the City of El Cerrito, BART, and PG&E stalled over different issues. Although the city of El Cerrito was willing to give up the land containing the bike path to the Redevelopment Agency, they expected that the bike path would continue to run through the property after the development was completed. The original plans did not contain the pathway, and the path had to be added into the development, increasing costs. The moving of the PG&E station posed a greater expense than originally anticipated, so negotiations were held to limit the developer’s expense. Lastly, BART held up the easement negotiations with the Redevelopment Agency, forcing an extension to the agreement in the DDA. BART finally allowed the provision for parking underneath the tracks.

Public Involvement

This project went through numerous public hearings, from the design review board, through the planning commission and the City Council. Throughout the development process, public dissidence was fairly minimal. Some assurances had to be made in regards to the bike pathway, but otherwise there was not much objection. However, the relocation of the Silver Dollar Restaurant did stir public resentment to the Redevelopment Agency in general. This relocation, coupled with the agency’s help in locating the “big box” retailers, such as Target, on land previously occupied as a trailer park and bowling alley had some residents worried that local opinions were not being considered in favor of national chains. Residents voiced concern that the large businesses would cause small local businesses to go under (Frasleur, 1994). Some of the more vocal citizens organized a petition to eliminate the agency and in a referendum election held in November, 1993, the move was narrowly defeated. The public’s dissatisfaction with the Redevelopment Agency was mainly the result of the favorable deals the agency had signed with large retailers such as Target and Home Depot and with the displacement of residents. Del Norte Place was not a significant reason for residents’ negative opinion since most of the businesses displaced had been marginal.



There were four main agreements in this development, with three of them springing from the initial DDA. The other agreements were the Ground Lease, the First Implementation Agreement to the DDA, and the Agency Participation Agreement.

Details of the DDA

Land Acquisition

The DDA made it clear that the acquisition of land and the relocation of the tenants was the responsibility of the Redevelopment Agency. The Agency would also need to finance these purchases. In anticipation, they began acquiring the properties and had fee title to six properties by the time the DDA had been written. The DDA stated the intent of the agency to acquire all remaining parcels, and to refinance those parcels already acquired. In accordance with the agreement, the agency issued tax exempt “qualified redevelopment bonds” for this purchase in the amount of $3 million. According to city literature, the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency was the first Redevelopment Agency to utilize this category of tax-exempt financing. The reason that more agencies do not take advantage of this type of financing is due to the limited definitions for the terms “redevelopment purposes” and “blighted areas.” The $3 million was secured from the California Development Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC), with the intention that this amount would cover all acquisition costs as stated in the DDA, including the acquisition, settlement, relocation, compensation, fees, and other costs related to the land acquisition. If costs rose above $3 million, the Agency and the Developer would be jointly and equally responsible, subject to some restrictions.

Construction and Operation Costs

It was the responsibility of the Del Norte Place partnership to submit a financing plan, detailing any other joint ventures entered into to provide funds as well as the cash flow projection and a cost breakdown. The developer was responsible for the marketing plan for the retail component of the center. The DDA specifically called for leases to vendors of specialty foods such as coffee, fresh fish, and baked goods. If, ten months after completion, the developer presented reports showing the unfeasibility of these leasing requirements, they would be allowed to search for other tenants. This did become the case.

In order to construct this project, the developer and the agency secured nearly $11 million in tax exempt, Mortgage Revenue Multi-family Housing Bonds, issued by Contra Costa County. These funds were refinanced in 1994 with a lower interest, variable rate tax exempt bond, indexed to the seven day Kenny Index (ULI, 1995). The loan was insured through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) co-insurance program, section 221(d)(4), overseen by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Del Norte Place had to comply with regulatory agreements adopted by HUD and the National Housing Act, which included the restriction that these bonds not be used for retail or commercial construction. Financing for the retail component, estimated at $2,800,000, had to come from elsewhere. Both the DDA and the Ground Lease had a Housing Affordability section to address these issues. In order to cover the retail portion of the project, IBEX, as general partner in Del Norte Place, contributed $3,200,000 of their own resources for equity. To further help pay for the housing, IBEX secured the low income housing tax credits from 30 individual investors for an additional $1,800,000 in equity contributions (ULI, 1995).

DDA Agreement of Agency Participation

The initial plan of the DDA was to allow the agency to receive 20% of the Net Cash Flow during each year from the operations, as specified in the Ground Lease. Due to the restrictions imposed by HUD, these terms were moved from the Ground Lease to an Agency Participation Agreement. The developer was required to operate the property for a period of five years from the date that 90% occupancy in the retail center was achieved before the property could be re-sold. After that point, any sale of the property would occur simultaneously with the sale of the agency’s fee interest in the property and its leasehold interest in the BART right of way. The agency would receive 20% of the net sales proceeds and the developer would receive 80%. These participation percentages could change if the equity contributions by the developer or the agency changed by more than 10% during construction.

Ground Lease

The Ground Lease set up the leasing agreements between the Redevelopment Agency and Del Norte Place. The term of the lease was for 65 years, terminating on the date of the lease execution, at which point the agency could negotiate ownership of the improvements. Rent was set at $1.00 per year. The initial lease also contained the participation rent agreements, but these were separated to conform with HUD guidelines which did not allow the lease to be based upon net revenues. The lease provides limitations on the use of property, the quality of operations, maintenance, transfers, subletting, housing affordability restrictions, and many other items referred to on the DDA. This Ground Lease was enacted and certified in April, 1991 when construction began.

First Implementation Agreement to the DDA

This agreement was set up to address the increased costs incurred from the land acquisition and site improvement. The agreement requested that the agency apply to Contra Costa County for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) which would then be paid to the developer to help with the site improvements, such as the soil replacement and utilities relocation. The grant, in the form of a loan, would be repaid by the Redevelopment Agency. This agreement altered the responsibility for the moving of the PG&E substation, making Del Norte Place responsible for only the first $70,000 of relocation costs. The definition of the property boundaries was changed to remove the parcel containing the moved substation, so that this piece of property was not actually part of the lease. The agency, as owner, granted an easement to PG&E for that parcel. The agreement eliminated the provision forcing the developer to pay rent on the BART easement. At the same time, the agreement allowed an extension for the negotiations of this easement between the Redevelopment Agency and BART. Lastly, the First Implementation Agreement laid the groundwork for the setup of the Agency Participation Agreement to detail the participation rent provisions.

Agency Participation Agreement

This agreement was created to establish the participation rent procedures, separate from the Ground Lease, in accord with the requirements of HUD. Pursuant to the DDA, this agreement allowed the participation of the Redevelopment Agency in receiving 20% of the Net Cash Flow generated from the project. However, Del Norte Place could elect to defer any and all annual payments for the first 5 years after completion of the project. This deferment would accrue interest at 7% annually. This provision, put in place when costs of the project increased, allowed the developer to recoup some of the initial investment.

Final Costs

With all of the unexpected costs and delays, the project costs were $18,786,300: the residential space cost $138.25 per square foot and retail space $131.07 per square foot. This was higher than the initial estimates of $16 million at the beginning of the project. The flexibility of the Del Norte Place partnership and the Redevelopment Agency to realign agreements and secure financing allowed these additional costs to be absorbed.

Developer and Agency Policy Changes to Ensure Success

The apartments began leasing in July of 1992 and full leasing (90% occupancy) was attained by April, 1993. The seniors’ building was finished first. Although the John Stewart Group is pleased with the results, some modifications had to be made to ensure occupancy. Many of these decisions were financial in nature, as the project was opened at the depth of the California recession. The residential units had their target rents dropped by 15% to facilitate renting and meet cash flow targets. Various forms of advertising were tried, in order to find which were most effective for the market rate units.

As stated in the DDA, the Redevelopment Agency policy was to attract specialty vendors selling various items such as flowers and gourmet meats and cheeses. Businesses of this type in the Rockridge area of Oakland were expected to expand into Del Norte Place. Unfortunately the retail environment in El Cerrito did not support these types of businesses and those at Rockridge suffered customer losses due to the Oakland Hills fire of October, 1991. The agency allowed the John Stewart Group to find businesses that were more service oriented and convenient to commuters. These uses included dentist and optometrist offices, a dry cleaner, and packaging store. Once the vision for the commercial center was altered, leasing of the retail center proceeded quickly.

Overall Result

The residential units have been able to maintain high occupancy rates since being leased. Especially popular have been the low income and senior units, which often have waiting lists. The John Stewart Company has kept an on-site residential and commercial building manager, which helps to keep residents and tenants satisfied. Visually, the project is an improvement over the previous buildings on the site, and there have been no reports of neighbor dissatisfaction. Although the businesses are not experiencing a boom, they have been able to survive during tough economic times. Their future success may depend on the type of projects built in the vicinity. As of this writing, no other similar developments have been built. The lot across the street contains a vacant supermarket and restaurant and continues to be a security problem with the City. Although Del Norte Place appears to have achieved overall success, it will need to be augmented with other, similar projects in the area. Currently, there is a tentative project to bring in a movie theater and more apartments.

AMC Movie Theaters and Apartments

This project has been slowly going through the review process since BART issued an RFP in 1992 for development of its 2.7 acre surface parking lot located in front of the Del Norte station, a block south of Del Norte Place. At the time, BART was looking at developing more housing in and around its stations. Since then, this project has grown and changed to include a movie theater on the BART parcel, with market rate apartments on the adjacent block, which is next to Del Norte Place.

Charles Oewell, the president of Pacific Valley Housing, is the developer in this project. Mr. Oewell has previous experience in developing housing near transit. He developed Bay Landing, a 282 unit rental complex at Pleasant Hill BART, and the Verandas, a 360 unit project with an adjacent shopping center, next to the Union City BART station. Oewell’s development at Del Norte Place was originally projected to be 200 apartment units constructed on the BART lot, but it was shelved for financial reasons. When the project was resumed, the plans were revised to reflect the growing interest in developing a theater complex. The apartments were moved one block north onto land to be acquired by the Redevelopment Agency.

The project at Del Norte, as submitted for review in June, 1996, consists of a 70,000 square foot AMC movie complex with 20 screens, containing 4,500 seats. An additional 40,000 square feet of retail space would be provided. These facilities would be sited on a BART owned surface parking lot directly between the Del Norte Station and San Pablo Avenue. A lease would be worked out between BART and the developer, currently projected at 75 years. A parking garage, holding 1,000 cars, would be built below ground. The most innovative part of this complex is the agreement made by Oewell and BART to share both the theater garage and BART garage parking. Since the peak times for BART and the theater are at opposite times of the day, 312 of the spaces in the theater garage would be reserved for BART passengers during the day, while the BART garage would be made available to night and weekend theater visitors. This multi-modal parking would help to keep the overall parking requirements down, fostering a more pedestrian friendly environment.

The apartments would be located on San Pablo Avenue, between the theater and the Del Norte Place project. There would be 208 apartments, 88 one-bedroom and 120 two-bedroom. All units would be market rate. A small commercial storefront would be located in one corner, containing 1500 square feet. This land would be acquired with the aid of the Redevelopment Agency and sold to Pacific Valley Housing at the market rate.

The project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has just been completed in early 1997. Mr. Oewell is hopeful that construction can start in the fall of 1997. Unlike Del Norte Place, this project is expected to have a problem getting approval from adjoining neighbors and tenants, who may object to the volume of nighttime activity. The public review of the EIR should occur soon.



Del Norte Place has been considered a successful project from both the developer’s and the agency’s point of view, despite the fact that it ran over budget and had some problems with the initial leasing of the commercial area. The project has sustained acceptable occupancy rates, and rents have increased 3.5% per year, keeping up with inflation. The project is running slightly in the black. From the agency’s perspective, the project is successful by beginning the fulfillment of a transit oriented village at Del Norte BART. Studies of the project show a large proportion of the residents (60 to 70%) use BART regularly and nearly 40% do not own a car. Although this may be due in part to the number of seniors and students who live there, it still provides a case that people will take advantage of transit if it is conveniently provided near housing. Del Norte Place has not yet succeeded in providing a visible spill-over effect to other parcels in the area. Although the John Stewart Company is happy with the results so far, they had hoped that more development would have occurred by now, increasing demand for their units (Loustau, 1996).

Factors in the Success of Project

Since Del Norte Place, the John Stewart Company has not built any other Transit Oriented Developments. This does not mean they are not open to pursuing other projects in the future. They have studied similar developments in Portland, Oregon, so that they can engage in the next project with more knowledge. In an interview, Jeff Loustau of the John Stewart Company stated that the company should have done more demographic research into the marketplace so that there would have been a better idea of what type of commercial usage would work best in the center and how to target the residential audience (Loustau, 1996).

One of the most important lessons to be gained from the study of the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station is the amount of time it takes to create a transit linked village. It takes more than one development to create the linkage between land use and the transit station. However, Del Norte Place is a step in the right direction. Its success can be attributed to the factors given below, which can be guidelines for future projects:

Developer and Agency Participation

Despite the initial problems with the Silver Dollar Restaurant, the soils consistency and the electric substation, both the agency and the developer were committed to making the project work. They believed in the project and realized that they needed each other. From this realization came a mutual respect which kept negotiations going. As a result, Del Norte Place is expected to be profitable and to fulfill the agency’s desire to create a Transit Oriented Development.


Most private businesses and developers are accustomed to working through changes in order to survive. However, public agencies reporting to their constituents have more trouble changing midstream. Public agencies are required by law to adhere to a strict code of behavior and guidelines. This strict adherence can sometimes kill a development. In the Del Norte Place project, the Redevelopment Agency showed agility in being able to respond to changes in the project and to increased costs by amending the DDA. The city also allowed variances to their zoning guidelines because the benefits of the project outweighed the costs of allowing the violations in the zoning. Rarely does any project go through the entire development process without hitting some snags, and it is important to react to these positively, preserving the relationship between the private and public entities. The Del Norte Place Project was a business agreement between two parties and this required both parties to be able to negotiate their case and to compromise when necessary.

DDA Process

Although it is important to retain flexibility during the life of the project, a comprehensive document to provide guidelines for responsibility and behavior is also needed. In complex cases, where financing sources are many and a lease is involved based upon net cash flow, the DDA needs to think this process through. In less complex deals, such as a simple land swap, the DDA can be less complex. A DDA should be as complete as it can be at the time it is drawn up. However, flexibility is required to make amendments as needed.

Creative Financing

Without careful investigation into the types of financing opportunities available, Del Norte Place might have never been built. The combination of owner equity, tax exempt redevelopment, and mortgage housing bonds and tax credits took some time to investigate. In the end, all these sources were needed, and it was important to realize some of the restrictions on them, such as with the mortgage housing bonds and commercial development. A detailed investigation into financing sources may spell the difference between a completed project and one that is abandoned.

Public Process

Although Del Norte Place was built during a time when the public’s perception of the Redevelopment Agency was low, the project itself went through the process with little fanfare. For the most part, the development was successful because it replaced a declining area with a new development which was compatible with the surrounding area. With the final relocation of the Silver Dollar Restaurant, a balance was struck between attaining a public good and the disruption of neighborhood institutions. It also appears that political arguments were kept to a minimum. This can sometimes alienate the public, causing them to lobby against it. The balanced mix of housing types seems to have helped alleviate neighborhood fears that normally accompany developments which are entirely “low income” or “senior” complexes.

Unlike the Del Norte Place project, the theater complex is expected to generate greater public concern because it will be attracting a much larger number of people, many from outside the area. If the agency and the developer want to see a project go through, it is important to address the public’s concern early and ensure that the positive aspects of the development outweigh the negative aspects.

Long Term Vision and Perspective

From planning to completion, Del Norte Place took nearly five years, and it was just the first step in the development of a transit based development. Developments of this type require the lead agency to adopt a long range view which transcends short term political goals. Elections for the El Cerrito City Council are held every two years. In 1989, at the beginning of the Del Norte project, three council positions were up for election. Two more positions were contested in 1991. Although the council members elected during that time favored redevelopment, the political climate could change quickly. In addition, the City Council may feel a need to increase sales tax revenue and may pressure the agency to satisfy their agenda. It is hard to estimate how much political pressure has been applied to the Redevelopment Agency to increase the sales tax base, since their other contributions to the area have been Target, Foods Co., and Home Depot, all “big box” retailers. For the Del Norte area to succeed as a transit based project, further transit based developments need to be encouraged.

At the same time, perspective is needed to realize that only one development such as Del Norte Place does not create a transit village. Ongoing hard work building upon the success of Del Norte Place will be needed to attract future development. These qualities will be needed in any future transit linked development.



The El Cerrito Del Norte BART station is currently at a crossroads. New development has consisted of both auto oriented retail outlets and transit oriented mixed use development. Del Norte Place appears to be a success in both the public and private realm, encouraging transit ridership while turning a profit for the developer. The project was built during a difficult time for new development, with a souring economy, cutbacks at nearby job centers such as U.C. Berkeley, and the natural disasters of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland Hills fire. Yet the flexibility in the relationship between the Redevelopment Agency and the IBEX group ensured the completion of the project, even after project costs jumped from around $16 million to over $18 million. This joint relationship is what ensured the completion of this development, compared to previous attempts which had failed.

At Del Norte Place residents can get off of the BART train, walk a block north, buy a cup of coffee, a dinner, or a new pair of glasses, and enjoy their new home. The 135 rental units provide an opportunity for a group of people of mixed incomes and backgrounds to live together in a harmonious environment, all taking advantage of the nearby services. The 21,500 square feet of retail establishments provides added sales tax revenue to the city while providing convenience to residents and neighbors.

The current year, 1997, should be an interesting time for El Cerrito Del Norte. During this time, the fate of another transit linked project, the AMC theater, with its multi-modal parking idea, retail features, and apartment complex should be decided. In addition, three positions on the City Council will be up for election, possibly changing the decisions of the Redevelopment Agency. These decisions, and the way they are carried out, may have a significant impact on whether Del Norte BART becomes an integrated transit based development or a typical suburban BART stop. It is possible that the success of Del Norte Place will encourage decision makers and the public to continue to favor transit oriented projects.


Del Norte Place; El Cerrito, California

135 unit, four story rental apartment complex with 21,500 square feet of retail and service space.

Location is one block from El Cerrito del Norte BART station, providing convenient alternative to driving.

Agencies involved: El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency, City of El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, BART


Special Features


Public/Private Development Agreement and Lease

Sandy & Babcock

1349 Larkin St.

Mixed Income rental housing with retail

San Francisco, CA 94109

Senior Housing and Services


Transit  oriented project





Financing / Management

The IBEX Group

The IBEX Group

2310 Mason St.

2310 Mason St.

San Francisco, CA 94133

San Francisco, CA 94133




Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                       4.1 acres

Planning started                      June 1989

Total Dwelling Units                  135

Site leasing started           October 1990

Gross Density                               33 u.p.a.

Dev. Agreement/                      April 1991

Gross Building Area                   137,000 sq. ft.

Construction started

Total Parking Spaces                64 retail

Sales/leasing started               July 1992

                                                      159 residential

Leasing completed                  April 1993

Number of Stories                       4



Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (sq.ft.)

Number Built

Market Rate Units

Low Income


One bedroom avg.






Two bedroom avg.






Development Total






Senior Units






Low Income Units







Building Use Information

Development Cost Information


Sq. ft.


Site Acquisition


Residential Units



Site Improvements





Construction Costs


Common Areas



Soft Costs















   LC Fees/bond issue





   Construction Loan.





   Construction loan fee










   Taxes and Insurance
















Figure 2-1 Location of Del Norte Place, El Cerrito, CA



Figure 2-2 Advertisement for Del Norte Place



Figure 2-3 View of Del Norte Place from BART station



Atherton Place

Hayward, California



Atherton Place is a high-density residential development located in downtown Hayward, Alameda County, California. Hayward lies approximately 25 miles north of San Jose in the Bay Area. The project lies adjacent to Hayward’s city library and the under construction civic center site, and is within two blocks of the downtown shopping district. The 3.3 acres of land contains 83 units of townhouses built at a density of 25 units per acre. The Hayward BART station is across C Street from the development and the station is served by a transit center for AC Transit buses.

This $12.2 million development provides high-density housing in the downtown Hayward area and is the first of numerous sites scheduled to be redeveloped by the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Hayward. The Redevelopment Agency was the public agency that initiated the proposal for high-density housing on this site. In July 1992, the City adopted what is known as the Downtown Core Area Plan in which they detailed their plans of the downtown area. Bringing housing to this area was a top priority toward creating a strong, diverse identity for downtown Hayward. They found a willing developer in Atherton Place Company, a California limited partnership and subsidiary of Regis Homes of Northern California.

The Redevelopment Agency had to significantly discount the cost of the land to the developer in order to attract the desired type of development. The Agency paid $2,622,768 and sold it to the developer for $763,930.


Project Concept

In the early 1980s there was interest in developing high-density residences on this lot. A partnership of four developers bought the land and in 1985 and 1986 submitted initial plans to build a 14 story residential high rise building. The partnership dissolved amidst problems of securing financing for the project. At this point, both BART and the Hayward Redevelopment Agency showed interest in the parcel; BART wanted to add on to their existing parking lot, and the Redevelopment Agency wanted to use the lot to help bring back housing to the downtown area. A bidding war resulted. This caused the final selling price to be somewhat inflated, especially considering that 1988 was the peak time for land value. However, the Redevelopment Agency felt that additional BART parking would be detrimental to their plans to reinvigorate downtown Hayward. The project concept was initiated by the Redevelopment Agency through the creation of the Downtown Core Area Plan in 1992.



Neighborhood Background

From the early days of its existence, Hayward was a satellite town connected by the railroad to other East Bay cities: Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. The original downtown district was a thriving center of residential, civic and commercial lots and a public square with a park. After 1952, the development patterns of the city changed and the original gridiron form was drastically altered. New arterial streets ripped through the downtown district (Foothill Boulevard and Mission Boulevard), and geologists discovered that the Hayward Fault ran just east of Mission Boulevard. A setback of 50 feet on each side of this fault was created to prevent development and potential damage close to the fault, and this too detracted from downtown development.

Another alteration in the downtown area was the construction of a BART station in 1972. The station offers a transit option to Hayward which has gone unrealized due to careless placement of BART surface parking lots. The current layout has effectively cut off pedestrian traffic to the station from other downtown areas.

Transit Options

There are two public transit options for residents and workers of the Hayward area: BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit), the local and regional bus agency. The BART station is located across C Street from the development and AC Transit has a bus center in the BART parking lot. Highways 92, 880, and 580 are also close to the project.

Previous Uses of Land

The parcel upon which Atherton Place was built had been vacant for a long time until the late 1970s, when P G & E owned it and used it as a service lot.


The project demographics (with 43 units sold) are in Table 3-1:

Table 3-1 Atherton Place Demographics

          Marital Status


Place of Employment

56% married

24% under 30 yrs

52% Alameda County

38% single

35% 31 to 40 yrs

26% San Francisco

6% divorced

35% 41 to 50 yrs

22% Other


6%  51 to 60 yrs



Almost half of the buyers previously lived in apartments and these buyers are evenly split between one and two income households.

Project Marketing for Residential

The targeted homeowners have been young, first time buyers. Sares-Regis, the project developer, assumed there would be many female head-of-household buyers and a large percentage of commuters due to the project’s proximity to BART and the nearby highways. The marketing strategy included an emphasis on the security aspects of the development, giving potential buyers peace of mind due to the downtown location of the project.

Germination of Project

After acquiring the land for $2,622,768, the Redevelopment Agency issued a RFP to develop this plot of land at a density of at least 30 dwelling units per acre. The Agency chose a developer and entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement in 1988. However, disagreements created a rift between the Agency and the Developer and finally caused the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement to be canceled in 1989.

After the failure of that attempt, the Agency held onto the plot of land, known as Site I of their redevelopment sites. Instead of moving on with the development process for Site I, they began issuing an RFP for the Site III location. While going through their selection process for the new project, another developer expressed interest in developing Site I. Negotiations continued for approximately one year until the developer requested a lower density project from the Redevelopment Agency. The Redevelopment Agency did not want to deviate from the set density level, and their judgment was supported by the Solomon Consulting report which confirmed that higher density housing was needed to make the project viable. The Redevelopment Agency then decided to offer the development of Site I to another developer, the one who had won the bid for Site III: Sares-Regis. They accepted the offer.

Participants for the Site I project included the following agencies and organizations:

·        Developer: Atherton Place Company,

·        Architects: Seidel/Holtzman (San Francisco)

        James Guthrie & Associates (San Mateo)

·        Civil Engineer: Giuliani and Kull (Cupertino)

·        Landscape Architect: Guzzardo and Associates (San Francisco)

·        Legal Services: Cassidy and Verges (San Francisco)

·        General Contractor: Regis Contractors of Northern California


The architects Seidel/Holtzman were chosen because they had extensive experience with designing high-density housing alternatives and had been extremely effective in maximizing volume and light in compact spaces. They also had extensive experience with urban site plans.

Physical Features

Location and Orientation of Project

The project lies in the heart of downtown Hayward. The Redevelopment Agency hopes to revitalize the area with its planned Focal Point being just one block away from the Atherton Place development. The Focal Point block will include a downtown plaza, and its purpose will be to reestablish a connection to the transit center and provide a defined public space for civic events. Possible uses for buildings include public uses and a firehouse. The Redevelopment Agency is also considering utilizing the buildings for City or County offices.

The project site is bounded by Atherton Street to the east, C Street to the north, D Street to the south, and the BART tracks to the west.

Project Size

The project is a strictly residential development, situated on 3.3 acres of land. Table 3-2 shows the unit breakdown:

Table 3-2 Atherton Place Apartment Details


Unit Size



Sale Price



3 bdrm/3 bath






2 bdrm/2.5 bath






2 bdrm/2 bath





Average Per Unit





Development Total






Many of the units have doors which open directly to the street, but most of the garages and entryways open onto Atherton Place, the circular drive running through the interior of the complex. The development has been termed “pedestrian friendly” with its easy access to transit options and the future civic center. The Development has a community center with a swimming pool, located in the center of the complex. Initial sale prices were expected to be $153,000 to $169,500 and all project phases are expected to be completed by December 1997.

Environmental Issues

There were some concerns about possible hazardous materials in the soils on the BART Triangle property. When it was tested for contamination, the levels were low enough and the soil was to be removed for construction purposes anyway, so the soil was legally allowed to be extracted and disposed of in a special landfill at no extra cost.

The Hayward Fault Line, an earthquake fault, runs through downtown Hayward and has proven to be a disruptive element. Fifty foot setbacks have been imposed on either side of the fault to prevent destruction to buildings in the event of an earthquake. The Redevelopment Agency has proposed the idea of realigning Mission Boulevard to run with the fault, and widening the Boulevard to cover the setbacks. A median park is planned for the middle of the Boulevard and two lanes of traffic running in each direction. The historic City Hall currently sits on the faultline, and it has been proposed in the Core Area Plan that it be relocated to the new Focal Point.


The Partners and Participants

The Redevelopment Agency of the City of Hayward and Atherton Place Company were the main partners in the Atherton Place Project. The Hayward Redevelopment Agency hopes to balance downtown uses between commercial, residential and office uses. This project provides ownership of housing in the downtown area. Long term objectives were to alleviate blight from the downtown area and to provide for private reinvestment in the area. The Redevelopment Agency hoped to develop the property with only a few restrictions. They wished the project to be 30 units per acre, to conform to the existing residential zoning. The units were to be owned privately and it was necessary to conform to the city design plan. The Redevelopment Agency wanted no variance from the zoned density or parking requirements.

Interest in developing this lot for high-density residential units came about in the early 1980s. The land was eventually bought in the mid 1980s when initial plans for a high rise residential building were submitted. Financing problems caused the breakup of the partnership of owners and the public sector began showing interest in the property. A bidding war between BART and the Hayward Redevelopment Agency inflated the final selling price, with the Redevelopment Agency eventually purchasing the property for $2,622,768. The Redevelopment Agency developed a Core Area Plan, with the purchased property designated as Site I and slated for a density of 30 dwelling units per acre. After several unsuccessful attempts at securing a developer for the Site I location, the Redevelopment Agency concentrated on getting RFPs for the Site III location of their Core Area Plan. While going through this process the Agency found a developer who expressed interest in developing the Site I plot. After negotiating density, Sares-Regis finally won the bid to develop the Site I and Site III properties.


Details of the Negotiations

The following information is from the Reuse Appraisal and Summary Report, published by the Hayward Redevelopment Agency. On July 26, 1994, a joint public hearing of City Council and the Hayward Redevelopment Agency was held to discuss the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) between the Agency and the Developer. The developer, Sares-Regis Group of Northern California, formed a new partnership titled Atherton Place Company, a California limited liability partnership.

In the DDA , the Developer is responsible for the following:

·        Submit for Agency approval construction plans and specifications, the construction contractor contract, and a financing plan which will include an economic proforma and evidence of the financing for the Development and a construction budget.

·        Purchase the Site I Property from the Agency for $763,930[9] plus estimated interest payments.

·        Construct, or cause to be constructed, at its sole costs and expense, 83 units or more of for-sale housing consisting of two and three bedroom units.

·        Construct, or cause to be constructed, related landscaping, parking, on site and off site improvements and all other necessary improvements, with the exception of the Agency’s site preparation requirements.

Given the current market conditions, a project developed at 30 units per acre will likely result in a residual land value of $9,000 to $10,000 per unit. According to the Reuse Value of Property in the Amended Hayward Site I Reuse Appraisal and Summary Report, the Agency will sell the property to the Developer for $763,930 plus estimated interest payments.

The Agency is responsible for the following:

·        Act as the liaison between the Developer and the City of Hayward during the approval process.

·        Sell the Site I Property to the Developer.

·        Deliver the Site, after all known and visible concrete improvements currently existing on the site have been removed.

·        Construct curb, gutter, sidewalk, and street work along Atherton and D Street frontages as required by the City of Hayward.

Site I had been targeted for a high-density residential development in the General Plan and Zoning Ordinances. However, a zoning change did have to be made as this development is considered a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Public meetings and workshops were encouraged. A meeting was held to discuss the development of the specific plan for the downtown area. A series of workshops established a Downtown Plan framework. Issues brought up by citizens were the Focal Point, Housing, B Street, and Cultural Activities.


Final Agreements and Contracts

The agreement between the Redevelopment Agency and Atherton Place Company is detailed in the Deposition and Development Agreement (DDA). The following information was taken from the DDA, dated October 10, 1994 and the First Amendment to the DDA, dated May 16, 1995.

Land Cost

The Site I parcel was bought by the Redevelopment Agency for $2,622,768 in 1988 and sold to Atherton Place Company for $763,930 in 1994. The developer also paid a deposit of $13,930 into escrow with BART to purchase the 14,000 square foot BART Triangle parcel. The principal amount of the Agency’s note may also be reduced by 1) up to $100,000 only, and 2) the amount of any school fees the Agency has agreed to cover, if any. All ad valorem taxes and assessments on the site, if any, and taxes on the agreement were paid by the Agency. All ad valorem taxes and assessments levied for any period commencing upon or after closing for the escrow were paid by the Developer. From the purchase price, $34,495 was retained in escrow to be used by the Agency for remediation of known hazardous materials on the BART Triangle. The Agency and the Developer agree to fund any additional funds needed in the event that more remediation costs accrue. The Agency is liable for up to $20,000 and the Developer is liable for up to $20,000 for any additional remediation costs.

The Agency’s Responsibilities

·        The Agency entered into a purchase and sale agreement with BART to acquire the BART Triangle (Lot 89 of Tract 6716)

·        The Agency was required to deposit in escrow a maximum of $12,000 to pay the following:

1)             costs necessary to put the Site in condition for conveyance as required by the provisions of the DDA

2)             escrow fees

3)             recording fees

4)             notary fees

5)             ad valorem taxes, if any, upon the Site for any time prior to conveyance of title

6)             any applicable State, County, or City documentary transfer tax

7)             the premium, including any date downs, for a CLTA (California Land Title Association) standard title insurance owners policy as set forth in section 208 of the DDA, with endorsements as approved by the Agency

8)             the costs of an ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey of the Site

9)             the premium, including any date downs, for an ALTA lender’s title insurance policy insuring the Agency’s Deed of Trust with endorsements

10)         the premium, including any date downs, for any title policies with endorsements insuring any Construction Financing Security Interests.

Site Clearance and Preparation

The Agency was responsible for performing any work required to remove all known and visible concrete improvements currently existing on the Site, including concrete slabs and foundations, except for existing A/C paving.

Off-Site Improvements

The Agency shall try to bury underground the existing overhead utilities along Atherton and D Streets prior to close of escrow. Also any curb, gutter, sidewalk, and street work along Atherton Street side of the Site.

The Developer’s Responsibilities

The Developer deposited $25,000 with the Redevelopment Agency as a “good faith payment.”

Taxes and Assessments

The Developer is financially responsible for securing all construction permits, paying all real estate taxes and assessments.

Site Clearance and Preparation

The Developer shall perform all work necessary to prepare the Site for construction of the improvements, remove all improvements currently on the Site, and perform any necessary utility relocation, compaction and grading.

Off-Site Improvements

The Developer shall construct all necessary off-site improvements, any curb cuts related to the Agency off-site work and storm drains.

Projected Agency Costs

As of May 1995, the Agency expended approximately $2,791,567.

Land Purchase Price


Relocation costs


Other pre-development costs







These costs have been paid from tax increment revenue. The Agency has previously borrowed a portion of the funds used to pay these costs, and there was interest required to be paid by the Agency to the City in connection with these costs.

Projected Agency Revenue

Revenue from Sale of Property


Note and Deed of Trust


plus: BART Triangle acquisition


Net Payment to the Agency



The Note is for a term of five (5) years from the conveyance of title to the Developer. The estimated value includes interest for the first 36 months of the note.

Agency Revenue

Net costs equal the difference between projected revenues and costs.

Revenue from Sale of Property                                              $763,930

Present value of Future Tax Increment                                 $2,518,991

Subtotal                                                                              $3,282,921


Less: Agency Costs to Date                                             ($2,791,567)

Net Financial Gain (Projected)                                               $491,354


The Redevelopment Agency

The Redevelopment Agency has successfully achieved its goal of creating high-density housing in the downtown Core Area of Hayward. The Core Area Plan is an inclusive, elaborate plan in which the Downtown/BART Station district will be revitalized through the creation of a strong civic focal point, retail developments, high-density housing, and cultural activities. The creation of Atherton Place on Site I is the first of many elements the Redevelopment Agency is using to give downtown Hayward a new identity.

Although there was no public resistance to the proposed higher density, the Planning Commission had mixed feelings about the proposed density of the project of 30 units per acre. They felt that the density was too high for Hayward but too low to be considered a viable transit oriented development.

The Redevelopment Agency has entered into agreements with Sares-Regis to construct the new Hayward City Hall, another townhouse project of 80 units, and a rental residential project. All of these projects are near the BART station and Atherton Place on Sites II and III. The City felt that the whole process of developing this project was a learning experience. Being the first in the redevelopment zone, the project required new procedures and officials struggled with the planning, financing, and negotiations, knowing that with the next project the process would be easier.

The Developer

According to the Developer, this project was complex, as most redevelopment projects are. They have no estimate as yet of their return on investment and, according to Mark Kroll, Executive Vice-president of Atherton Place Company, the project has gone over budget, mainly due to increases in prevailing wages for union workers, changes in the lumber market, changing City requirements, and increased redevelopment fees. Only time and profits will tell if this project will encourage this developer to built similar projects.

Neighborhood Reaction

The project won an award at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in 1996, and the design has been well received by the City and the neighboring community. According to the current property manager, the people living in the Atherton Place development have expressed their happiness with the project. As of November 1996, even though only 35 of the 85 units were completed, 43 were sold and 20 were occupied.


The project is successful in that the units are selling well and the design has been well received. This is the first phase of a large downtown redevelopment plan for the City of Hayward, and the success of this development may not be realized until other sites in the Core Plan are completed.

The Redevelopment Agency successfully found a developer who was willing to work within their constraints. Sares-Regis has entered into agreements with the Redevelopment Agency to construct the new City Hall and two residential projects in the Core Area, so it seems a working relationship has developed. Sares-Regis feels that it would be helpful if the City of Hayward’s Down Payment Assistance program were given more funding, since the majority of first time home buyers need help with the down payment. They feel that this type of program is important if Hayward hopes to bring market rate residents into the downtown core to live. When a city has a redevelopment zone and has specific plans for a site, they may need to be willing to bend on minor details in order to find and keep a developer for that project.

The most difficult issue for the Redevelopment Agency was change in its upper management in the middle of the project. The change affected the consistency and the efficiency of their relationship with the developer.

The neighborhood is being revitalized, and the current residents are excited about the positive changes. The City’s expectations of this project are being met by the developer, and they are very happy with the way the development is turning out.



Atherton Place in downtown Hayward lies in the Redevelopment Agency’s Core Area Redevelopment Zone. The downtown area has deteriorated over the past 40 years due to changing development patterns. In response the Redevelopment Agency created a comprehensive plan for revitalizing the area. Atherton Place is a strictly residential development, built at 25 units per acre. The Hayward BART station lies directly across C Street from the $12.2 million project. After acquiring the land for $2,622,768, the Redevelopment Agency issued a RFP to develop this plot of land at a density of at least 30 dwelling units per acre. The Agency identified a developer and entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement in 1988-89, but disagreements created a rift between the Agency and the Developer and finally caused the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement to be canceled.

Interest in developing this lot into high-density residential units on this lot began in the early 1980s. After one failed attempt at a partnership, the Redevelopment Agency bought the property but for some time could not find a developer. Eventually, when the allowed density was changed, Sares-Regis won the bid to develop both Site I, the future location of Atherton Place, and Site III.

The Redevelopment Agency has successfully achieved its goal of creating high-density housing in the downtown Core Area of Hayward. The Core Area Plan is an inclusive, elaborate plan in which the Downtown/BART Station district will be revitalized through the creation of a strong civic focal point, retail developments, high-density housing, and cultural activities. The creation of Atherton Place on Site I is the first of many elements the Redevelopment Agency is using to give downtown Hayward a new identity. The Agency felt that having a quality developer to work with made all the difference in the success of the project. They felt that Sares-Regis has an excellent background of working on projects like this and has the ability to foresee future problems.

The City of Hayward has great hopes for the redeveloped downtown area and the Atherton Place development is an important part of the expected renaissance of downtown Hayward.

Atherton Place, Hayward, California

Residential townhomes project (83 units)

Near BART and Highways 880, 92 and 580

Agencies Involved: City of Hayward Redevelopment Agency, Atherton Place Company


Special Features


One/two blocks from BART, future city


hall, library, and downtown


Hayward shopping district







Atherton Place Company


393 Vintage Park Drive, #100

San Francisco, CA

Foster City, CA





Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                                   33 acres

Planning started                           1992

Total Dwelling Units                                        83

Construction started                    1995

Gross Density                            30 units per acre

Sales/leasing started                    1996

Gross Building Area                     400,000 sq. ft.


Number of Stories                                                2






Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (sq.ft.)

Number Built

Market Rate Units

Two bedroom/2 bath




Two bedroom/2.5 bath




Three bedroom/3 bath




Development Total










Figure 3-1 Location of Atherton Place, Hayward, CA



Figure 3-2 Plan of Atherton Place

Figure 3-3 Atherton Place from the northeast



Figure 3-4 Atherton Place from the southeast


Redwood City, California



Sequoia Station is a transit oriented, multi-use development located in Redwood City, San Mateo County, California. Redwood City has a population of 66,000 people and lies approximately thirty miles west of San Jose. The development combines a 178,030 square foot community shopping center (retail, dining and other commercial services) with a multi-modal transit facility center linking CalTrain system and service improvements with new SamTrans bus terminal facilities and services. The project serves as the western gateway to Redwood City’s Downtown District. The City’s Downtown District is the traditional retail, restaurant, office, banking, civic, cultural and residential activity center, an important location for Sequoia Station, as it provides the critical mass (a high daytime employee population count and level of activity) necessary for its success.

Sequoia Station was developed to satisfy a demand among Redwood City citizens and workers for high quality retail, restaurants, and other commercial services, as well as to encourage the use of public transit. The developer anticipated that the project’s transit component and Downtown District location would create a ready market for the development's commercial center. The Redwood City Redevelopment Agency and City expected the project to eliminate blight, increase transit ridership, create a new source of local tax revenue, and help to revitalize the City’s struggling Downtown District economy and stimulate downtown redevelopment. These efforts complemented the Downtown Entry Features, Storefront Improvement, and Sidewalk Improvement Programs.

The project's $31.5 million commercial center was constructed in two phases. Phase I was developed through an agreement between the Redevelopment Agency, the City and the developer, Dave Irmer of Sausalito Equity Interests, Inc., a Marin County based commercial and residential development firm. The Agency and the City agreed to contribute to the developer 1.4 acres of City owned land (valued at $760,000) and sales taxes from the project for 15 years. The developer agreed to pay for all project site acquisition and development costs. The site’s Phase II commercial center expansion did not involve a financial partnership. Safeway purchased the Phase II parcel directly from a private land owner and paid for all development costs.

A separate agreement was required between the developer and the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), whereby the developer agreed to purchase and lease portions of the site’s commercial center land from SamTrans and to build the site’s CalTrain/SamTrans subterranean commuter parking garage. The project’s new subterranean garage and bus terminal improvements also required a separate financial and land use arrangement between the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and SamTrans. Finally, with the exception of the site’s depot clock tower improvement and a downtown transit center entry sign, which were paid for with Redevelopment Agency funds, CalTrain was responsible for financing and developing the project’s train station improvements.

At the time of these negotiations, Caltrans was running the commuter train line between San Jose and San Francisco. This commuter line, called CalTrain, had been taken over from Southern Pacific Railway in the mid-1980s. In 1987 CalTrain operations were taken over by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) which is comprised of the transportation agencies and local government representatives from San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.



Since the early 1980s Redwood City’s City Manager and Redevelopment Board, which is the City Council, had envisioned the development of an improved and expanded train station (a downtown transportation hub) and a complementary commercial center which would serve as the western gateway into Redwood City's Downtown District. In 1984, Southern Pacific and SamTrans, who owned property within the project site, also had plans for future expansion of the Redwood City train station and intended to use the site’s Southern Pacific property as a surface parking lot. Initially Southern Pacific and SamTrans were unable to participate in the development of Sequoia Station because both were undergoing ownership and operational changes. Eventually, however, the Redevelopment Board was able to convince both of them that a surface parking lot was not the best use of their property and that it should be a part of the overall development (Sequoia Station Project Files, 1988-1996).

For the Redevelopment Board and Agency, the Sequoia Station project represented an opportunity to transform the project site’s 12 acres from its then blighted condition into a vibrant transportation and commercial hub (Sequoia Files). The project concept was consistent with the Agency's Centre Area Revitalization Plan policies which promoted the elimination of blight within the Downtown Redevelopment District. The project concept was also consistent with the City’s General Plan Transportation and Land Use policies which promoted development near transit and which encouraged the creation and use of public transportation alternatives. On the other hand, the commercial center did require a zoning variance to allow reduced parking (790 parking stalls were provided where 890 were required). The parking variance was allowed because the project provides transportation facility alternatives (train, bus, and bicycle) and because the project’s commercial center is within walking distance of downtown employment centers and nearby development neighborhoods.

From the early 1980s the developer showed an interest in assisting the City with its vision of a downtown multi-modal transit oriented community shopping center. In 1984, the developer received the exclusive right to negotiate (ERN) from the City for the development of the site’s commercial component. It was not until the early 1990s with the formation of the new regional transit agency, the Joint Powers Board (JPB), that the site’s transit component began to move forward. With determination, persistence, and cooperation between the developer and the Agencies, Sequoia Station has become a reality. Completed in July of 1996, Sequoia Station is now a lively downtown community shopping center and Redwood City’s primary downtown transportation hub (Sequoia Files).



Prior to development of Sequoia Station, the project site was comprised of 15 separate parcels which were owned by Southern Pacific Railroad (SP), Caltrans, Redwood City, and nine private land owners. The Caltrans parcel, bounded by the railroad right of way, James Street, and Redwood Creek, was formerly owned by Southern Pacific Railroad and later by Santa Fe Pacific. The nine privately owned parcels were previously occupied by 22 businesses. In addition, the project’s five acre parcel, located north of James Street, was previously in private ownership.

In 1982, Safeway intended to build a new store in Redwood City and purchased two large, vacant, privately owned parcels within the project site for this purpose. After purchasing the parcels, Safeway met with the Redwood City Manager to express an interest in purchasing one of the site’s City owned parcels (Sequoia Files).

The City Manager rejected Safeway’s initial request to purchase the City owned project site parcel, as he envisioned the development of an expanded 12 acre shopping center which would include the two parcels recently purchased by Safeway. The Redevelopment Agency viewed the 12 acre site of vacant land as “ripe” for redevelopment. The City Manager approached the Redevelopment Board, whose membership is identical to the City Council, with the idea of creating an expanded community shopping center, and the Redevelopment Board agreed to expand the project area for that purpose (Sequoia Files).

Meanwhile, Safeway contacted Dave Irmer of Sausalito Equity Interests, Inc. for assistance with the two parcels they purchased within the project site. Irmer entered into a long term option agreement with Safeway for the two parcels subject to obtaining approval from the City to become the developer of the Sequoia Station commercial center (Irmer, 1996).

Between 1982 and 1983, prior to receiving from the Redevelopment Agency the exclusive right to negotiate for formal development of the site’s commercial component, the developer worked with the City to determine exactly what the City wanted on the site. The Redevelopment Board had two major objectives: 1) to improve and expand upon the site's existing CalTrain Station (which borders the site to the east) with a new multi-modal transit facility; and 2) to develop a new commercial shopping center to help stimulate the City’s lagging Downtown District economy. The City and developer also initially explored the possibility of developing a residential component for low to moderate income households and for the elderly. However, the Sequoia Station site was not zoned for residential use, and the City had plans to develop other properties within the downtown and along El Camino Real with residential developments. It was determined that the Sequoia Station site would be developed strictly for use as a multi-modal transit oriented community shopping center (Sequoia Files).



Prior to development of Sequoia Station, the project site was physically and economically blighted. The vacant, underutilized Southern Pacific and Caltrans parcels, bordering the railroad right of way, were not well maintained and were being used for dumping garbage. Redwood Creek was used by indigents for bathing and camping. An Arco gas station on the site’s southeastern boundary was being used as an outdoor repair and storage yard for junked cars.

The land between Franklin Street and El Camino Real also contained vacant parcels, two privately owned and two city owned surface parking lots. James Street, the site’s small retail street, had deteriorated. The VCR repair shop lost clients when repairs exceeded the cost of new VCRs. The vacant gas station and dry cleaner sites, with their leaking underground storage tanks, contaminated soil, and unknown clean-up costs, failed to attract commercial developers. The site’s four residential units, located above the James Street shops, were not built to current health and safety standards. Finally, the site’s car dealership property, located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real, while still considered a viable business, was failing to attract customers. It could not be seen from the freeway. This dealership has since relocated to a site on US Highway 101.

Today, Sequoia Station’s commercial center contains a total of 33 shops and restaurants including two anchor tenants: the largest Safeway in Northern California (62,040 sq. ft.) and a Longs Drugs (25,500 sq. ft.). The site also contains multiple restaurants, specialty services, and professional offices: Max’s Cafe, Fresh Choice Restaurant, Starbucks Coffee Shop, Noah’s Bagels, Una Mas Taqueria, See’s Candy, Blockbuster Music and Video, and a Barnes and Noble Bookstore. In addition, a new wing of stores, including an Old Navy Clothing Co. and a Johnny Rockets malt shop, were added to the site’s Phase II parcel in 1996.

The Sequoia Station site is approximately 17.43 acres in overall size with a total gross leasable area of 178,030 square feet and a combined total of 1,265 parking stalls. The site’s 10.43 acre Phase I property contains 123,390 square feet of retail space, 23,940 square feet of office/service space, 14,700 square feet of restaurant space, and a 670 stall surface parking lot. Caltrans also purchased a five acre parcel north of James Street for the new SamTrans bus terminal and a new 160 stall surface commuter parking lot. SamTrans developed a 2.44 acre, 315 stall subterranean commuter parking garage on the site’s Phase I property. The project’s 1.96 acre Phase II commercial center expansion parcel is comprised of 10,000 square feet of retail and 6,000 square feet of restaurant space with a 120 stall surface parking lot.

The commercial center which includes both Phase I and Phase II is rectangular and covers an entire city block. The project’s buildings lie along the site’s perimeter with surface parking for 790 cars located within the development’s center. The site is bordered to the east by the CalTrain Station. An open air plaza serves as the primary link or transition between the train depot and the shopping center. Bus and auto access to the site is from El Camino Real to the west, Jefferson Avenue to the south, and James Street to the north.

The project’s subsurface commuter parking garage is located on the northeastern portion of the site with access on James Avenue. The separate five acre parcel, located just north of the Sequoia Station commercial center, contains the SamTrans bus transit center area and the CalTrain parking lot. Access to the parking area is provided from James Avenue and California Street.

Sequoia Station has three pedestrian entrances. To the east, from the CalTrain station, one enters through a shopping area with several pleasant outdoor restaurants. There is also an elevator to the underground parking garage.

The second entrance to the plaza from downtown and the western residential neighborhoods is on the southwestern corner of Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real. This has a forty foot tower, the center’s focal point, stucco bollards with wrought iron fencing, benches, and plants.

The third entrance is from the north. This CalTrain/SamTrans transit center entrance can be accessed from Broadway, one of two major downtown district retail streets, through an arch. Like the other two entrances, this one has decorative paving, benches, landscaping, and old-fashioned light standards like those along Broadway Street.

Pedestrians can also enter the Sequoia Station development from the City’s downtown business district (located just east of the site via three informal pedestrian rail crossings: one is located next to the CalTrain depot and the two others are to the north, off Broadway and Winslow Street. The first rail crossing leads directly to the heart of the commercial center. The other two crossings lead to the site’s SamTrans bus terminal and CalTrain train depot. Pedestrians can also enter Sequoia Station from various points along Jefferson Avenue (south), James Street (north) and El Camino Real (west).




The developer’s short term objectives were to satisfy Safeway’s desire for a new store and to satisfy the Redevelopment Board’s desire for the multi-modal transit oriented community shopping center development. The developer was initially responsible for financing and building the center’s commercial component, south of James Street. Under a separate agreement, the developer was responsible for building the site’s subterranean parking garage, and SamTrans was responsible for financing the garage (Irmer, 1996). The developer attempted to purchase the site’s Phase II parcel, but the owner initially refused to sell the property, and so the developer and the city decided to postpone pursuit of this parcel (Irmer, 1996).

The developer’s long term objective was to see the project come to fruition: a successful commercial center and multi-modal transit facility which would generate profits and fulfill the community’s need for quality retail services. The developer and the City also felt that the site’s Phase II parcel would contribute significantly to the project’s overall aesthetics, providing the project with an important focal point in the formal pedestrian entrance on the west side. This parcel was eventually needed to alleviate parking problems within the site’s Phase I commercial center and has enabled the development of additional retail and restaurant services (Sequoia Files).

Between April 1990 and March 1992 the developer tried to find financing for construction of the Sequoia Station project. At that time, California was in an economic recession and traditional lenders were not lending money. After 12 months of searching for financing without success, the developer, to provide additional security to a lender, was able to convince Safeway and Longs Drugs Store to guarantee 80% of the site’s construction loan. This was a first for both companies. Even with this guarantee, the developer still could not obtain financing. Finally, in the spring of 1992, Safeway decided to finance the entire commercial center project themselves; another first for that company.

With Safeway as the new commercial center owner, the developer signed a Development Contract with Safeway to develop, construct, and lease the project’s commercial center properties, including the site's Phase II commercial center improvements. (Irmer, 1996).


Safeway initially planned to sell the two parcels they purchased within the project site to the developer in exchange for an assurance that the developer would build a new Safeway store within the expanded community shopping center. However, as previously mentioned, Safeway ultimately purchased the entire commercial center (Irmer, 1996).

Public Agencies

The short term objectives of each of the public agencies were to contribute, acquire, or deed parcels to the development and to assemble the parcels needed for the project. The City’s Redevelopment Agency sought to work with Caltrans to upgrade Redwood City’s train station (Planning Analysis, 1989).

The long term objective of the Redevelopment Agency was to implement the City’s Centre Area Redevelopment Plan. The development was expected to, and did, generate 562 net new jobs, revitalize a blighted area, and serve as a gateway to the struggling downtown district. The Redevelopment Board, which is the City Council, also hoped to stimulate greater use of public transit by developing a downtown multi-modal transit hub (Planning Analysis, 1989).

Since its formation in 1987, the Joint Powers Board has sought to purchase CalTrain station properties and to assume local responsibility for CalTrain rail line operations. Today, the JPB operates Sequoia Station’s transit facilities, but Caltrans currently holds title to the Redwood City CalTrain station. The transit facilities are in the process of being transferred from State (Caltrans) ownership to the JPB (Peninsula Corridor, 1995).

CalTrain and SamTrans, which is the administrative arm of the JPB, expected the Sequoia Station project to increase transit ridership and to enhance their station property values.


Details of the Negotiations

Transit Component Development Agreement

Prior to the creation of the JPB, the Redevelopment Agency and developer had discussions with SamTrans, and they agreed to a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) that included the following (DDA, 1990):

1.      SamTrans would purchase the SP land lying between the creek and Jefferson Avenue and agreed to pay for the construction of a 315 space underground parking structure.

2.      The developer would purchase the SP land not needed for the underground structure from SamTrans and would build the parking structure for a fixed cost.

3.      The end product would be a specialized “vertical subdivision” with SamTrans owning the underground parking structure and the developer owning the surrounding land and the surface rights above the garage where the commercial center would be developed.

Transit Component Development Arrangement

Meanwhile, discussions had been continuing between the Redevelopment Agency and Caltrans over the reconstruction of the Redwood City train station. Redwood City’s train depot had burned down a decade earlier and was never rebuilt.

Caltrans agreed to give SamTrans the Redwood City project site property, to pay for the train station improvements, and to design the site’s new transit facilities in harmony with the shopping center and the old depot building (Sequoia Files).



DDA Commercial Component

By 1990, the JPB and Caltrans were committed to the Sequoia Station project, so the developer and Redevelopment Agency were able to begin the commercial center DDA negotiation process. In April 1991, after 14 months of negotiation, the developer and the City signed the DDA. In essence, the developer would provide the Agency with a letter of credit for $4,300,000. That was the estimated cost to the Agency for the acquisition of the parcels. Payment was for the following cost categories (DDA, 1990):

·        Real Property (including all site toxic remediation cost and creek relocation costs)

·        Fixtures and Equipment

·        Relocation Consultant

·        Goodwill and Relocation Costs

·        Condemnation Attorney

·        Title/Escrow Costs

·        Court Costs

·        Agency Attorney

In exchange for the developer agreeing to pay for all up-front project costs, the City, through the Redevelopment Agency, agreed to contribute two parcels of land it owned within the project site to the developer at no charge. The land totaled roughly 1.4 acres and was valued at $760,000.

The Redevelopment Agency also agreed to provide subsidy payments to the developer of up to $300,000 per year for a maximum of 15 years made up of a property tax increment added to the project. If the property tax increment did not reach $300,000, the City agreed to contribute up to 50% of the sales tax increment added by the project. If these two sources did not produce $300,000 in any one year, the deficiency would not carry over to subsequent years.

The subsidy was to terminate before 15 years if either of two conditions occurred: 1) if the Net Operating Income (project's total income minus certain defined operating costs) reached 15% of the total project costs, or 2) if the project sold and the developer realized a 15% internal rate of return on total project costs.

Both parties to the agreement felt reasonably comfortable with the site acquisition costs, except for relocation and goodwill expenses. Review of other projects indicated wide variability in these costs. Ultimately, the Agency agreed to share up to twenty per cent of the costs that exceeded the budget estimates. In the final analysis, relocation and goodwill costs did not exceed original budget estimates.

The developer and the Agency found it difficult to assign responsibilities for the site’s toxic remediation costs. Ultimately, the developer agreed to cover this cost up to $1,309,599 (Sequoia Files).

First DDA Amendment: Safeway Ownership (March, 1992)

Due to California’s economic recession and the developer’s inability to obtain project financing, Safeway decided to purchase the entire commercial center and asked for the following changes to the DDA (Sequoia Files):

1.      Sausalito Equity Interest, Inc. was asked to assign its interest in the DDA to Safeway.

2.      The predevelopment site analysis indicated that four project site parcels were contaminated. The developer was aware, from other projects they had developed, that the cost to clean up sites could exceed the land value and that clean up estimates always seemed to be lower than actual costs. The Agency acknowledged that the project could not absorb an unlimited amount of clean up costs and the parties agreed that if the site's toxic remediation problems exceeded $1,309,599 the Agency would meet and confer before the developer exercised its right to terminate the deal. If no decision was made to terminate, the parties would each be responsible for half the remediation costs that exceeded the $1,309,599. To date, site remediation is ongoing but the $1,309,599 threshold has not yet been exceeded.

3.      The DDA subsidy provisions were changed to guarantee that the developer would receive a $300,000 subsidy for 15 years from the government agencies rather than terminating this subsidy at sale or when profits reached given thresholds. In exchange the Redevelopment Board insisted that the development contain one bookstore of 10,000 square feet or more in size and two restaurants with combined tenant improvements in excess of $875,000. If the developer was unable to get a bookstore or restaurants, the subsidy would terminate in 12 instead of 15 years. The developer was able to meet this obligation.

4.      In March 1992, the developer received the Letter of Credit from Safeway, which enabled the Agency to begin property acquisitions. The entire process involved the acquisition of nine privately owned parcels and the relocation of 22 businesses and four residential tenants. The Agency duties under the DDA were completed ahead of schedule, before mid-1993, and $375,000 under budget.

Second DDA Amendment: Redwood Creek (November, 1992)

The Second Amendment to the DDA established the developer’s responsibility for mitigation in the amount of $165,000. The mitigation was required by the Corps of Engineers in order to culvert and realign Redwood Creek (Sequoia Files).

Third DDA Amendment: Original DDA and Phase II (June 1995)

The Third Amendment to the DDA did not alter the original DDA. It only provided for issuance of the Certificate of Completion for Phase I and summarized continuing obligations. These obligations included the Agency’s and the City’s obligation to make subsidy payments of up to $300,000 per year for 15 years and the developer’s obligation to complete the toxic remediation of the site. The Third Amendment also defined the total remediation costs for both parties, with deadlines, to preclude later disputes which resulted in a few technical amendments to the Certificate of Completion.

The Third DDA Amendment also covered the project’s Phase II commercial expansion parcel, the auto dealership at the corner of El Camino Real and Jefferson Avenue. The Agency’s only commitment in this DDA was to agree to use its power of eminent domain to acquire the parcel, if an agreement between the property owner and developer on behalf of Safeway could not be reached. The Agency had no obligation to provide subsidies to Safeway under this agreement. As it turned out, the property owner preferred to sell the auto dealership parcel directly to Safeway.

The developer, on behalf of Safeway, also requested an amendment to the City's adopted Phase II Specific Plan which resulted in a smaller retail area than originally proposed because of a need for more parking. The Specific Plan called for two retail buildings totaling 25,000 square feet in size. As amended, only one 16,000 square foot retail building was developed on the site (Sequoia Files).

Additional Negotiation Details

Redevelopment Agency/Developer

As previously mentioned, the Agency’s long term land use objective was to eliminate blight and carry out the policies of the Centre Area Redevelopment Plan (Hall, 1985). The Agency accomplished this objective and fulfilled its obligation under the partnership by using its redevelopment powers to acquire, assemble, and transfer the nine privately owned parcels (occupied by 22 businesses) within the project site to the developer. The Agency also agreed to contribute, without reimbursement, the cost of their officers and employees both during and after the execution of the DDA.

The Agency also assisted in the relocation of businesses, households, and a church. The Agency placed four families from the project site within a new City sponsored low and moderate income housing development (Sequoia Files).

To further the project’s traffic circulation improvements, the Agency agreed to pay for plan review and inspection costs related to the state right of way and for construction costs related to signal modifications on El Camino Real and Franklin Street at Jefferson Avenue. These improvements are along the site’s southern border, adjacent to the site’s Phase II parcel. The Agency agreed to finance the development of the CalTrain Station depot clock tower and a downtown district entry sign next to the northern plaza entrance (Sequoia Files).


To further the project and fulfill its partnership obligations, the City expedited the permit approval process for the developer. The City approved a parking variance and, at no charge to the developer, prepared a Specific Plan for Phase II of the commercial center expansion improvements.

At the request of the developer, on behalf of Safeway, the City also allowed the Phase II commercial center plans to be modified to provide additional parking. Modifications to the Phase II Specific Plan included the loss of 9,000 square feet of retail space, the development of a smaller entry plaza area, and a less elaborate entry tower (Sequoia Files).

CalTrain and SamTrans

To further the development’s multi-modal transit component, Caltrans financed the development of the new train station improvements. At the City’s request, Caltrans agreed to formalize two of the site’s three existing informal pedestrian rail crossings between the City’s central business district and Sequoia Station, including safety cross bars and access for disabled persons (Church, 1996).

Caltrans also contributed the parcel north of the creek to SamTrans to enable the development of the subterranean commuter parking garage. Caltrans purchased five acres of land north of James Street from a private party to enable the development of the site's bus terminal and the parking lot.

SamTrans paid for the construction of the site’s subterranean parking garage, five passenger bus shelters, and other bus terminal improvements. At the City’s request, SamTrans and Caltrans agreed to coordinate the design of the project’s transit improvements with the design of the commercial center.

Developer and SamTrans

The developer also financed several SamTrans subterranean parking garage improvements to the project’s commercial center. These improvements include the painting of the garage to make it more attractive and bright, providing an improved garage lighting system for safety, and installing an elevator from the SamTrans garage to the commercial center (Irmer, 1996).

The Developer and the City

The City required several design changes to the commercial center to provide shoppers a place to gather, rest, dine, and socialize, and required landscaping at the three entry plazas (Irmer, 1996). Portions of the commercial center’s eastern building elevation were modified and stepped back from the property line to break up its linear appearance. Different colored shop awnings provided individual business identification. The City required a new bus stop on El Camino Real and the resurfacing of James Street to carry the heavier weight of bus traffic from El Camino Real to the bus terminal (Irmer, 1996).


Safeway also agreed to contribute a portion of the site’s Phase II land to the City to provide a right turn lane from Jefferson Avenue. It was initially anticipated that El Camino Real would provide the primary vehicular entrance into the center but, as it turned out, Jefferson Avenue has become the preferred vehicular entrance. This new turn lane helps to reduce traffic congestion at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real (Irmer, 1996).



The Sequoia Station center initially generated some resistance from central downtown business owners and lessee who feared that the new commercial center might draw customers away. According to the Redevelopment Director, the biggest problem facing central downtown Redwood City is the public’s preference for the conveniences offered by larger shopping mall complexes. One is the Hillsdale Shopping Mall in San Mateo. Another is the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto (Church, 1996).

The Redevelopment Director believes that downtown businesses may be hurting because most of the shops are leased and the landlords refuse to upgrade the appearance of the shops even with matching funds available through the Agency’s “Storefront Improvement Program.” In other instances, there appears to be a lack of market demand for the goods and services offered by some downtown businesses. “Today, the downtown restaurants and antique shops appear to be prospering the most” (Church, 1996). Many of these businesses have benefited from the Agency’s Storefront Improvement Program.

The city continues to invest money through downtown improvement programs. Two new high-density residential developments will also be developed downtown in 1997 and 1998 (the Civic Center Plaza and Franklin Neighborhood residential developments), which should help to support downtown business (Church, 1996).

The City required that the Sequoia Station design complement downtown commercial and residential buildings. The center’s design compliments the old Quang Lee Building, Redwood City’s oldest commercial structure. In keeping with the older design, the residential structures use wood frame construction, shiplap and stucco siding, paned windows, and terraced and gabled roofs. The buildings are low, one or one and a half stories, and well landscaped.

The City also wanted to ensure easy foot passage between Sequoia Station and the City's downtown district. Sidewalks provide access along the site’s western, northern, and southern borders. The City also negotiated with Caltrans for three informal pedestrian rail crossings to facilitate the flow of downtown pedestrian traffic to the center. One rail crossing leads directly to the commercial center; the other two crossings lead to the site’s SamTrans bus terminal and CalTrain rail depot facilities. At the City’s request, Caltrans has committed to formalizing two of the site’s three existing pedestrian rail crossings to provide an even stronger link between the Sequoia Station project and the City’s central downtown business district. At the time of this writing, the two formal rail crossings have not yet been installed by Caltrans, but are expected to be built in early 1997.

This project offers transportation alternatives: train and bus services and bicycle and auto parking. The Redevelopment Board and the developer recognize that the automobile is still the public’s preferred transportation, but they hope the new transit hub will entice people to use public transit, or at least reduce the need for a second or third car.

Based on Sequoia Station’s high level of traffic both night and day, it is fair to say that this transit based project is popular with the community. According to the city staff, feedback from citizens regarding Sequoia Station has been very positive (Riordan, 1996). The developer’s company has also received many letters of thanks and congratulations for the Sequoia Station project. According to Irmer, “the community has received the center as their own” (Irmer, 1996).

Sequoia Station offers residents, workers, and visitors a popular, quality community shopping center and an attractive, convenient, downtown transportation hub. The project has also spurred private upgrading and redevelopment of many surrounding downtown commercial properties and others along El Camino Real (Church, 1996).



Transit Based Multi-Modal Facility

During the ten year history of the Sequoia Station project, there were many false starts. In the beginning, it appeared that the Redevelopment Board’s objective to develop a transit oriented commercial center was in conflict with the various owners and with the transit agency’s operations on the site. To the Agency and the developers it appeared that Caltrans saw the shopping center as an annoying complexity rather than as an opportunity. By 1986, they had lost hope that Caltrans would participate in the project. The Board considered breaking off negotiations with the developer (Sequoia Files). Negotiations were not broken off but between 1985 and 1990 the Agency and the developer found it very difficult to determine who best to talk to about the transit agency properties.

In 1979, even before the Sequoia Station project, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (SP) had announced plans to close down the San Mateo County rail line because of falling revenues. At that time, the state stepped in and began to share funding responsibilities with SP. In 1980, Caltrans assumed responsibility for station acquisitions and capital improvements and agreed to manage passenger operations, while SP assumed responsibility only for the system’s freight operations. At this time, Caltrans renamed the rail service CalTrain (Bay Area Transportation News and Analysis, 1994).

By 1984 the transit agencies had plans for the future expansion of Redwood City’s train station, intending to use Southern Pacific’s property as a parking lot. An improved train station was also an important objective of the Redevelopment Board. The Board told Caltrans of their interest in developing a transit oriented shopping center and that it did not regard surface parking as the best use of the property (Sequoia Files). At that time, the concept of a joint public/private partnership to develop a shopping center combined with transit facilities was a new and uncomfortable idea for Caltrans.

The Southern Pacific Railroad Company broke up and began selling its land to Caltrans. In 1986 Santa Fe Pacific purchased the Redwood City station property north of Redwood Creek (bounded by the creek, James Street, and the railroad tracks), while Southern Pacific kept the rest of their Redwood City parcels (from the creek south to Jefferson Avenue) (Sequoia Files).

Caltrans eventually expressed an interest in purchasing the Santa Fe project site parcel. The disposition of the Santa Fe property in Redwood City was heavily influenced by events in San Francisco. Santa Fe attempted to use its ownership of the Redwood City station site property as negotiation leverage with Caltrans and the City of San Francisco over the planned San Francisco Mission Bay Project. Caltrans owned land south of Market Street in San Francisco which Santa Fe wanted in order to complete the proposed rail line extension to San Francisco’s Mission Bay site.

Santa Fe eventually agreed to sell the Redwood City property to Caltrans. However, while Caltrans was in the process of buying the property, the Governor declared that the state would be getting out of the CalTrain system operation by 1990 (Sequoia Files). Senator Quentin Kopp claimed they were paying Southern Pacific too much for the right of way, and some individuals at the state level were convinced that BART was the only viable transit system for the San Francisco Peninsula (Bay Area Transportation News, 1994).

The Governor’s action caused Caltrans to lose interest in the proposed Sequoia Station project (Church, 1996), but by 1989 Caltrans had acquired title to the Santa Fe property in Redwood City.

As the state deadline for withdrawing from the CalTrain operation approached, the local transit agencies of San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties began talks that would eventually lead to the creation of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) (Sequoia Files). In 1987, the JPB took control of the CalTrain system. In December 1991, the JPB purchased the right of way from SP. They assumed operational responsibilities for CalTrain in mid-1992. The JPB assumed one hundred percent of the operating subsidy one year later (Peninsula Corridor, 1995). It should be mentioned that while Caltrans was beginning to move away from operating the CalTrain system, they continued to maintain oversight responsibilities for site design and construction operations of the station (Peninsula Corridor, 1991).

It was not until 1990 that Caltrans agreed to give SamTrans the site north of the creek for the project’s underground parking garage. Southern Pacific, by this time, had agreed to sell its land to SamTrans.

Public Agency Procedural Inefficiencies/Efficiencies

According to the developer, “in terms of time, cost, and man hours involved, the Sequoia Station project was the most complex and difficult development” he had “ever built.” (Irmer, 1996). He added that, “The greatest development challenges came as a result of having too many state and federal agencies involved” (Irmer, 1996).

Southern Pacific and Caltrans

Due to SP’s and Caltrans lack of commitment to the Sequoia Station project, the developer tried twice to get out of the Development Agreement with the Redevelopment Agency but was convinced to stay by the Redevelopment Board and the City Manager. On one occasion, the Redevelopment Board considered terminating the project partnership for the same frustration with state and federal bureaucracies. For several years the developer and the City tried without success to convince Caltrans to enter into a public/private partnership for the transit facility. Failing this, they tried to persuade Caltrans to contribute their site parcel to SamTrans for a subterranean parking garage under the center. According to the developer, it took Caltrans a long time to decide what they wanted to do with their parcel and how much they wanted to contribute to the transit improvements. Eventually Caltrans did contribute their site to SamTrans but only for exclusive use by the SamTrans and CalTrain transit systems. No underground parking was provided for the commercial center.

The developer and SamTrans had hoped to purchase the Southern Pacific property, but they were unable to negotiate a reasonable price and the Redevelopment Agency did not have the power to condemn the property for transfer to the developer. SP did not enter into a public/private partnership, but it did sell the land to SamTrans.

It was not until 1990 that the developer and SamTrans agreed to develop the underground parking garage and the commercial center. SamTrans contributed the money for the garage, and the developer agreed to build the garage and to assume all over budget costs. The garage was built under budget.

Caltrans began upgrading the train station at the same time that SamTrans began to construct their subterranean parking garage. The train station was not completed until a year after the garage. Currently the developer is working with Caltrans to install a new right turn lane along the commercial center’s southern border. According to Irmer, plans for the turn lane were submitted to Caltrans in November of 1995 but one year later the permit had not yet been issued by Caltrans.

Army Corps of Engineers

Part of the agreement called for the realignment of Redwood Creek and the culverts. The developer paid for a wetland enhancement project as mitigation for the work on the creek. According to the developer, the Redevelopment Agency pushed the Corps of Engineers to process the required EIRs and clearances quickly as they were causing delays that added to the cost of the project (Irmer, 1996).

Local Government Agencies

In contrast, the developer expressed his overall satisfaction with the local government process and stressed the importance of having a good working relationship with the Redevelopment Agency and the City. According to the developer, his “partnership with the Redevelopment Agency and the City made the Sequoia Station development happen; without this partnership the development would never have been built.” “The early coordination between the developer, the City Manager and the Redevelopment Board and its Steering Committee went extremely well. Without the commitment to condemnation of the properties required, we would not have had the center as we now know it.”

Irmer goes on to say,

The Redevelopment Director, City Attorney, and Planning Director made all the difference in the process. These people were on board with the plan and were helpful and encouraging throughout the process. The Redevelopment Director was the “City Partner” without whom we could not have succeeded (Irmer, 1996).

In addition,

Planning was simply the best I have ever encountered at any City. The Planning Director and staff treated the developer as a team member, giving help wherever and whenever necessary. What was truly impressive was their public stand relative to the project. They would fight for our position so long as the position was one we all agreed to (Irmer, 1996).

The Building Department staff also made the difference between getting the project started ahead of weather and being bogged down in red tape. Their staff was as good and professional as one could ask for. I have never been refused a meeting on a tough question, nor have we ever experienced a negative response. There was a great deal of good faith on both sides, and it was never abused (Irmer, 1996).

In addition,

The City Manager was of enormous help with Phase II. Although Phase II (the former auto dealership parcel) was strictly a private undertaking, it was the City Manager’s assistance that kept us on track and moving in the right direction. He was most helpful in giving me a “read” on the political position of the Council and Board relative to redevelopment and the condemnation process (Irmer, 1996).

However, the developer further asserted that

We should have included Phase II into the project’s first phase and politics be damned. It cost the developer (Safeway) over $1 million dollars for this refusal to add the Phase II property to the initial development (Irmer, 1996).

In addition, the developer expressed his dissatisfaction with the City’s Engineering Division. According to Irmer, “Engineering was a real chore. There were stumbling blocks all along the process that were simply not necessary” (Irmer, 1996).

Existing Site Conditions

Four properties within the development site contained contaminated soil and/or ground water (the Arco Station on Jefferson Avenue, the SP property, and the dry cleaner and car dealership parcels). In late 1996, the developer was still attempting to obtain environmental clearance from the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department for project site ground water toxin clean up work. According to the developer, the on-going remediation of these properties caused significant time delays and may continue to add to project costs (Irmer, 1996).

Furthermore, the SP properties contained fiber optic cable that fed the entire San Mateo Peninsula. Relocating these cables took two years (Irmer, 1996).


Market and Economic Forces

The project site was located in a blighted area of Redwood City’s Downtown District. This fact, along with Redwood City’s previous reputation with retailers, made it difficult to find quality retailers to lease the commercial center shops (Irmer, 1996).

The final blow to the developer, however, was California’s economic recession (1989 to 1992) and the resulting local bank loan crisis. The developer looked for financing, but the banks were not lending money for real estate or construction. Ultimately Safeway purchased the entire commercial center.

In 1991, with Safeway financing, the Redevelopment Agency began property acquisition. The developer had leased 70% of the proposed commercial center (Irmer, 1996). In 1992, construction of the underground garage began, as did property demolition. Once environmental clearances were obtained from the Corps of Engineers, it took only four months to realign and culvert Redwood Creek. In 1993, the first commercial center tenant, Fresh Choice, opened their doors for business, followed by Safeway, Longs, and a Barnes and Nobles book store. Full center occupancy occurred by late-1994. The multi-modal transit facility was completed (for the most part) by late 1995 and the Phase II commercial spaces were fully occupied by July of 1996.

Financial Success

Percent of Space Leased

Today, the Sequoia Station commercial center is 100% leased and “every tenant is doing well” (Irmer, 1996).

Developer’s Opinion of Future Returns on Investment

In spite of the retail center’s success, the developer gained only a marginal return on his investment because of the time involved and the site’s high land costs (including toxic clean up costs). According to Irmer, “a developer attempts to maximize his return on total investment. With retail centers in California this return is generally 12% on total cash invested.” (Irmer, 1996) Sausalito Equity Interest, Inc., the developer’s company, will not keep projects unless they can get a 12% rate of return. Banks require the developer to put more equity in the development if a 12% rate of return cannot be achieved.

The Sequoia Station project generated slightly under a 12% rate of return, so the developer decided to sell his interest in the center to Safeway. Irmer believes that in one to three years the center will reach a 12% return and will eventually exceed this amount. “The Center should appreciate since there is little competition to Sequoia Station in nearby Peninsula communities” (Irmer, 1996).

Agency's Opinion of Future Returns on Investment

Financial benefits to the Agency from Sequoia Station will not be realized until after the year 2010 because of the Agency’s DDA commitment to contribute property tax increment from the project to the developer for fifteen years. According to the City’s Redevelopment Director, “the Agency’s primary interest in the Sequoia Station project was to eliminate blight; any future revenue generated from the project will be considered a secondary benefit” (Church, 1996).

Project Budget and Financial Standing Upon Completion

The Redevelopment Director had the following to say about the project’s budget: the site’s “property acquisitions were completed under budget and under the anticipated time line” (Church, 1996).

According to the developer, the commercial center was completed on budget but required the use of his 5% contingency monies to pay for unexpected development costs. The SamTrans garage however was built ahead of schedule and under budget (Irmer, 1996).

With respect to the project’s financial standing, Irmer had the following to say:

On total invested capital, Safeway is in excellent financial standing since they did not have to obtain a loan; rather they were able to pay for the entire Sequoia Station commercial center in cash (Irmer, 1996).

Future Possibilities


The developer voiced his frustration with the difficulties and complexities of the Sequoia Station development process. However, he stated that this project provided him with the “highest level of satisfaction.” With the experience he has gained and with the success of the Sequoia Station retail center, the developer has indicated that he is very interested in pursuing other partnerships. “Our experience in Redwood City has taught us a great deal about the process and we feel this knowledge makes us an outstanding partner with redevelopment agencies.” He cautions, however, about the time commitment involved and the capital required prior to development approvals.

Redevelopment undertakings are a unique development experience for the private sector developer. One must look to the redevelopment process as a partnership, with the City and Agency working closely with all staff levels to undertake the goals of the project and see them through to a successful conclusion. As in any partnership, all parties involved must work together for the common good. City staff are not always accustomed to this position. It is important to have your City Manager, Redevelopment Agency Director, and Community Development staff committed to the development plan, and understand the challenges the private sector may exact from the undertaking. There are time delays coming from both sides, and this must be understood and worked with politically and practically (Irmer, 1996).


In the May 6, 1993 edition of the San Mateo County Peninsula Quarterly, Safeway’s development consultant, Gary Ward, indicated that he believes the chance for Safeway to invest in building its own store will pay off in the long run. He further asserted that Safeway’s purchase of the Sequoia Station commercial center gives Safeway a good image by showing every one that the company is a player and wants to participate in growth. According to Ward, “Safeway is already eyeing other opportunities” in the Bay Area (Delollis, 1993).

Since that newspaper article was written, however, Safeway has decided to get out of the shopping center business and has decided to subdivide Sequoia Station commercial center into three parcels. Safeway will continue to own and operate the Redwood City Safeway store, but intends to eventually sell off the center’s two remaining parcels (Safeway, 1996).


Like the developer, the Agency and City indicated an interest in pursuing other partnerships (Church, 1996). In 1995, the City approved the Civic Center Plaza project which will be located adjacent to the new City Hall building (Civic Center Plaza File, 1995). In 1994 the City Council adopted an Area Plan and certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed twenty-five acre Franklin Street High-density Residential Neighborhood Development (LCP, 1994 and 1995). According to the Redevelopment Director, the City is also exploring the development potential of another site located between the CalTrain rail line and Perry Street in downtown Redwood City (Church, 1996).

Domino Effects

Even though the developer did not receive the rate of return he expected from his investment, the success of Sequoia Station as a retail center has given Irmer increased recognition in the development community and with other Bay Area cities interested in pursuing transit oriented developments. “The Sequoia Station development has created a special interest from other cities to have similar developments built within their communities” (Irmer, 1996). For example, Redwood City has given Dave Irmer the exclusive right to negotiate for development of the Perry Street site. The City of San Leandro has asked Irmer to develop a transit oriented project near their BART Station. The developer also has been given the exclusive right to negotiate for development of all remaining rail line properties within San Mateo County.

According to the developer,

The lesson learned (from the Sequoia Station project) is that private/public interests can indeed come together and create projects for the greater good of the community being served. It takes leadership, dedication to the challenge at hand, trust, and commitment. These are lofty goals, very much attainable when the parties involved take time to understand one another and totally commit to the goal. I was most grateful for the City’s (Redwood City) participation in the planning and entitlement process. It worked exceptionally well throughout (from 1983 to date) the process. Too many times government is there to confuse the issue, acting as a road-block to the problem instead of being a part of the solution. This simple and very upsetting situation must be addressed first before the Sequoia Stations of the world can be created (Irmer, 1996).



The stumbling blocks to Redwood City’s Sequoia Station development were many. According to the developer, Sequoia Station’s development challenges included:

·        delayed transit agency commitment to the transit oriented concept;

·        procedural inefficiencies by public agencies, primarily state and federal, which caused unnecessary delays and added to project costs;

·        unreasonably high land costs, specifically, the Southern Pacific and Phase II commercial center properties;

·        development site difficulties and unanticipated expenses (the required relocation of fiber optic cables, the need to mitigate for the culverting and relocation of Redwood Creek, and ongoing toxic soil and ground water remediation costs);

·        unfavorable local market conditions, specifically the site’s blighted condition and the City’s struggling downtown business district reputation;

·        and, the final blow to the developer, California’s 1989 to 1992 recession and consequent bank loan crisis.

While some of the development obstacles to Sequoia Station project could have been avoided, others could not. Nothing could have been done to avert the economic recession, but that obstacle precluded the developer from obtaining financing. Had it not been for Safeway’s financing Sequoia Station, the project might not have been built during those recessionary years.

At that time the Agency, the City, and the developer agreed to work as partners in the project, but Southern Pacific, Caltrans, and the JPB were restructuring and agreement between the two groups was delayed by six years. With their restructuring completed, the transit agencies should no longer hamper future transit oriented projects.

Even after the transit agencies’ restructuring, Caltrans did not appear to be committed to the project. Caltrans personnel were often inaccessible and there were lengthy permit processing delays. Certain Caltrans improvements, like the rail line safety cross bars and disability access improvements, are still not completed.

Another unavoidable obstacle was the high price of the Phase II and Southern Pacific properties. The price of the properties was, in part, the result of a sellers’ market. The property owner was not selling her land under duress. She knew her land had value and that the developer and Safeway needed the land to build the project. She demanded and got a good price for her land. SP’s price for its land was high but it was lowered when SamTrans purchased the SP property and transferred their cost savings on to the developer. However, whatever the developer may have saved in land costs through SamTrans, he paid for in time since it took S. P. six years to decide to sell their land and enable the development of the Sequoia Station project.

The developer anticipated certain difficulties when taking on the Sequoia Station project. For example, pre-development site research revealed that this infill site contained soil and ground water contamination and underground fiber optic cables and that Redwood Creek would require relocation before development could begin. However, the developer did not anticipate the extent of the toxin contamination or the costs involved in remediation nor did he anticipate the time involved in obtaining permits for the culverting and relocation of the Creek. The developer and Caltrans agree that the Corps of Engineers delayed permit processing and caused unnecessary delays and increased costs.

Still, the success of Sequoia Station to some degree hinged on the private and public sectors’ ability to create a strong local market at the project. Sequoia Station’s quality retail environment and pedestrian friendly downtown district all work to create a strong market at Redwood City’s transit hub. The City convinced the developer to make design changes that would make the center acceptable to quality shops and restaurants, and the developer worked to bring the businesses in. Their combined efforts helped to achieve their mutual goal of creating a popular, attractive environment where people would want to live, work, relax, and shop with transit nearby.

According to the Redevelopment Director, Sequoia Station has revitalized a blighted area, generated 562 net new jobs, and spurred private commercial building upgrades within the City’s Downtown District and surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, developers and realtors are interested in developing new sites in Redwood City (Church, 1996).



Commercial Retail Shopping Center

Train, bus, and auto facilities

Agencies Involved: City of Redwood City, Redwood City Redevelopment Agency, Caltrans, CalTrain, SamTrans, and Safeway Stores



Special Features

Architect Phase I

Gateway to downtown

Edward Gee & Associates

Open air Plaza Mall

444 DeHaro St. Suite 201


San Francisco, CA

40 Foot Tower





Architect Phase II

Sausalito Equity Interest, Inc.,


2656 Broadway

399 Bradford St.

Sausalito, CA

Redwood City, CA



Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                       12.42 Acres

Planning started                               1984

Retail                                             133,390 sq. ft.

Construction started                        1992

Office/Service                               23,940 sq. ft.

Sales/leasing started                        1988

Restaurant                                    20,700 sq.ft

Site leased                                        100%

Total Parking Spaces                 790 surface

Phase I by 1994

Number of Stories                        1 to 1.5

Phase II by 1996




Developer pays all acquisition and development costs of project.

Redevelopment Agency and City pay property and sales tax increment for 15 years and contribute1.4 acres of land (free of charge) within development site to developer. (Refer to DDA for Details).



Figure 4-1 Location of Sequoia Station, Redwood City, CA



Figure 4-2 Plan of Sequoia Station


Figure 4-3 CalTrain depot in Redwood City



Figure 4-4 Sequoia Station from El Camino Real



La Mesa, California



La Mesa Village Plaza is a multi-use development located in the City of La Mesa, 10 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. The development lies adjacent to the La Mesa Civic Center on 5.6 acres of land and contains over 244,000 square feet of office, retail, and residential uses. The San Diego Trolley East Line connecting downtown San Diego to the City of Santee has a stop at La Mesa Village Plaza. The trolley and two bus lines operated by the San Diego Transit Corporation provide employees and residents of La Mesa Village Plaza and La Mesa’s Civic Center with the ability to use public transit for both work and leisure.

The $26.6 million project was developed through an agreement between the City of La Mesa Redevelopment Agency and the developer, La Mesa Plaza Associates Joint Venture. The Redevelopment Agency sold the 5.6 acres of land to La Mesa Plaza Associates at a significant discount. The land was valued at approximately $1.3 million but was sold for approximately $700,000. Also participating, under a separate agreement with the Redevelopment Agency, was the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB). MTDB agreed that the trolley station would be architecturally and physically compatible with the site development. The trolley station was built by La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture.

The project developed into four buildings of one to five stories. It was completed in July, 1991.



Since the late 1980s the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) in cooperation with several cities within San Diego County has guided enterprising transit village strategies. These strategies have included a mix of planning guidelines and specific joint development and station area development projects, of which La Mesa Village Plaza is one. It was with the City of La Mesa and MTDB that this project was brought to fruition.

The County of San Diego and its cities have been implementing urban growth management policies since the late 1970s. This growth management strategy emphasized infill development in urbanized areas adjacent to existing urban infrastructure. Both the infill and the development adjacent to urban areas implemented a policy that allowed new growth and took advantage of existing public facilities. The policies focused on the development of transit corridors.

The City of La Mesa would see several of its policies implemented in the development of La Mesa Village Plaza. Not only would the project provide infill development, but it would bring about the redevelopment of an area sorely in need of redevelopment. The City wanted a combination of higher density residential and commercial development next to the transit stop and to the civic center. In 1973 the City created the redevelopment area in and around the Civic Center to carry out these policies.

Two government entities, the City of La Mesa Redevelopment Agency and the MTDB, worked together to create the Trolley stop and an area plan to redevelop the Civic Center. The La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture was formed to build a mixed use project meeting the criteria of the Redevelopment Agency.



Neighborhood Background

The City of La Mesa is approximately 10 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. The city covers 9.05 square miles and was incorporated in 1912. From 1985 through 1995, La Mesa sustained a population of just over 52,000 and by 1996 had more than 56,000 residents. The La Mesa City Council recognized the importance of redevelopment and formed a Redevelopment Agency in 1964. The Agency currently oversees three project areas: Central Area (55 acres), Fletcher Parkway (103 acres), and Alvarado Creek (200 acres) These zones were created in 1973, 1984, and 1987 respectively. The average age of the residents of La Mesa is 35 years and the average home value is $163,802. The civic center offices, police station, post office, and chamber of commerce are across Allison Street from the La Mesa Village Plaza development.

Transit Options

There are two main public transit options for La Mesa: the San Diego Trolley and the public bus system. The San Diego Trolley, the County of San Diego’s light rail system, started service to La Mesa in 1989 and has four trolley stops in La Mesa, three of which are located in City redevelopment areas. The County bus line is operated by San Diego Transit Corporation, consisting of 45 local and urban routes, two of which run through La Mesa. There are three major freeways running through La Mesa city boundaries: Highways 8, 94, and 125.

Previous Uses of Land

The land uses were a mixture of marginal retail, residential, service, and commercial. This area was the historic heart of the town. The City of La Mesa recognized the value of redevelopment for the downtown corridor, so in 1964 the La Mesa Community Redevelopment Agency was created. It was not until 1973 however that a plan for the Central Area Redevelopment Project was created and adopted.


The project demographics are as follows:

Table 5-1 La Mesa Demographics







Household Size




17-24 years



1 occupant





25-34 years



2 occupants





35-49 years








50-64 years








65+ years














Project Marketing for Residential

The residential portion of the project consists of 60 two bedroom units (average 1338 sq. ft.) and 35 three bedroom units (average 1555 sq. ft.), priced from $132,500 to $160,000 with a density of 17 units per acre. All the residences have been sold, and there has been stability in the resale market. As of June, 1996 only two of the residential units were listed for resale.

Retail/Commercial Leasing Information

Office space in Building A leases for $1.35 per square foot and in Building B for $1.25 per square foot. The lease price includes electrical utilities, property taxes, security services, property management services, maintenance services, upkeep of common areas, and janitorial service five nights a week. The managers estimate the price for the services is 12% higher than for the useable square footage. For example, a 1000 sq. ft. office in Building A would rent for $1512 per month (1000 x 12% = 120; 1000 + 120 = 1120; 1120 x 1.35 = 1512). The retail shops lease a flat for $1.10 per square foot, which includes common area maintenance but not utilities or janitorial services.

Retail/Commercial Uses

The retail shops include a sandwich shop, a yogurt shop, a beauty salon, a Chinese restaurant, a pharmacy, a bookstore, and miscellaneous specialty shops. The commercial buildings contain dental offices, a physical therapy center, a large financial advisor, and a credit union. As of June 1996, two retail spaces were available for lease. All current office tenants are original lessees.


Physical Features

Location and Orientation of Project

The project lies adjacent to the Civic Center at the geographical center of La Mesa. There is a Trolley station at the project site, the La Mesa Blvd. Station, and two bus lines run through the area. The project consists of approximately 244,000 square feet on 5.6 acres. Pedestrians and residents have a 50 yard walk to the trolley stop located in a public plaza surrounded by retail shops. A paved walkway connects La Mesa Blvd. to the south with Allison Ave. to the north, providing pedestrian access to the Trolley and a buffer parallel to Spring Street to the east.

Project Size

The project is mixed-use, in four buildings, which include office, retail/commercial, residential, and parking facilities. The building use is shown in Tables 5-2 and 5-3:

Table 5-2 La Mesa Building Use

Site Use

Area, Sq. Ft.


Residential (95 Units)












Common Areas/Parking







Table 5-3 La Mesa Building Space Allotment



Square Feet


Other *





909 sq. ft.





3,200 sq. ft.


1 retail

4 residential





2,517 sq. ft.







* Available square footage as of June 1996.




Building C includes structured, at grade parking for commercial and residential guests and underground parking for tenants or owners. There is executive parking for some office tenants.

An at-grade level plaza (14,000 sq. ft.), with landscaping and urban furniture to improve the open space, links the trolley stop to the project. Parking includes 216 surface spaces and 274 spaces in a parking structure.

Environmental Issues

There was hydrocarbon contamination in the project area left by an on-site gas facility. The Agency took the responsibility for remediation but was reimbursed by the party responsible.

Homeless/Loitering Issues

Initially, there were problems with homeless people loitering around the transit stop at La Mesa Village Plaza when it was the last stop on the East Line. The transients would get off and loiter around the plaza, disturbing the residents and the patrons of La Mesa Village Plaza. The MTDB acted promptly to step up security measures, effectively eliminating the nuisance. Also, the line has since been extended past La Mesa to the City of Santee.


The Partners and Participants

The City of La Mesa Redevelopment Agency and La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture were the main partners in the project. The City’s Redevelopment Agency was created in 1964 and has been planning the redevelopment of the Civic Center area since 1973. The Agency currently oversees three project areas: Central Area, where the La Mesa Village Plaza is located, (55 acres), Fletcher Parkway (103 acres), and Alvarado Creek (200 acres). These zones were created in 1973, 1984, and 1987 respectively. It was of particular importance to the Redevelopment Agency to have this development incorporate the trolley stop into the project. The interest of the Redevelopment Agency was threefold: to rejuvenate the Civic Center area, to obtain a Trolley stop in the Civic Center area and to develop a mixture of uses that would support the Trolley stop and the Civic Center area. As a long term goal, the Agency wanted to link housing and transit to other areas of La Mesa.

The private sector partner and developer was La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture. This joint venture was put together by several experienced developers who were familiar with the La Mesa area. They were convinced that, given the proper incentives, a higher density, mixed use project near the Trolley and the Civic Center would be financially successful. The partners used the design firm of Dominey and Associates. The lender for the construction loan was Chase Manhattan Bank. The Joint Venture’s main expectation was to develop a financially successful mixed use development. It was also thought that if this project was successful it could be used as a model for other areas along the Trolley line.

Another participant in the project was the Metropolitan Transit Development Board which operates the San Diego Trolley. This light rail system began service to La Mesa in 1989. The MTDB wanted to place a transit stop in the civic center area and took this opportunity to do so.

The Redevelopment Agency took the lead in choosing the area for La Mesa Village Plaza, writing the Deposition and Development Agreement (DDA), and recruiting a developer. They also had a great deal of input into the design of the project. La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture was required to obtain all planning permits, construction loans, and permanent financing, and they designed and built the project.


Details of the Negotiations

In order to sell the land, the Redevelopment Agency reduced the land costs by $593,000 and reduced the down payment on the purchase to $150,000. The Redevelopment Agency also gave the developer credits of $587,000 toward the plaza construction responsibilities and utility relocation duties.

The Metropolitan Transit Development Board was not involved monetarily in the plaza design or construction, but they arranged the changes to their alignment and right of way, provided ticketing machines, and were consulted on the design of the trolley stop. The developer was responsible for the design and construction of the plaza.

Public input varied regarding the development of this property but, as it took several years to get this development underway, the public was ready and waiting for the project to begin. There was some public concern regarding the removal of a large ficus tree, but eventually the tree was relocated instead of being destroyed.


Final Agreements and Contracts

The agreement between the Redevelopment Agency and La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture is the Deposition and Development Agreement (DDA).

Main Provisions of the DDA

Land Cost

There was an initial cost of $1,330,000, less adjustments, (referred to as developer credits) to include:

·        $250,000 maximum credit if Agency elects to transfer to the Developer the responsibility for the relocation of underground utilities;

·        $317,000 maximum credit if agency elects to transfer to developer the Plaza Area duties of constructing a Trolley stop shelter, a plaza and a fountain.

Plans and Specifications

The developer was responsible for preparing and submitting detailed plans and drawings for public improvements, facilities and utilities on-site as well as curb, gutter, and sidewalk plans for the streets adjacent to the site (La Mesa Boulevard, Acacia, Allison, Orange and Date Avenues).

Agency Responsibilities

The Redevelopment Agency provided tax allocation bonds which were sold as part of the acquisition of the property prior to this project being negotiated. It was also responsible for:

·        Relocation of utilities

·        Plaza area duties to construct the shelter, the plaza and the fountain

·        La Mesa Boulevard and other street improvements

·        Construction of a storm drain on Date Avenue

·        Construction of a traffic median on Allison Avenue and Nebo Drive

·        Vacating of Nebo Drive and portions of La Mesa Boulevard

Developer’s Responsibilities

·        Architecture and design

·        Signs

·        Developer’s improvements (buildings, landscaping)

·        Screening

·        Standards, controls, and restrictions

·        Vehicular access

·        Demolition, site clearance, and site preparation

·        Roofs

·        Utilities and public improvements

·        Construction

·        Restaurant use

·        Covenants, codes, and restrictions

·        Subdivision map and/or condominium plan

·        To secure permanent financing for the site through Chase Manhattan Bank.

Table 5-4 La Mesa Funding






Sale of Land








Plaza Utility



Capital Improvements *

Storm Drain




Street Improvements




Payment of Loan

Phase II A



All figures based on 1984/1985 land values.




* Redevelopment Agency costs.




** A note was drawn on a local bank for initial land purchase.




The Redevelopment Agency

With the construction of the La Mesa Village Plaza, the Agency met its goal of developing a mixed use, transit oriented project in the Civic Center redevelopment area. To do so, they needed to significantly discount the land costs (by $593,000) and reduce the amount of money they required of the developer up-front (reduced to $150,000). It took ten years to find the right developer for the project. Numerous developers would not agree to the terms of the first agreement. This problem took up a great deal of time and resulted in the Agency needing to give more financial incentives to the eventual winner of the project, La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture. The City does not expect a return on its investment but is pleased with the final development and it has added to the tax revenues received by the City and Redevelopment Agency.

The Agency indicated that this development had many hurdles to overcome before completion. Mixed-use projects are still very hard to finance and build. The Agency had successfully completed two other transit oriented developments that were less time consuming: Grossmont Trolley Center and the Villages of La Mesa, both within La Mesa city boundaries. The Grossmont Trolley Center development, a strictly commercial development, is unique in that it shares its parking lot space with the San Diego Trolley Grossmont Center Station. The Villages of La Mesa is a residential development of 390 rental apartments.

The Agency also feels that working with the Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) on this particular project helped build a good working relationship for future transit oriented projects. The City is also happy that the “kiss and ride” trolley station was incorporated so well into this project.

The Developer

The development process for this project was not more difficult for the developers than for others but, as it had three types of land use, it was more of a financial risk than a normal residential project. The developers declined to give an opinion on the future return on their investment. They indicated however that the project’s financial standing was on target for the goals set. The market and time will tell if such developments will appeal to other developers in the future.

From the start the developer felt that the project would complement the surrounding area and improve the general appearance of the environment. However, according to the developer, the neighboring merchants, residents, and local architects had differing opinions on this project. Some merchants felt that the project was much too large and dominated the “quaint downtown” image of the businesses along La Mesa Boulevard.

The development was, from the beginning, designed to be built around the La Mesa Boulevard Trolley station to take full advantage of the benefits of public transit. The Trolley station was not essential to the success of the development, but the developer considered it an important feature for marketing the project. Public transportation is beneficial to the residents of the development, the majority of whom are mature people. He felt there is not a great demand for mixed-use projects, except in communities where retail services are lacking. In these cases, transit oriented development can be a “draw” to the community. As the partners in the development firm are nearing retirement, they have no desire to build similar projects even though the city is willing.

Homeowners’ and Local Merchants’ Opinions

The current homeowners association president stated that the Village was a wonderful mixed use development and that he personally uses the retail shops and the Trolley every day. However, some nearby merchants feel that the project is too large and dominates the neighboring commercial areas along La Mesa Boulevard.



The project’s contribution to transit oriented developments is hard to measure. In this particular case, it contributed positively but the developer feels that this success was largely based on the demographics of the development, as a majority of the residents are over 50 years old. However, in the Southern California region, the auto is still the primary and highly favored mode of transportation.

All the people who were interviewed for this study indicated that the development was ambitious for the City of La Mesa, but the City and the developer knew what each wanted at that particular site. With perseverance and a firm grasp of financial reality, the project was finally built. The final success of the development will be measured by the willingness of the residents of La Mesa to use the Trolley and the commercial facilities. Of all trips made by the project’s residents, 7.7 percent were made using public transit. Of that 7.7 percent of trips, 9.3 percent of those were work trips. These figures compare with the City of San Diego as a whole and the City of La Mesa as a whole as follows: 2.5 percent of San Diego’s public transit trips were work trips and 2.6 percent of La Mesa’s public transit trips were work trips. These numbers are encouraging to cities and developers who are interested in creating developments centered on transit systems.

The La Mesa Village Plaza is a very successful suburban, mixed use, transit oriented development. Coordination with the MTDB will continue in the future with projects extending into the Mission Valley area of San Diego. At least five transit oriented developments are being planned for this area. These transit oriented developments are becoming feasible because of the $240 million Mission Valley West Trolley extension into this rapidly growing area.

One lesson learned from this project is that even an ambitious project can be successfully completed with a little patience and a lot of time. However, timing is everything, and the economics of this development made it quite a challenge to complete. Communication between agencies and involved parties is essential in the success of any good development. The DDA in this case clearly defined all the details and specified all the responsibilities, so nothing was left to chance. In a complex mixed-use project such as this everything needs to be carefully thought out. Perhaps better interaction with the public, through public notification and informal meetings, and with local architects would have provided better feedback from residents and from the community at large.

Recommendations for future projects would include improved communication with local residents. Although it is not a force that can be controlled, timing within the economic environment is also important in getting a project of this type completed quickly.



The $26.6 million, mixed used development, La Mesa Village Plaza, has been considered a success by the City of La Mesa, the private developer and MTDB. The city used its redevelopment agency to foster the project and to involve a developer who could carry through with the project. To do so the Agency needed to lower the cost of the land significantly and to offer other inducements. The private developer, La Mesa Village Plaza Associates Joint Venture, did the market analysis and did not proceed until they felt assured there would be a market for the project and that the financing would be adequate to cover the development. The developer is unsure if this type of mixed use project can be successfully duplicated in Southern California because of that area’s devotion to private vehicles.

Despite a long wait due to problems with economics, financing, and finding the right partners, the La Mesa Village Plaza development was completed and has met the expectations of the City, the developer, and the general public. It is important to note that the working relationship between the City and the transit agency on this particular project was very cooperative.

MTDB was able to build a Trolley stop that could be used by local residents and by commuters. The transit district is in the process of expanding the Trolley to the Mission Valley area, north of downtown San Diego, thus allowing for more transit related projects, not unlike La Mesa Village Plaza.


La Mesa Village Plaza, La Mesa, California

Mixed use: residential, retail, office, commercial.

Average walking distance to transit and shopping: 50 yards.

Redevelopment Agency owned the 5.6 acres adjacent to the station.



Special Features


Redevelopment Agency had to discount significantly land


La Mesa, CA

costs and the money required up-front.





La Mesa Village Plaza Associates/Jack McCormick

CMS Management.

2401 W. Olive Ave. #210 Burbank, CA 91506

Commonwealth Companies, Inc., Perdon Development Company & Commonwealth Dynamic Corp.

10675 Sorrento Valley Rd. #200

San Diego, CA 92121




Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                             5.6 acres

Planning started                      Early 1980s

Total Dwelling Units        95

Construction started                           1989

Gross Density                     17

Sales/leasing started                   July 1991

Total Parking                    195 residential

                                              329 commercial


Number of Stories             5  (4 residential on top of office/retail ground floor)



Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (sq.ft.)

Number Built

Market Rate Units

Two bedroom

1338   (average)



Three bedroom

1555   (average)



Development Total





Building Use Information


Sq. ft.

% of GBA

Residential Units












Common Areas and Parking






80% market rate units (20% subsidized) Lender: Chase Manhattan Bank




Figure 5-1 Location of La Mesa Village Plaza, La Mesa, CA



Figure 5-2 Plan of La Mesa Village Plaza

Figure 5-3 Aerial view of La Mesa Village Plaza


Figure 5-4 View of trolley station at La Mesa Village Plaza


Mercado Apartments

San Diego, California



The Mercado Apartments is a residential development located in the City of San Diego, approximately one mile southeast of downtown in the Barrio Logan district. The development covers 4.3 acres and consists of 144 housing units. The San Diego Trolley South Line connecting downtown San Diego to the City of San Ysidro has a stop at Barrio Logan, two blocks from the project site. Three bus lines operated by the San Diego Transit Corporation are also available to residents.

The $12.4 million project was developed through an agreement between the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency and the developer, MAAC Project (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee). The Redevelopment Agency acquired the 4.3 acres of land for $1.5 million and assembled the parcels through eminent domain. Since MAAC Project is a non-profit agency, the development has been targeted to low income families. There is a Phase II commercial project currently being considered adjacent to the development, which the San Diego Redevelopment Agency hopes will be brought to fruition in the near future.

The project was completed in May, 1994 and has incorporated numerous amenities for its residents, such as a day care center, a community meeting room, a computer learning center, a Head Start office, and social services offices.

Specific building information is contained in Table 6-1.

Table 6-1 Mercado Apartments Building Use

Number of Bedrooms

Number Built

Square Feet

Rent Levels

















The project is targeted toward low income families, and there is a waiting list to get an apartment.


Project Concept

The project was initiated by the San Diego Redevelopment Agency in 1991 when they incorporated the Barrio Logan district as a Redevelopment Zone. The area is historically a predominantly Hispanic, low income community and was in need of affordable housing and relief from blight.

MAAC Project came up with the idea for the Mercado development. They hoped to help contribute to the needs of the community and provide successful affordable housing with community services. The San Diego Redevelopment Agency’s main objective was to revitalize a blighted area of the city.

The partnership between the San Diego Redevelopment Agency and MAAC Project was mutually beneficial in that both entities accomplished their goals.



Neighborhood Background

Historically, the area known as Barrio Logan has been a largely Hispanic community. The nearby docks and ports offered many opportunities for employment, and many of the residents were employed at the canneries and the docks. When these docks and canneries moved or shut down, many residents were left jobless. This began the deterioration of the Barrio Logan community. Blight began to set in.

Transit Options

Bus lines run adjacent to the project, along Main Street and National Ave. The San Diego Trolley stop is two blocks away. Highway 5 and the Coronado Bay Bridge bisect the Barrio Logan community. The construction of these freeways was extremely damaging to the community in that they divided the area into four sections. When walking through this area today, the immense size of the overpasses dwarfs the buildings and people. They block much of the sunlight and are gray, very noisy, and overwhelming.

Previous Uses of Land

The site is zoned mixed-use, industrial and residential. The area has deteriorated over the past twenty years due to inconsistent zoning patterns, political apathy, and unmonitored environmental regulations. The previous use of the Mercado property was as a San Diego Gas and Electric storage facility and maintenance yard. In 1991, a community plan was adopted by the SDRA which incorporated the Barrio Logan district as a redevelopment zone. More affordable housing was needed in the area, so the City welcomed MAAC Project’s proposal.


The demographics for this tract are as follows: a 71% minority population, of which 50% of the families live below the poverty level, the median income is $14,410, and the unemployment rate in 1990 was 10.4, the highest in the City. The percentage of housing built before 1939 is 43% and the percentage of overcrowded conditions is also 43%.

The demographic breakdown as of March 1995 for the Mercado Apartments follows.

Table 6-2 Mercado Apartments Demographics





Household Size




17-24 yrs



1 occupant





25-34 yrs



2 occupants





35-49 yrs



3 occupants





50-64 yrs



4 occupants





65+ yrs



5 occupants








6+ occupants











Project Marketing

The Mercado Apartments are aimed at families earning between $11,000 and $29,000 per year. As of October 1995, a minimum annual wage of $11,000 is required for entry into the apartments. The project site lies on 4.3 acres and includes 144 residential units. The units consist of one, two, and three bedroom apartments and comprise 128,800 square feet of the total 189,000 square feet of property, or 68% of the total. As of June 1996, all 144 units were rented.

The apartments are oriented toward the street in an effort to create a safe environment and to deter crime and vandalism. The residential units provide a sense of “ownership” of the street with porches, front entry doors, and private second floor balconies. The on-site parking is divided into two smaller areas within the interior of the development, in keeping with the pedestrian oriented scheme. The driveway entry to the development parking lots is bordered by wrought iron fences. The fences are an aid to safety and ensure that the limited parking is used only by residents. In addition to the 144 units, the project contains a day care center, two laundry rooms, a play area, a community meeting room, a computer learning center, a Head Start office, and social services offices. The development’s slogan is “...More Than Housing” because it offers so many services to its residents.

Phase II

In 1991, the San Diego Redevelopment Agency designated the area the Barrio Logan Redevelopment Zone and began acquiring adjacent properties to complete Phase II of this project. Phase II is the commercial center and marketplace. The San Diego Redevelopment Agency has invested $8 million in purchasing the surrounding industrial properties for Phase II of the project.

There is a plan to develop a park adjacent to the apartments, an extension of “Chicano Park,” which is known for its colorful murals depicting the Chicano lifestyle. There is a proposed 100,000 square foot commercial center to be developed by MAAC Project, which would bring a grocery store, restaurants, shops, and professional services to the community. Political and financial problems have held this project back. Large chain supermarkets have not expressed any interest in locating there, and the SDRA is still in the process of purchasing properties included in the Phase II plans.


Physical Features

Location and Orientation of Project

The Mercado Apartments lie on approximately 4.3 acres in the Barrio Logan District of San Diego. The District is served by the San Diego Trolley Line and by three bus lines run by the San Diego Transit Corporation. Special considerations went into the design of this project regarding the safety of residents, providing a sense of ownership, and creating a pedestrian oriented project.

Project Size

The completed development is solely residential and consists of the following:

Table 6-3 Mercado Apartments Project Use


Parking/Common Areas

Day Care Center






128,796 sq. ft.

57,204 sq. ft

3,000 sq. ft.

189,000 sq. ft.


Community’s Reaction to Overpasses

In protest to construction of the Highway 5 freeway and the Coronado Bridge overpass project, some members of the community painted colorful murals in Chicano Park depicting the heritage and struggles of the Latino community. These murals have become famous, and people from many places have come to see them. The murals complement other murals in the park celebrating the strength of the Mexican-American people.

A note on the murals: the Coronado Bridge is slated for seismic retrofitting soon and in the process, many of these murals will be destroyed. Caltrans has made verbal promises to coordinate with community leaders to try to capture the murals in their present condition on video and film in order to recreate them after the retrofitting is complete. The murals will be repainted by locals artists and plans for a cultural center to display the photos have been discussed. There remains some animosity by the residents toward Caltrans, so the murals will be a sensitive issue in the future.

The Partners and Participants

The San Diego Redevelopment Agency and MAAC Project were the main partners in the Mercado Apartments project. In 1991, the Redevelopment Agency designated the Barrio Logan area a Redevelopment Zone.

The Mercado development was conceived by the MAAC Project (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee). The MAAC Project is a multi-purpose social service agency established in 1965, with the mission of providing not just affordable housing but jobs and business opportunities as well, and service oriented, self-sufficient communities. Working through churches, schools, community action groups, gangs, business groups, and government agencies, MAAC is striving to achieve better communication between neighbors and agencies, while fostering opportunities for those it serves.

Other project participants included the following:

·        Development consultants: Odmark & Thelan

·        Construction Management: Cuatro Corporation

·        Architects: Lorimer/Case

·        Civil Engineers: RBF/Sholders & Sanford

·        Landscape Architect: Estrada Land Planning

·        Tax Credit Consultants: Devine & Gong

·        Project Management: Steve Kuptz

·        Legal Services: Sullivan, Cummins, Wertz, McDade & Wallace

·        Limited partnership legal services: Riordan & McKinzie

·        General Contractor: Nielsen Construction Co.

·        Project Oversight: MAAC Project staff


The short term objective of the partnership was to provide housing that accurately reflected the community and to provide a center for the Latino community. The long term objective was to introduce into the community badly-needed redevelopment, providing housing, social services, day care services, and a strong sense of pride for the community. Revitalization of a blighted area was the main objective of the City.

Details of the Negotiations

The City has legal requirements for the project which include having oversight for the remainder of the life of the redevelopment plan (35 years). In addition, there is a stipulation that the housing project will remain affordable for 55 years. The San Diego Redevelopment Agency contributed $1,966,000 to the project and had the responsibility of acquiring and assembling the parcels for both Phases, making the necessary zoning changes and channeling federal Community Block Grant funds to the project.

MAAC Project acted as the project manager and took the responsibility of coordinating the architects, construction teams, and the numerous social service elements that were incorporated into this project.

The community was involved in the design process through MAAC Project, and their concerns regarding appearance, affordability, and safety were successfully met. There was a project area committee of 15 people organized in 1989 to help identify and address the issues and concerns of the community.


Final Agreements and Contracts

Legal requirements regarding the Mercado Apartments include allowing the City of San Diego to have oversight for the remaining 35 years of the life of the redevelopment plan. The project is also under agreement with the City to remain available as affordable housing for the next 55 years.

The total funding for the Mercado Apartments was $12,452,200. The sources of funding are broken down as follows:

Private Sources

Source:        Bank of America and the Community Redevelopment Bank

Amount:       $2,800,000

Terms:         30 year, 8.75%, fully amortized

Source:        Federal Home Loan Bank

Amount        $800,000

Terms: 40 year, 3% interest only, residual

Source:        Cal. Equity Fund (Local Initiative Support Corp.)

Amount:       $5,100,000

Terms: Equity investment

Public Sources

Source:        San Diego Housing Commission/Trust Fund

Amount:       $1,625,000

Terms: 30 year, 6% residual receipts, forgivable on sale

Source:        San Diego Redevelopment Agency

Amount        $1,966,000

Terms: N/A

Source:        Development Fee Deferral/ MAAC Project

Amount:       $161,000

Terms: N/A



The Redevelopment Agency

The management of the development and the Redevelopment Agency are interested in building more projects of this type, especially in conjunction with transit systems. The City and the SDRA have set their priorities in the Mission Valley area for future expansion of the Trolley and building successful transit oriented developments. This area lies northwest of downtown San Diego and is the main area projected to absorb the future growth of the metropolitan area.

The City is not having problems attracting proposals for transit oriented developments involving residential projects, but commercial projects are not faring as well. The SDRA feels there is a domino effect, especially with the extension of the Trolley to the Mission Valley area. Most of these projects are privately funded, but possibilities for partnerships are open. The SDRA feels that it is too early to tell if this development will have any effect on the success of transit oriented developments. They feel that the completion of Phase II will make a big difference in the gentrification of the area but that currently too many of the residents still use their cars instead of the Trolley.

The Developer

This project was a 25 year dream come true for the Barrio Logan community. In an area suffering from blighted conditions, this development is the first step of the area’s rebirth. Phase I is the residential project and Phase II is the commercial center.

The community welcomes this project, as it gives them something they desperately need: affordable, yet attractive housing, something in which they can take pride. Initial community studies were conducted by the architect in addition to working closely with community groups and neighbors to understand their concerns and needs. The project area committee of 15 people organized in 1989 helped identify and address the issues of the community.

The project has accurately reflected Hispanic culture in its design. The building reflects the Mexican culture with urban townhouses and courtyard bungalow housing that is reminiscent of the architecture of the 1930s and 1940s.

The project had a limited construction budget and successfully kept construction costs to $39.00 per square foot. The final cost of $86,000 per unit has made this project one of the most affordable residential developments in San Diego.

The Mercado Apartments and the proposed Phase II commercial center are separated from each other by the Coronado Bridge overpass and by a small plot of land currently occupied and owned by Caltrans. The Metropolitan Transit Development Board would like to link the two developments to the Trolley station two blocks away via a large public plaza. An adjoining mixed use development, containing a police office, a day care center, a restaurant, and office space, would also be linked to the Mercado development via the plaza.

The developer, MAAC Project, does not expect any monetary return on investment, but the investment in the neighborhood and its citizens is seen as priceless. The developer feels that this project was extremely successful and hopes to build and finance similar affordable developments in the future. The SDRA and the City do not expect any return on investment from the residential project. However, they do expect to see some profits from the commercial phase of the project.


The Mercado Apartments have been a hugely successful project, with everyone involved coming out a winner. The City benefits from redeveloping an area of the city which desperately needed a low income housing project and commercial zoning. The residents of the community benefit from the redevelopment and from the low income housing. The developer has built a thriving project offering much more than just housing for the community. The MTDB will benefit from the possibility of more people taking the Trolley from the proposed plaza connecting the station to the development area.

Getting Phase II completed in the near future is the difficult task the developer and City face at this point. It has been a challenge to draw commercial tenants to the site, especially an anchor supermarket, but the promise of a “market place” atmosphere where vendors could rent stalls for their carts, keeping community ties close, encourages the parties to keep working on the project.

This project differs from the suburban La Mesa Village Plaza development greatly. The demographics of each location is distinct, but they do have the Trolley in common. They are both successful transit oriented developments in a high growth region and both are using the infill strategy to their advantage. These projects are good examples for other cities wanting to build similar developments but who are worried about the stigma attached to low income housing or a large mixed use development. A lesson learned from this particular project has been that good communication between the public and private agencies involved must be present to ensure that the final product is one where everyone is happy. The community affected must be involved in the development process in order to have their concerns addressed.



The $12.4 million Mercado Apartments project has been a highly successful development for the City of San Diego and especially for the Barrio Logan community. The San Diego Redevelopment Agency worked closely with the developer, MAAC Project, and a constructive working relationship was created with communication playing a key role in achieving the common goal. The City would like to use this development as a model for attractive, cost effective, low income housing developments, and for transit oriented developments. MAAC Project will continue to provide their services for developing affordable housing and community serving projects. The development was able to keep construction costs down to $39.00 per square foot and still produce an attractive, functional low income residential project.

The Mercado project was completed in May, 1994 and provides a great service to the Barrio Logan community. The Mercado Apartments have given the community a new housing development of which to be proud, and is a symbol of the promise the City of San Diego has made to redevelop the Barrio Logan area to benefit the Hispanic community. The design for the apartments was carefully developed by a local Hispanic architect, keeping in mind the elements of safety, affordability, culture, and originality. The development offers many additional services for the residents and community in the form of a day care center, a community meeting room, a computer learning center, a Head Start office, and social services offices.

This public/private partnership has been considered a success by the City agencies, developer, and the community it serves. The City and developer both hope that this project will serve as a model for future affordable transit based housing developments.


Mercado Apartments, San Diego, California

Residential: Affordable Housing, Community Services Offices

Agencies involved: San Diego Housing Trust Fund

San Diego Housing Commission

Centre City Development Corp.

The San Diego Redevelopment Agency

2 laundry rooms, play area, child care center, community meeting room, computer learning center, and social services offices



Special Features


100K sq. ft. commercial center (proposed)

David Lorimer & Associates

for families earning $14-25,000 annually

1747 Hancock St. Suite D

2 blocks from Trolley; adjacent to 3 bus lines

San Diego, CA 92101

Free Head Start program, computer classes,


and parenting classes





MAAC Project

Odmark & Thelan

1770 Fourth Ave.


San Diego, CA 92101




Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                               4.3 acres

Planning started                               1990

                                                189K sq. ft.

Construction started                        1993

Total Dwelling Units          144

Sales/leasing started              May 1994

Gross Density                       36 units per acre


Total Parking Spaces         213


Number of Stories                2 and 3




Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (sq.ft.)

Number Built

Market Rate Units

One bedroom



$295 - 471 / month

Two bedroom



$311 - 548 / month

Three bedroom



$328 - 618 / month

Development Total






Building Use Information

Development Cost Information


Sq. ft.

% of GBA



Residential Units





Common Areas and










Daycare Center











Dev. Cost per Sq. Ft. of GBA: $39



Parties Involved

Odmark & Thelan

Development Consultants

Cuatro Corp.

Construction Management

David Lorimer Architects & Assoc.


RBF/Sholders & Sanford

Civil Engineer

Estrada Land Planning

Landscape Architect

Sentre Partners & Gong

Financial Consultants

Sullivan, Cummins, Wertz, McDade

Legal Services

& Wallace & Riordan & McKinzie


Nielsen Construction Co.

General Contractor

MAAC Project staff

Project Manager


Figure 6-1 Location of Mercado Apartments, San Diego, CA



Figure 6-2 Site of Mercado Apartments

Figure 6-3 Mercado Apartments and the Coronado Overpass

Figure 6-4 Mercado Apartments from the east



Ballston, Virginia



The Ballston Metro Center is a 711,192 square foot development in Ballston, Virginia, comprised of an office tower, hotel, retail, and residential condominiums. Construction took almost three years to complete, beginning in May of 1987 and finishing in February of 1990.

The 2.7 acre building site incorporates the Ballston Metro Station, a portion of the Virginia-Maryland-Washington, DC Metrorail system. The rationale for this development was to capture some of the 10,000 riders a day who use this station for the ten minute ride to Washington, DC and to build a “new downtown” for Arlington County.

The construction of the Ballston Metro Center was the culmination of County planning for this area beginning in 1972 with the publication of the first draft documents which attempted to rationalize land use and zoning for the anticipated construction of the Metrorail system in Arlington County.

In no small measure the Ballston Metro Center exists today because of the detailed planning and environmental reviews conducted by the County. The approval process for the specific project took less than four months. Its permit application in 1985 conformed almost entirely to the area’s zoning, which, in various forms, had been debated since 1972 and was finally agreed to by the County in 1980.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) which runs the Metrorail system, had an Office of Real Estate with the mandate to maximize income from surplus Metrorail land by promoting public/private developments. The Office of Real Estate had a history of close cooperation and coordination with local jurisdictions, facilitating the construction of projects around other Metrorail stations. Their experience and willingness to deviate from their “typical” terms would prove to be critical for this project.

When the construction of the Ballston Metro Center began, few people outside the immediate area knew where the town of Ballston was. Due to the extensive marketing and public relations undertaken by The Ballston Partnership, Ballston had, by the completion of construction, an image that aided greatly in selling the condominiums and leasing the office tower. In 1985 this public/private volunteer organization began to market and promote the town of Ballston.

In spite of the minimal entitlement risks and favorable land terms obtained from WMATA, the project was not an economic success for the developer, International Development Incorporated (IDI). IDI began planning the project six years before construction completion. The real estate market changed dramatically in those six years, which ultimately overwhelmed the leasing of the office tower and retail.



Arlington County, in the State of Virginia, is an urban county of about 26 square miles located southwest across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. No incorporated towns or cities exist within its boundaries as a result of a 1922 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals which declared Arlington a “continuous, contiguous and homogeneous community.” In 1937, Arlington became the first county in the United States to operate under the “Manager” form of government. The County Board, Arlington’s legislative body, is composed of five members elected at large. The Board appoints the County Manager and a variety of citizen boards, commissions, and advisory groups. The Planning Commission, appointed by the Board, prepares Land Use Plans and evaluates changes in use and zoning. Its recommendations are then made to the County Board which holds public hearings and makes final decisions on land use and other issues.

Arlington’s first General Land Use Plan was adopted by the County Board on August 12, 1961 as one element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. It was modestly amended periodically up until the 1970s, when planning attention was focused on two proposed Metrorail transit corridors, Rosslyn-Ballston and Jefferson Davis. These plans intended to evaluate and capitalize on potential economic and environmental benefits to the County.

The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor was to run from Washington, DC through the middle of the County while the Jefferson Davis Corridor would serve the eastern (Pentagon/National Airport) edge. In 1972, the County published its first comprehensive planning document examining redevelopment alternatives for the Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) Corridor. It detailed three alternative scenarios, with separate growth patterns and traffic studies, as the basis for developing policy guidelines for the Corridor. In 1975, after the publication of additional studies on various aspects of the Corridor’s potential, the County Board adopted A Long Range County Improvement Program (LRCIP), specifying objectives for the R-B Corridor’s future development. The plan set forth a basic development pattern calling for a concentration of high-density mixed use around Metro Stations, a tapering of density towards the surrounding lower density residential areas and preservation of established neighborhoods on the periphery. In 1977, after two years of additional public input, the County Board approved changes to the General Land Use Plan to guide future development in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.

The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor incorporates five Metrorail stations which opened between 1976 and 1979. It is approximately three miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide with each of the five stations approximately ten minutes walk from neighboring stations. Between 1977 and 1984 the county produced detailed Sector Plans, further refining and rationalizing planning and development for each station.

The Ballston metro station is the western terminus of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. The County’s specific planning goal for the Ballston Metrorail area was for it to become the “new downtown” in central Arlington, creating a “dynamic downtown area by ensuring that future development would include a mix of office, commercial and residential uses.” The other four Metrorail stations were each assigned specific roles within the Corridor: Rosslyn would become the core office and hotel area; Court House would become the County government building area; Clarendon would become an “Urban Village;” and Virginia Square would become the cultural, educational and recreational area.



Area Demographics

The County of Arlington in 1990 had a population of 170,936 with a median household income of $44,600. The Ballston Metro Area had a 1990 population of 6,262 (4% of the County’s population) with a slightly higher median family income of $45,700. The ratio of renter occupied to owner occupied housing differs dramatically between the County and the Ballston area. Renters are 55% of the County’s households, whereas 73% of Ballston’s households rent. In addition, while only 28% of the County’s housing units are in structures of 50 or more units, 52% of Ballston’s housing units are in structures of 50 or more units.

The educational level is slightly higher in the Ballston area for individuals 25 years or older. The percentage of high school graduates and college graduates is 90% and 60% respectively in the Ballston area, while 88% of the individuals in the county have high school degrees and 52% have graduated college. Both the County and the Ballston area are predominately white. The population of the County is 77% white, 13% Hispanic, and 11% black. The Ballston area figures are: 81% white, 12% Hispanic, and 5% black.

Transit Options

The Ballston Transit Area contains approximately 260 acres of land and is accessible by significant and varied transportation modes. The Ballston metro station is the last of five metro stations within the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor which form a three mile section of the Orange Line of the Metrorail system. Metrorail is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which also operates the bus system (Metrobus) for the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The Metrorail system in Virginia is funded jointly by the federal government, the State of Virginia, local jurisdictions, and fare paying passengers. It extends from the District of Columbia core in a spoke pattern to the States of Virginia and Maryland.

The combined Metrorail and Metrobus systems transport slightly more than one million passengers each weekday, with Metrorail handling 508,000 of these passengers on its 89 miles of existing track. In comparison, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in the San Francisco Bay Area operates 71 miles of track and handles 252,000 passengers each weekday. The Ballston Metrorail averages slightly less than 10,000 riders daily.

Adjacent to the Ballston Metro Station are seven bus bays which serve as a major transfer point for the Metrobus system. Approximately 18% of Virginia Metrorail riders currently use buses to access Metrorail. Over 90% of Northern Virginia’s residents are located within walking distance of a bus route.

The Ballston area has direct access to Interstate 66, completed in 1983, leading to downtown Washington, DC and route 495, the beltway which circles the city. The County’s main north-south artery is Glebe Road, which crosses through the heart of the Ballston area.



Location, Size, and Occupancy

The 2.72 acre Balston Metro Center site sits directly atop the Balston Metrorail Station with the only pedestrian access to the Metrorail on Balston Metro Center property. In keeping with the County’s desire that Balston become the “new downtown,” this twin towered, mixed use development is the tallest development in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor at 26 stories (246 feet). It comprises 209 hotel rooms, 277 residential condominiums, 202,961 square feet of office space, 14,598 square feet of retail space and 706 parking spaces.

The taller, 26 story East Building tower combines eighteen stories of condominiums atop a mechanical floor and a seven story hotel. The twelve story West Building combines eleven stories of offices atop ground floor retail, with a mezzanine incorporating a health club and additional retail businesses. The four levels of underground parking have reserved spots for the condominiums with the offices, the hotel, and the retail stores sharing parking consistent with their complementary day and evening use patterns.


Occupying an entire block, the glass and brick Metro Center forms an orientation point for both drivers and pedestrians in the Ballston area. By the use of a two story glass enclosed atrium, the public has 24 hour access between and through Ballston Metro Center’s three primary uses: hotel, office and residential. Semi-enclosed pedestrian overpasses tie Ballston Metro Center into Ballston Common Mall, a one million square feet shopping mall jointly developed between the County and Forest City Enterprises in 1986.

The entrances to the three major building components were situated either to maximize privacy and exclusivity or to take advantage of the Metrorail access. The office tower entrance, on the northwest corner site, is located directly between the Metrorail and Metrobus, reflecting the importance of office workers’ use of public transportation.

Previous Uses of Area

The Ballston area in the 1970s contained mostly low density, wood frame commercial and industrial buildings with poorly maintained on-grade parking lots, consistent with its industrial/commercial zoning at that time. The Ballston sector plan was completed and adopted in 1980 as the second in a series of the five sector plans which further defined the County’s 1977 General Land Use Plan. The Ballston plan called for a balance of residential development with high rise offices, a hotel and retail space, regional shopping (Ballston Common Mall), urban open space, and townhouse infill development. As part of the studies done to produce the Sector Plan, detailed traffic and environmental studies were based on the maximum allowable densities.

Shortly after County adoption of the Sector Plan, 30 acres surrounding the Ballston Metro Station were re-zoned to a coordinated mixed use (C-O-A) development district. Additionally, an apartment dwelling and commercial district (R-C) was adopted to encourage medium high-density residential and mixed use development between the C-O-A district and the outlying lower density residential uses. The new zoning ordinance classified all land within the Ballston area according to these districts with development within them “by right.”

As an incentive for the proposed commercial development projects to contain significant residential square footage, these projects could have their permitted building height to floor area ratio (FAR) increased to 6 from a standard 3.5 FAR for proposals without any residential square footage. That is, 250,000 square feet of additional commercial would be permitted for each 100,000 square feet of site square footage for residential/commercial projects, up to the 6 FAR ceiling. Residential zoning was up to 135 units per acre and hotels were permitted up to 210 units per acre. Retail at street level was required of all new commercial development within the C-O-A district.



Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

In 1982, three years after the Ballston Metro station opened, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) issued a “prospectus” for development proposals on several WMATA owned sites at metrorail stations, including Ballston. These sites were parcels of various sizes acquired to accommodate the construction of the Metrorail system and had been identified by the Joint Development Branch of WMATA’s Office of Real Estate as potential public/private development sites.

WMATA had a history of using its surplus real estate in joint developments since the 1970s. WMATA’s public/private development goals, as outlined in its Joint Development Policies and Guidelines are as follows:

·        Attract new riders to the transit system by fostering commercial and residential development projects on WMATA owned or controlled land and on private properties adjacent to Metro stations.

·        Create sources of revenue for the Authority to operate and maintain the transit system by expediently negotiating joint development agreements between WMATA and public or private development entities.

·        Assist the WMATA local jurisdictions to recapture a portion of their past financial contributions and to continue making subsidy payments by expanding the local property tax base and adding value to available local revenue.

The Initial Development Prospectus

WMATA coordinates closely with local jurisdictions within the WMATA Transit District, including Arlington County, to protect local plans, goals, and interests. The Chief Executive and relevant Board members of these jurisdictions receive drafts of offering documents on proposed WMATA public/private development sites and are encouraged to review and comment on the preliminary drafts. Studies conducted by WMATA on individual sites are conducted jointly with the local jurisdictions and consultants.

With these goals and with the close coordination of Arlington County, in 1982 a public/private development prospectus was issued for the 87,118 square feet Ballston Metro Station site, as part of WMATA’s larger comprehensive document, “Prospective.”

No developers responded. After some study and developer interviews, WMATA and the County recognized that, because of the Ballston Sector Plan’s C-O-A zoning and its density bonus incentive formula which encouraged sites with a minimum size of 80,000 square feet, WMATA did not own and control a sufficiently large enough site to effectively utilize the Sector Plan’s benefits. There were indications, though, that if a contiguous 31,414 square foot parcel, owned by a private party, were added to WMATA’s parcel, an economically viable development could be accomplished on what would then be an entire city block with 118,532 square feet.

With that in mind, WMATA, for the first time, discarded competitive bidding and gave exclusive negotiating rights to Clarence Dodge Jr., owner of the contiguous smaller parcel. However, there was a stipulation that Dodge contract an experienced developer, acceptable to WMATA, to finance and build a mixed use project on the combined properties.

International Development Incorporated and Development Partnership

In late 1984, Dodge entered into a partnership with International Development Incorporated (IDI) to develop and build a hotel and condominium project, called Ballston Center Associates Limited Partnership (BCA). Concurrently, BCA entered into a partnership with Jesse Lee, a qualified “minority business enterprise,” to develop and build an office and retail project on land to be leased from WMATA, called Ballston Office Center Associates Limited Partnership (BOCA).

IDI, a large regional developer, developed the 22 story Rosslyn Metro Center, an office and retail tower built atop the Rosslyn metro station in Rosslyn, Virginia. Mr. Lee, an Asian American, was Senior Vice President of IDI responsible for procuring project financing and negotiating agreements with WMATA.

Majestic Builders Corporation, a regional builder, would be the construction manager for the combined project, to be constructed in one phase. The Smith William’s Group would be the design architects while Holle, Lin, Shogren Architects, P.C. would produce the working drawings. The architect and the engineer would integrate the design of both projects.

Creation of the Ballston Partnership

During the formation of the development partnership in 1985, a unique volunteer organization was formed to promote the Ballston area’s qualities and opportunities. Called The Ballston Partnership, it is an organization of County officials, residents, merchants, business owners, real estate brokers, and developers committed to advancing Ballston’s opportunities. Its funding comes from the private sector and from Arlington County and employs a full time Executive Director and an assistant. Its goals are to bring consensus to the planning and development process, help implement the Ballston Sector Plan, and market and promote Ballston to the development community, commercial tenants, and consumers.



City Approvals

After ten months of planning, design, and engineering, on October 15, 1985 formal application was made to Arlington County’s Planning Department for project approval. Two months later the Planning Commission approved the project; and on January 4, 1986 the Arlington County Board unanimously approved the project.

The application to the Planning Department and the design of the project followed the C-O-A zoning and, therefore, the Sector Plan, except for BCA’s request for an additional 0.25 FAR, for a total of 6.25 FAR, which is above the standard 6.0 FAR. With the costly public spaces BCA designed into their project to accommodate the Metrostation and the bus bays, they requested the additional income producing building square footage to partially offset the unusual costs.

The County did not approve the request but instead allowed BCA’s taller East Building to rise 30 feet above the 216 foot zoning height limit to 246 feet. In addition the County required a portion of the retail space to be placed on the second floor mezzanine to enliven the pedestrian walkway connecting Ballston Metro Center with Ballston Common Mall.

As one of the goals of the extensive planning and of the public hearings sponsored by the County in preparing the Sector Plan, BCA’s proposed project obtained planning approval in less than four months. The statistics comparing the proposed project with what was eventually approved and constructed are strikingly similar.

Table 7-1 Ballston Planning Application

Proposed vs. Constructed


Planning Application



Hotel Rooms








Office Square Feet





WMATA Negotiations

While planning approval was being obtained, BCA began negotiating with WMATA on the subdivision of WMATA’s 87,119 square feet parcel into a 15,000 square feet parcel which BCA would purchase and a 72,119 square feet parcel which BCA would lease for 99 years. The hotel and condominium tower had to be entirely on fee simple land to facilitate the marketing and sale of the condominiums. The site to be purchased from WMATA, combined with the 31,414 square foot parcel already owned by the partnership, would allow the hotel and condominium tower land to be legally separate from the office and retail component, thus permitting the sale of the condominium units.

To be negotiated were the financial terms of the deal between WMATA and BCA, the degree of incorporation of bus bays into the project and WMATA’s rights to review and approve design and construction elements.

The Ballston Metro Station, the last stop on the Orange Line, opened in 1979 and had become a major passenger transfer point from bus to rail, using the vacant WMATA site for bus traffic. Critical to WMATA was how many bus bays BCA would incorporate into their development to maintain the transfer point, since the vacant parcel would be built on. Additionally, WMATA had to determine if passenger bus to rail traffic would be more conveniently served by the new Vienna Station, scheduled to open in 1987. The Vienna Station would extend the Orange Line another five stops beyond Ballston and would become the new terminus of the Orange Line.



On September 8, 1986 separate land lease and purchase agreements were signed which included the following leases and terms.

The 72,199 Square Feet Land Lease

1) Seven bus bays would be designed into the project creating a sawtooth curb and sidewalk to accommodate the loading and unloading of pedestrians. This design would reduce private vehicle traffic on Stuart Street. By placing the bays on Stuart Street, passengers would be only a few yards from the entrance to the Metrorail Station. Initially, WMATA desired thirteen bus bays but, after working with the design team to reassess expected bus traffic, they agreed to reduce the bays to seven.

2) BCA agreed to build a dispatchers’ kiosk, lavatory, and related facilities for WMATA’s use.

3) With respect to all design and construction impacting or materially affecting the existing Metrostation and related bus facilities, BCA agreed to provide all design and development plans for WMATA’s written approval and to allow inspections during construction. All comments and requested changes from WMATA were to be addressed by BCA before additional work could proceed.

4) Design and construction that would not impact or materially affect WMATA’s facilities would be reviewed by WMATA and could be commented on, but BCA would need only to give such comments “due consideration.”

5) It was agreed that the construction of the project would not materially interfere with ongoing Metrostation and Metrobus operations.

6) The lease term would be for 99 years, broken down into a 60 year term commencing September 8, 1986 with one 39 year extension. WMATA typically used a 50/49 year lease but, at the request of BCA’s lenders, WMATA agreed to extend the first term of the lease from 50 to 60 years. WMATA would not, however, subordinate their land lease to either construction or permanent financing.

7) Upon termination of the lease in 99 years, BCA would surrender and deliver the property constructed on the leased land to WMATA.

8) Until construction was completed and the first office and retail tenants commenced rental payments to Ballston Metro Center, BCA would make lease payments to WMATA of $25,000 for year 1 and $75,000 for years 2 and 3. It was assumed in the lease that the project would be completed by the end of year 3 and at that time BCA would begin paying $300,000 rent in year 4, incrementally increasing to $450,000 for years 7 through 60. WMATA would also be paid additional annual rent of 8.5% of revenue above an annual base figure of $5,500,000.

9) Two years before the automatic 39 year renewal, three appraisers, one each to be chosen by BCA and WMATA and the third to be chosen by the other two appraisers, would calculate a new rent for the renewal period, assuming the land was unimproved but taking into consideration the cost to demolish and remove the existing improvements.

10) BCA agreed to submit to WMATA annual certified financial statements.

The 14,919 Square Feet Land Purchase

1) A Base Payment of $1,470,000 ($98 ft) would be paid to WMATA in the following four installments:

March 31, 1989         $500,000

March 31, 1990         $300,000

March 31, 1991         $300,000

March 31, 1992         $370,000

2) An additional payment of 1.5% of the gross income from the sales of the condominiums would be due to WMATA upon the sale of the last condominium unit, but not later than March 31, 1992.

Construction Scheduling and Financing

Construction of the $96 million project began in May, 1987 with Signet Bank of Virginia as the lead construction lender. Participating in the construction loan was Chase Manhattan Bank, Sovran Bank and Dominion Bank of Northern Virginia. The Equitable Life Assurance Society provided a standby permanent loan on the office/retail portion of the project.

As part of the requirements of the construction loan, Signet Bank would not close the loan until at least 50% of the condominiums, to be called Alta Vista, were presold at prices ranging from $80,000 for a lower level studio to $400,000 for a two bedroom penthouse with a den. The hotel, managed by Ramada, opened for business in September of 1989, slightly more than two years after groundbreaking. The office and retail portions opened during December of 1989 and the condominiums, which were almost sold out, opened in February of 1990.



Ballston Metro Center was successful for both the County of Arlington and WMATA but was a questionable economic deal for IDI and BCA.

Public Policy Results

Arlington County

The County of Arlington obtained the centerpiece of their “new downtown” in accordance with their Sector Plan and got a substantial increase in assessed property, jobs, and residential units. It achieved its goal of mixing residential and commercial to achieve 24 hour activity.

In November, 1994, KPMG Peat Marwick LLP released a study evaluating the return, if any, Virginia received on its financial contributions to the Metrorail system. Based on the incremental increase in tax revenues from additional development and the associated jobs directly related to Metrorail’s presence in Virginia, the study found that the State achieved a 19.2% return on its investment, a powerful argument for mass transit and public/private joint venture developments.

The County’s efforts in creating the Ballston Sector Plan and zoning plan were praised by all participants because they brought certainty to the process. With traffic and environmental studies completed by the County and issues regarding what could be built on the site predetermined, IDI was able to negotiate quickly and accurately with the minority land owner and WMATA on the terms of the land purchases and lease.

The Sector Plan prevented the development from being delayed by public hearings and planning meetings because the public had previously reviewed and discussed potential developments on all the sites within the Ballston Area. Very early in the approval process the architects and engineers were able to design what ultimately was built. Obtaining planning approval for a development of this size in less than four months is testament to the success of the Sector Plan and the efforts the County and community made in planning for the future of Ballston.


The County and WMATA’s close cooperation and WMATA’s ability to modify its customary public/private guidelines were instrumental in changing a site that initially received no developer interest into a site that became the focal point of Arlington County’s new downtown.

WMATA clearly benefited from increased ridership on Metrorail and the conversion of vacant residual land to a valuable 99 year stream of cash. To their credit they accommodated BCA where necessary. For example, they permitted seven bus bays instead of the desired thirteen and agreed to subdivide and sell a portion of their site instead of leasing the entire site, as was originally contemplated.

Ballston Partnership

The Ballston Partnership proved to be an especially effective and useful advocate not only for the Ballston Metro Center but for the entire Ballston area. At the time of the initial planning of the Ballston Metro Center, Ballston was an area of Virginia with which few people were familiar. The five years between 1985 when the Ballston Partnership was initiated and 1990 when the Ballston Metro Center was completed allowed the Partnership to do significant marketing on Ballston’s behalf. According to a spokesperson from IDI, the partnership was “a huge lift” in marketing the condominiums, office space, and the hotel, and that it significantly aided all the development projects in the area. Twice a month, meetings were held by the Partnership with all the active developers, the public and County officials to provide updates on various projects and to provide a forum to solve common problems affecting many of the participants. The County Signage Ordinance proved to be cumbersome for all the developers building at that time and, with the advocacy of the Partnership, it was amended by the County.

Private Developer Results

IDI and BCA assumed the risks and rewards of any developer. Their entitlement risks were minimized by the Sector Plan and by accommodations from WMATA. To help IDI reduce their risks further and in recognition of the large amount of cash necessary to get to construction loan close, WMATA agreed to minimal, up-front lease and land purchase payments until project completion.

With the initial requirements of the construction lender (typical of lender requirements in the area) most of the condominiums were sold before completion of construction, at an average price of around $150,000.

When the 203,000 square foot office building was completed in December of 1989, two other buildings of higher quality were completed one block away with a combined total of 800,000 square feet of space. IDI was unable to lease the building at its original rate of $26.50 foot with the competition it faced. After two years of effort the building was finally leased but at average rents of $18 foot, 32% less than the original asking price. Because of the lower rents and the increased length of time to lease the space, Equitable, who had placed a loan on the building upon construction completion, foreclosed on the commercial building in 1992.

The problems of the commercial portion affected the ability of the partnership to make the final “Additional Payments” to WMATA on the land purchase. Total condominium sales revenue were approximately $41,200,000 triggering an Additional Payment to WMATA of 1.5% or $618,000. IDI was not able to make this payment as called for under the terms of the September 8, 1986 Purchase Agreement. An amendment, therefore, was agreed to on December 20, 1993 which provided for a $300,000 lump sum payment on December 31, 1993 and quarterly installment payments of $53,000 through June 30, 1995 along with accrued interest. IDI was able to fulfill the terms of this Amendment which terminated all of WMATA’s rights in the 14,919 square foot parcel.

The hotel portion of the project was sold by IDI in 1996, formally ending IDI’s relationship with the Ballston Metro Center. The project proved to be a difficult development economically for IDI and BCA.



The Ballston Metro Center is an example of a farsighted County government, a flexible transit agency, and an experienced risk taking developer combining vision and efforts to produce what is unquestionably a successful addition to the Ballston community. Many of the risks and costs of public/private development can be minimized and reduced as occurred with the Ballston Metro Center. What can never be reduced entirely is the market risk all real estate projects face upon completion. Six years elapsed between the time IDI became the developer of the site and final construction completion. Much had changed in the real estate markets during that period, rendering obsolete many of the absorption and lease up assumptions underpinning the economics of the Ballston Metro Center.


The $96 million Ballston Metro Center is considered successful by WMATA, Arlington County, and the Ballston Partnership. The Metro Center increased ridership on Metrorail, it created a ”new downtown,” and it proved the validity and effectiveness of a public/private partnership. It also showed that real estate cycles can frustrate even the most detailed and thorough construction and leasing plans. IDI, the developer of the Metro Center, benefited greatly from the County’s farsighted planning process, from WMATA’s willingness to enact innovative land disposition land, and from the Ballston Partnership’s advocacy and marketing. In the end, however, unfortunate timing in the real estate cycle made the Metro Center a marginal real estate development.


Ballston Station, Washington, DC

Mixed use: residential, retail, office, hotel; onsite shopping with transit facility.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) owned 87,118 square feet adjacent to the Metrorail and negotiated a land sale and lease terms critical to the development of the site.


Special Features:

The 26 story tower was constructed atop the metrorail station.





IDI, Inc

Smith Williams Group

14901 Pennfield Circle

Harmony, CA

Silver Spring, Maryland





Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                           2.7 acres

                                                            117,612 sq.ft.

Site Acquired                                       1986

Construction Begins                          1987

Total Dwelling Units                      277

Construction Ends                              1989

Gross Density                                   103 units/acre

Occupancy Begins                      Fall, 1989

Total Parking Spaces                     760


Number of Stories                            26





Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (avg.sq. ft.)

Number Built




One bedroom



Two bedroom



Three bedroom



Development Total


                              277 units





Building Use Information

Building Use

Square Feet

% of GBA

Residential Units



















Figure 7-1 View of Ballston Metro Center, Ballston, VA


Figure 7-2  Another view of Ballston Metro Center



Gresham, Oregon



Gresham Central Apartments is a high-density residential apartment project situated in the largely middle income and blue-collar city of Gresham, approximately 15 miles east of downtown Portland and at the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge. The project consists of one to three bedroom flats and town homes with rental prices set at market rate. Occupying 2.58 acres, the irregularly shaped site sits on the edge of the aging downtown district and comprises land purchased by the developer as well as a small parcel granted by the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, the local transit service provider commonly known as Tri-Met.

The $4.9 million project, developed through an agreement with Tri-Met and Gresham Development Company, was completed in September, 1995. It consists of 90 units in six wood frame buildings of two and three stories. There is a pedestrian promenade on the north, which abuts the MAX light rail tracks and the Roberts Avenue pedestrian way on the west. Privately owned parcels are on the remaining sides. Parking is at grade and covered, in the center of the development. There are no garages facing the street.

The project is distinguished from typical apartment projects in the region in several ways. It has almost twice the density of conventional developments and incorporates many design features geared toward reinforcement of pedestrian activity. The balancing of higher than average density and greater public orientation helps tie the project to the surrounding community and to the adjacent light rail transit station. The pedestrian related improvements to the north and west of the site close a gap between the light rail station and the Farmers’ Market, one block south.


Project Concept

Several local, regional and national agencies, and the developer, played crucial roles in assuring the project was completed as envisioned. The two key participants were Tri-Met and the Gresham Development Company (GDC). Other agencies that were significantly involved include the Federal Transit Administration, Metro (the Portland region’s metropolitan planning organization), the City of Gresham, the Portland Development Commission, the State of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Portland General Electric Company.

Due to a shortage of land available for new construction, the Portland region had come under increasing pressure to experiment with housing which would be subject to initial public site control while also achieving high quality design standards and setting precedents for greater density. One untested mechanism was a development agreement between the private developer and the public agency. Planning officials felt that to be effective this agreement needed to be coupled with the ability to secure public grants in a timely and efficient manner. Tri-Met and GDC entered into an agreement because of the potential of developing a high quality, high-density showcase project in proximity to the light rail. A project had recently been developed in the mid-corridor segment at 163rd and Burnside Streets but had not been successful enough to generate enthusiasm for other projects. Behind the scenes, however, the Tri-Met staff was actively engaged in looking at “every scrap of right of way we could build a project from” (from interview with Phil Whitmore, Gresham Central Project Manager, September, 1994).

Because of its role as regional transit provider, Tri-Met has an interest in generating increased ridership on its system. One way to bring this about is by encouraging high-density development in close proximity to its light rail facilities. Tri-Met’s particular goal at Gresham Central was to establish a model of regional significance for developers, agencies, and the public to examine in terms of density, building massing, and orientation and reinforcement of pedestrian activity. Tri-Met was more aggressive here than on typical joint development projects and acted as a full partner in the process. The agency’s interest paralleled the developer’s: to generate interest among other parties to undertake similar projects.

The developer, Gresham Development Company, was led by partners Stan Christiansen and Frank Piacentini. They had a great deal of experience in apartment construction, but this was their first foray into transit oriented development. Besides the sense of pride that comes from building a unique, quality product, the developer was naturally seeking a reasonable return on investment.



The Gresham Central site had been developed early in the century. It was adjacent to an active freight rail line owned by the Portland Traction Company. The freight line operated until Tri-Met’s purchase in 1983 of the 0.7 acre parcel to the north of the Banfield Light Rail Project. At one time a nut processing plant occupied the Tri-Met portion of the site. Two residences were later built but they were razed in the 1960s. On the two acre parcel to the south was a vacant house, derelict, overgrown with blackberry bushes and strewn with trash and rubble. Tri-Met’s portion was not developable, being encumbered by utilities easements.

In an effort to determine the market for transit oriented development, in 1985 Tri-Met commissioned Economic Research Associates to produce a report establishing reasonable rents for another east Multnomah County site. The report determined that rents would need to be set $50 a month above market rates, which killed the prospects for a privately financed project.

In August of 1991, Tri-Met initiated talks with the developer to consider combining the Tri-Met owned Gresham site, which was wider than necessary for the Banfield LRT (Light Rail Transit) right of way, with the adjacent privately owned property. The Tri-Met property was unusable due to utility easements encumbering its north side. The easements included overhead power distribution lines (157kV) and underground storm and sanitary sewer line easements. If the two properties could be combined and the easements relocated, the site would be developable. Tri-Met’s strategy was to give the smaller parcel of land to the developer at no cost, provided that the project be modified to meet local and regional goals for project density and transit orientation. The conditions attached to the conveyance of this parcel were verbally agreed to by both parties at the start of the project and written into a sale and development agreement three years later. In essence the Tri-Met owned parcel would be turned over to the developer at the start of construction. The developer would use this parcel for construction of a portion of the apartments and the public promenade. Upon project completion, the developer would deed the promenade to the City as a public park. The developer also agreed to provide continuing upkeep for the promenade.

Four years later, in September, 1995, the sale of Tri-Met’s property to the developer was completed, and construction commenced. In the interim period, a great deal of work went into forming the agreements which were to make the project a reality.


Physical Features

The project site is roughly bounded by Roberts Avenue to the west, the light rail tracks and 10th Drive to the north, Hood Avenue to the east, and N.E. 5th Street to the south. It is an “infill” project in that it sits at the edge of the old suburban downtown (four blocks to the south) in a relatively mature and developed area. The area is ripe for high intensity redevelopment as low and moderate density residential and light industrial uses predominate.

Zoning of the site is “TD” as adopted under Gresham’s 1994 ordinance which allows high intensity, mixed-use development up to 42 units per acre in gross density. Several parts of Gresham adjacent to the light rail have been similarly zoned, but Gresham Central is the first to take advantage of this designation.

The site is well oriented to existing transportation facilities. Directly northeast of the project is the Gresham Central MAX light rail station with weekday, peak hour trains operating on seven and a half minute intervals and non-peak trains generally at fifteen minute intervals. The site is well served by buses with several lines operating within two blocks of the site (Routes 26, 23, 51, 84, 80, 9, and 4).

The physical characteristics of the project are noteworthy and atypical for the region. Building massing and orientation to the street, rather than to the interior of the project, is an effort to reinforce pedestrian activity. Parking is relegated to the interior of the complex, and no garages face the street. The units themselves, mostly two bedroom apartments, are laid out in an unconventional fashion. The first story consists of one level units with front and rear entries, while the second and third stories each share half the floor space of the lower units. The upper units are thus “stacked” two each over one ground level unit with a party wall dividing them. Entries to the upper level units are oriented toward the central parking.

The lower floor units are surprisingly light and airy due to their east-west orientation and because the first story units have both front and rear entrances: one faces the promenade and the other faces the parking area. The individual unit appears spacious with a large kitchen area opening to the living room. There is no apparent waste of space. The upper floor (two story) units seem compact by comparison but by no means “boxy.” As a whole, the two bedroom units would be attractive for couples or one child families.

The building facade is regularly articulated, presenting a “rowhouse,” versus a monolithic apartment, appearance. Windows face directly onto the street or the promenade. Pedestrian orientation is further reinforced by first story “semi-private” front porches which face the street or the promenade. A net density of 35 units per acre is achieved on a site of 2.58 acres without the use of structured parking.

Aesthetically, the facades echo early-American building fronts, borrowing from turn-of-the-century eastern and western U.S. vernaculars. Conspicuously absent is a contrived, overly articulated “gingerbread” or “Miami Vice” appearance, prevalent in West Coast, multi-family residential construction of the 1980s. Above average quality of construction is evident. A “heavy timber” motif is applied to the facades and rear porches. The use of oversized, exposed stair stringers adds a sense of solidity to the overall appearance. The facade of the buildings enhances the streetscape and vice-versa. Overall the facades appear inviting and “touchable” to the strolling pedestrian.

All units have “semi-private” porches, with zero setback from the sidewalk; lower units face either the sidewalk or the promenade and the upper units face the parking lot. The porches fronting the promenade or the sidewalk achieve a balance between exclusivity and public orientation, seen by many planners as essential for civic and private life.

The most significant unifying feature of the project, the pedestrian promenade, is a combination of landscaping and hardscaping and links the project directly to the light rail station. The concept was realized only after lengthy negotiations with the utility companies and the City, and after the concurrence of Tri-Met Operations and a redesign of the proposed light rail double tracking.

Design of the drainage facilities for the project was in itself extraordinarily complex. To reduce the demand on the City’s storm system, an on-site retention facility was required. Project densities precluded surface basins, so the drainage system is underground. It consists of oval “squish pipe” (49” x 33”) which collects surface runoff from the development and discharges the detained storm water through orifices to the public sewer system, thus mitigating demand on the system during storms.


The Partners and Participants

Six different grants were required to make the project a financial success. A significant and painstaking coordination effort, spearheaded by Tri-Met Project Manager Phil Whitmore, was essential to the project’s final success. One of the primary sources of funding for the project was sought through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement-Transit Oriented Development program (CMAQ-TOD). This program targets public funds to transit supportive demonstration projects. In the case of Gresham Central, CMAQ-TOD funds were sought to help close the financing gap and generate a reasonable profit for the developer.

Tri-Met and GDC were the two main partners in the project. As the Portland region’s public transportation provider, Tri-Met operates over 80 bus routes and MAX, the 15 mile light rail line serving the east side and the suburb of Gresham. Under construction and scheduled to open in 1998, the Westside MAX will serve the burgeoning communities of Beaverton and Hillsboro. The extension will more than double the system to 33 miles of track, 46 stations, and 72 vehicles.

Tri-Met supports Metro’s Region 2040 Growth Concept, the regional blueprint for development in greater Portland, by orienting its long term service planning and system expansion accordingly. The fully realized Primary Transit Network (PTN) will consist of a four tiered service network (LRT, high capacity bus, trunk line bus, and regular bus service) operating on intervals of 15 minutes or less throughout the day. This is thought to be the minimum level of service needed to justify significant transit orientation in development or incorporation of transit preferences in street design. Priority treatment of some surface bus lines will be instituted in order to make these modes more competitive with private transport.

At the regional level, Tri-Met is in a support role for land use. Tri-Met uses public/private partnerships as a direct or an indirect means of assuring that housing and job growth occur within a five minute walk of its Primary Transit Network. However, Tri-Met sees itself as a coordinator and not a developer and does not directly seek land use authority. “We are in the bus and train business, not the development business.” (Interview with Kim Knox, Project Manager at Tri-Met, June 15, 1996.) This does not preclude the agency’s commitment to be a “good neighbor” and to facilitate community objectives.

One way that Tri-Met has tried to further community objectives and bridge the gap between public land and private investment is through the publication of individual Station Area Development Profiles. The profiles identify “opportunity” sites for public/private development located within walking distance of stations. These sites are defined as vacant land, surface parking lots or land with improvements totaling ten per cent or less of the assessed parcel value. They are concentrated on the new Westside, not the original Banfield/Gresham corridor.

The Westside Light Rail Corridor, currently under construction and set to open in 1998, consists of many large acreage tracts of land; over 1500 vacant, developable acres (so-called “greenfield” sites) have been identified as eligible for high-density uses, with many large parcels in single ownership. Many local planning jurisdictions along the corridor, which cuts through the center of the “Silicon Forest,” have adopted interim guidelines promoting transit oriented development. At least one, Hillsboro, has published a proposed zoning code and comprehensive plan amendments for station areas. These sites are also typically in close proximity to the largest employers in the region, and it is estimated that transit supportive planning policy could draw 81,000 daily riders to the combined Eastside/Westside corridor, versus 39,000 if there was adherence to conventional land uses.

Unlike the westside corridor, the Banfield (Eastside) corridor, in which Gresham Central is located, traverses mainly older, established areas of development. “Greenfield” parcels are not available here, so infill sites of five acres and less present the greatest opportunity.

Tri-Met has been involved in a handful of public/private partnerships but few are beyond the infancy stage. Recent forays by Tri-Met into the public/private development arena include the Civic Stadium project, a partnership with the Portland Development Commission, and Howard’s Way. Both these projects are in the Goose Hollow area immediately west of downtown and sit on Tri-Met owned land adjacent to West Side Light Rail. In both cases Tri-Met’s approach is to contribute the land to the project at no cost to the developer in exchange for meeting certain “non-conventional” standards. Typically Tri-Met provides cost estimates and proformas to expedite the development process and to reduce out-of-pocket costs to the developer.

Besides its involvement as the other “full” partner in Gresham Central, Tri-Met provided the lion’s share of technical assistance and inter-agency coordination, wrote and executed the development agreement, relocated utilities easements, and provided a new consolidated easement on the north portion of the property in the dedicated pedestrian way.

FTA was initially listed as a significant partner in the project. CMAQ funding normally requires approval by FTA. At Gresham Central, CMAQ-TOD funding was sought for the promenade. Tri-Met attempted to justify the promenade as an eligible FTA joint development project because of its beneficial effect on transit accessibility and on environmental grounds. They justified the storm sewer system, which was designed to accommodate drainage from the LRT trackway, for the same reasons.

Oregon is the first state to establish an urban growth boundary (UGB), which is incorporated in the Region 2040 concept. The urban growth boundary concept, established when statewide land use goals were developed in the early 1970s, seeks to contain sprawl and provide a definite transition between rural and urban land. This is accomplished by densifying urban communities within the region, focusing growth along existing and planned transit corridors, preserving open spaces, keeping new lot sizes small, and creating compact business areas. The UGB is intended to encompass an adequate supply of buildable land which can be provided with roads, public utilities, and other services to accommodate growth for 20 years. Oregon’s transportation planning policy has embraced a strong public commitment to transit. Design charrettes for the 50 year planning process are characterized by strong community involvement. The planned construction of new roads has been scrutinized and limited where deemed appropriate.

Metro, the Portland region metropolitan planning organization, is responsible for initiating and coordinating regional aspects of transportation and land use planning and executing the state’s land development mandate to maintain the 20 year supply of land for development. Metro is authorized to compel cities and counties to alter land use plans if they conflict with state and regional goals. In 1992 the Metro Charter was adopted based on the Regional Urban Growth Goals and Objectives (RUGGOs) established by the community. It called for a regional framework plan to accommodate growth while sustaining a high quality of life.

Metro’s current schedule calls for the regional framework plan (Region 2040) to be adopted by late 1997. Major components of the plan consist of regional transit expansion and improvements plus a commitment to affordable and higher density housing (a minimum 50% of new housing is geared to be multi-family). Another element of the regional plan which sets it apart from other MPOs is a 50 year time frame to allow long term growth, while avoiding major expansions of the urban growth boundary. The major elements of the plan have enjoyed widespread support from local officials. Because of its statutory responsibility for managing the region’s urban growth boundary, Metro has set up “urban reserves” in order to direct future growth. Given current, conventional development patterns, projections indicate that land inside the boundary will be exhausted in 12 years, versus the 20 years required under the Region 2040 plan.

Metro had not specifically studied redevelopment in the Gresham Central area as an element of the Region 2040 Plan but did have a regional interest in helping to achieve the density goals stated in the plan. At Tri-Met’s behest, Metro was initially listed in the development agreement as a full partner, primarily as a funnel for FTA CMAQ funding. Tri-Met did not wish to be both grantor and recipient of the CMAQ grants required to make the project financially successful and sought Metro’s help in disbursing a portion of the grant money. Metro placed the necessary grants on the State Transportation Impact Program (STIP), elevated the project to higher status (along with five other projects) for federal scrutiny, and addressed the federal financing eligibility issues. Eventually Metro’s involvement in the project dwindled, along with the prospects for significant CMAQ funding which Metro unsuccessfully attempted to marshal.

The City of Gresham, like many of the region’s municipalities, has adopted density guidelines in keeping with Metro’s regional vision. The City assisted the project by accepting the promenade as a city park, agreeing to provide some replacement of “street furniture” and granting a 5 year abatement of city taxes for the project. Gresham also sponsored the applications for CMAQ funding.

The Portland Development Commission (PDC) provided the technical staff for a CMAQ-TOD steering committee and oversight of the City of Gresham during the CMAQ funding application process. Later in the process, PDC handled disbursement of CMAQ funding after it became clear that Tri-Met and Metro were having problems meeting FTA eligibility requirements.

The State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) established the CMAQ funds which were partially used to finance the project. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) channeled highway funds from FTA to Tri-Met and provided the contracts for Tri-Met. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) became a participant in the later stages of the project channeling federal funds which were unavailable through FTA.

Portland General Electric Company (PGE) redefined their easement in a narrow strip on the north edge of the property, relocated their poles to the center of this easement, quit-claimed the remainder of the parcel to Tri-Met, and permitted joint use of the easement by City storm and sanitary sewer lines. This allowed Tri-Met’s formerly unusable parcel to be developed.


Details of the Negotiations

The Nature of the Consensus Building Process

The unconventional features of the site and buildings and the need for public financing made negotiations extremely complex. Federal requirements had to be balanced with the concerns of the local community, requiring a great deal of “juggling” of funds and making it difficult to identify guaranteed sources of grant money. Coordinating and negotiating with all the concerned agencies without assistance from a public agency would probably deter most developers from accepting a project of this type, even a relatively small one like Gresham Central. “For the amount of work involved,” according to Phil Whitmore, “this should have been a $25 million dollar project, not $5 million.”

Laying the Groundwork

To make the project work and to put transit and density at the forefront, the tangle of easements and utilities in the 0.7 acres that Tri-Met owned had to be worked out. PGE originally had title to the easement with a 157kV distribution line running overhead, but sanitary and storm sewer lines also occupied the strip, and the City had plans for another sanitary sewer to run through the site. Complicating the physical constraints were potential legal problems with PGE. Exacerbating these issues, Tri-Met’s engineering consultant was in the process of designing a second MAX track which would require widening the right of way to the south and into the Tri-Met parcel.

Late in 1993 Tri-Met Operations, the City and PGE reached agreement: the easement could be consolidated into a narrow band on the north part of the Tri-Met parcel abutting the trackway. This easement would comprise the pedestrian promenade; at the center of the promenade would be the relocated PGE overhead distribution lines and on either side of the pole line would be the relocated storm and sanitary sewers. Still unresolved was the track widening issue. In mid-1994, the double track consultant concluded it was feasible to reduce right of way requirements by installing a “French Drain” subsurface drainage system rather than a surface ditch as previously planned. Tri-Met was left with a 0.58 acre parcel to turn over to the developer, to be consolidated with his parcel to the south.

Tri-Met/Developer Negotiations

Although several agencies were involved in the development process, Tri-Met was the chief negotiator and advocate on the developer’s behalf. Tri-Met served as a conduit for all issues involving grant money and concessions requested from the developer by other agencies. A Sale and Development Agreement was signed by Tri-Met and the developer in August of 1994 which partially relieved the developer of dealing with multiple agencies.

Tri-Met conditionally asked the developer for a number of design considerations to be included in the project, including:

·        Orientation of the project toward the track and station along the proposed promenade, in order to create a visual connection

·        Placement of building facades on the street

·        Placement of parking at the project’s interior

·        Increased density above the norm for suburban residential projects.

The developer’s proforma initially indicated a need for gap financing of $500,000 for the $4.9 million project. The developer agreed to supply $250,000 of that amount by converting some of his profits into an equity source, but he lacked the other $250,000. These funds were sought by Tri-Met, which subsequently identified $239,000, including $57,000 through a waiver of the city’s park fee, $80,000 as the capitalized value of the city’s tax abatement contribution, $72,000 in CMAQ-TOD storm sewer grants, and $30,000 in direct housing assistance grant “switch” money. Since this amount was sufficiently close to their expectations, the development team felt they had a credible project.

Tri-Met and City of Gresham

At an early stage, Tri-Met had negotiated with the City of Gresham on several facets of the project and eventually sought City financial support. Prior to 1991, there was little community opposition to this project. At public meetings in 1993, local residents expressed enthusiasm for new high-density housing in the downtown area which had the potential of stimulating neighborhood revival and increasing property values. As part of the City’s “Visioning” process for downtown, there emerged strong support for housing of up to five stories.

At an early stage, the City agreed in principle to consolidate its storm and sanitary sewer easements on the north portion of the site and to absorb the added cost of rerouting a second planned sanitary sewer alignment around the promenade.

Specific differences of opinion were evident, however. The Downtown Gresham Business Association appealed to the City Staff, and eventually to Tri-Met staff, for a “small-block” grid, as a means of bringing more development into the downtown area. The proposal to extend 7th Avenue through the site would have reduced by 33% the densities sought by Tri-Met. Tri-Met also argued that a small-block grid, while advocated by some planners as an excellent prototype for transit oriented development, would, in the case of a large development, be an incongruity. It wasn’t until the developer, with support from Tri-Met, threatened to cancel the project that the Business Association, which was without City backing, relented.

Resistance from the City was encountered, however, when it was learned that 40% of the project needed to consist of moderate priced housing. Worried about community opposition to a large “low income” contingent, the City Council withdrew its support for the state housing financial share, preventing the infusion of expected tax credits and low interest loans. The additional development cost of requiring all units to rent at market rate was between $500,000 and $600,000. This was enough of a change to require a redesign, with no structured parking and retail space, thus dropping the achievable residential density.

The City was required to make additional concessions on the project. In the early 1990s the city began imposing System Development Charges (SDC) on new projects. The SDCs are fees assessed on new developments, calculated by pro rating a project’s expected burden on the existing infrastructure and utilities. The fees are phased in over a period of several years. Ironically, Gresham Central was the first residential project in the city to feel the impact of this fee structure. The total SDC amounted to $377,000, a lower fee than would have applied if the development had not occurred in a transit overlay district. The parks fee portion of the SDC was waived by the City because of the project’s contribution of a pedestrian promenade. This waiver amounted to a $57,000 savings from the total, requiring an SDC contribution of $320,000.

Tax abatements have also been applied to the project by the City. Essentially, the City will withhold taxing improvements on the land for the project’s first five years, amounting to about $80,000 in savings for the owners.

Tri-Met and Federal Transit Administration

Tri-Met was required to negotiate with the FTA at many points in the development process and the going was not entirely smooth. Initially, Tri-Met was required to reimburse the FTA for the federal portion of the value in the Tri-Met owned parcel. To do so required Tri-Met’s use of an independent appraiser, who assessed the value as $18,500. Tri-Met initially argued to the appraiser that the land value was negligible considering the easements encumbering the property. In order that FTA not reap the benefit of the developer’s improvements to the parcel, Tri-Met reimbursed FTA for the “before” condition (not accounting for the increased value to the land, once the easements were consolidated). This “profit” amounted to $25,000 and was not readily available to the developer, so it was put into an escrow account by Tri-Met as a “pedestrian improvement construction fund” to be used later as a backup grant for the promenade.

Although these amounts seem like “small change” compared to the overall project costs, Tri-Met stressed these points in attempting to set precedents and to develop a reliable source of tools in negotiating future projects with FTA.

Gresham Central is the first CMAQ approved project located next to a light rail station. It was identified along with six other transit oriented projects and included in a regional fund of $3.5 million. The effort to obtain this funding was initially led by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Tentative CMAQ funding had been reserved for the project in October, 1994, and a description of eligibility for the funding was initiated with FTA in November. In July of 1995, three weeks before construction of utilities for the project was to commence, Metro formally requested approval for CMAQ-TOD funding of the project within this overall allocation. The funding was sorely needed for the unexpected imposition of development charges by the City.

The funding approved by the CMAQ-TOD steering committee amounted to $197,000 and consisted of two grants: $125,000 for the promenade and $72,000 for storm sewer improvements. Based on the steering committee’s approval, Metro requested from FTA a positive determination for eligibility of the joint development project. The basis for the committee’s funding request was on the project’s creation of added value for FTA’s investment in transit. Metro asked for a Categorical Exclusion (CE) for environmental issues and a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) for funding eligibility issues, so that the work could commence prior to the rainy season. Metro also requested, at Tri-Met’s behest, that FTA not withhold funding if the storm improvements were built as a turnkey project with GDC doing the construction. Metro’s stated position was that the small site area did not allow two contractors to work concurrently. Also at issue was that federal funding requirements include competitive bidding and use of Davis-Bacon wage rates, which would have made the project infeasible for the developer.

The FTA’s September, 1995 response to Metro was encouraging in that it agreed to a LONP and a CE on environmental grounds. FTA seemed to be uncomfortable with the developer paying the local match funding and was clearly not comfortable with the imminent start-of-construction date even though it had provided a LONP. Although Metro had formally requested a grant, FTA asked for the application to be submitted in a different format.

By November of 1995 problems with FTA requirements were in danger of jeopardizing the project. For example, the FTA suggested that the grant would have to be agreed to by all six of Metro’s unions as part of the Labor Department section 13(c) approval. CMAQ funding is unusual in that it may be “routed” through either FTA or FHWA. Each administration has its own requirements and regulations. Since signoff by all required parties would have been impossible given the time constraints, Tri-Met opted not to seek the CMAQ funds directly through FTA and instead sought funding approval through FHWA, which does not have a 13(c) approval. Unfortunately, the project did not initially qualify for FHWA grant approval because FHWA did not recognize the LONP. As a storm sewer improvement, the project was ineligible because construction was already underway. At this point Tri-Met’s only option was to “repackage” the project as a pedestrian feature instead of a storm sewer improvement.

The storm sewer grants evolved into grants for “pedestrian improvements” including the promenade and “Roberts Avenue Pedestrian Way,” which would have been constructed in any event. These funds were to be administered by FHWA as a sole-source contract through a Tri-Met/ODOT agreement, subject to a number of requirements of the developer. The requirements included:

·        that the developer donate the land to Gresham

·        that the developer agree to maintain the promenade at the developer’s own expense

·        that the developer pay the local match on the federal grants

·        that the storm sewer for the MAX tracks and promenade be allowed to flow into the surge tanks being constructed in the parking lot of the development

·        that the construction contract price be 40% less than independent estimates by Tri-Met staff

·        that the developer pay in advance all the costs and absorb all cost overruns.

All but $20,000 of the CMAQ-TOD storm sewer grant money approved by the CMAQ-TOD steering committee was received by the developer. Tri-Met has agreed to return the $20,000 to the developer by finding a “switch” project from which to draw, but this is unlikely that this will happen.

Other CMAQ-TOD grants totaling $155,000 were obtained with less difficulty. Housing grant funds were used to make the project appear more “pedestrian friendly” by changing the facades and adding street furniture. These grants, intended for other regional transit oriented projects, were switched from Metro to PDC.

PDC was then able to move the grants directly to Gresham Central without the approval of FTA. These grants, $125,000 of directly invested CMAQ money and $30,000 of “switch” money, went to the Roberts Avenue Pedestrian Way. Since the $125,000 portion was budgeted at the project’s inception, it did not contribute to the gap financing of $250,000 required for closure with public grants or assistance.


Final Agreements and Contracts

A Letter of Commitment from Tri-Met to the Developer in June, 1992 described objectives which Tri-Met would meet in exchange for transfer of the northerly parcel. It codified a verbal understanding held by Tri-Met and the developer and spelled out a number of key points which would be used to guide the transaction. Included was the desire to achieve a 35 unit per acre minimum density in a pleasing environment, with quality of design and construction, and design themes that would echo the adjacent station’s architecture. Also included was the condition that Tri-Met obtain an independent appraisal of the parcel and get preliminary approval from FTA. Based on these preliminary conditions, legal descriptions and preliminary sketches, the parties would then enter into a development agreement.

A draft of the final development agreement was sent from Tri-Met to the developer in October, 1993. It stated the objective of building the “most intense development that is both livable and economically feasible.” There was also a request that the buildings be a minimum of three stories.

The development agreement, executed in August, 1994 and based upon the letter from Tri-Met, spelled out terms of sale and development and solidified earlier-stated objectives. A key theme was the intent that Gresham Central be viewed as a joint development demonstration project which would make similar developments attractive to private interests. It also set out schedules for the preparation of plans and approval of financing. The agreement listed expected sources of grants and financing, and spelled out terms of indemnity should the contractor find hazardous materials on site. The purchase price as determined by the independent appraisal ($18,500) would be put into an escrow fund as a backup to fund the pedestrian promenade. The money would be returned to the seller at project completion if it was not used. The agreement was tied to use of the developer’s property for construction of the project and included terms for enforcement of the agreement and methods of recourse in the event of either party’s default.



Due to the commitment of the developer and the agency, the project has attained a high, although not unqualified, level of success. The units have been leased as the individual buildings in the complex are completed. As of September, 1996 at least 50 of the 53 available units were leased. Rentals of $695 for the two bedroom units are competitive for the market, although three to five percent higher than units with equivalent amenities in surrounding Gresham communities. Rents on the eastside are lower than in the more expensive westside communities ($0.68 per foot versus $0.80), as developers leave out many of the amenities found in “luxury” developments elsewhere in the region. Based on Gresham Central’s experience, indications are that people will pay more to live adjacent to high quality transit.

The project blends in with the surrounding developments, both existing or under construction. It was a turnaround for the community, as little new construction had been seen in recent years. A townhouse condominium project is nearing completion one block south of the site, although Gresham Central did not influence its choice of location.

Prospective Gresham Central tenants, as well as the merely curious, react favorably to the internal layout of the units. The buildings are well sited within the neighborhood, and the pedestrian amenities along the promenade and Roberts Avenue provide a natural link between the Gresham Central light rail station and the Farmers’ Market to the south and to downtown.

Neighborhood reaction to the finished development has also been favorable. This is not particularly surprising since the surrounding community has advocated quality mid-rise, high-density housing on this site for several years. There was no vocal “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) group as can be found elsewhere in the nation. The difference may be attributed to the sense of community that exists in Portland where local dynamics are at work. Since the 1970s, when the statewide planning process was put into effect, communities throughout the region have been prepared for positive neighborhood change through higher density development. Of course, an increase in property values could also have a bearing on the residents’ attitudes. In any event, the developer has received positive feedback from neighbors and neighborhood businesses who expect the downtown area to become more viable. Based on the project’s success, the City has expressed willingness to support future projects with a low to moderate income element.

As the project approaches full rental, it is in good financial standing, although about $180,000 over budget, based on GDC’s “paper” profit. This represents the estimated amount at the close of financing, including costs, grants, and overruns, and taking into account financing difficulties and storm related construction problems. The amount over budget was absorbed by the developer and subcontractors, so the total profit was less than hoped for, probably not more than 5% of the project cost. For example, the promenade proved to be more expensive than anticipated, and the developer absorbed the additional costs. The developer feels that, although the initial profit is less than anticipated, over the long term rental income will make up the difference.




In comparison to conventional development practice, the project was a difficult one as both the developer and Tri-Met will testify. It is difficult for a privately financed project to justify a public feature such as the promenade. “You normally can’t gamble those kinds of improvements for rent,” says the developer. According to project manager Phil Whitmore, the entire process is somewhat like marriage: easy to get into, but tough to follow through on. Knowing that many parties will be involved and aware of the complexity of the public financing process, many developers hesitate before getting involved in a project of this sort.

Masked by the eventual financial “success” of the project was the unwieldy public process by which funding was obtained. Tri-Met was hoping to demonstrate that reliable funding vehicles were in place, particularly the FTA-administered CMAQ-TOD program. However, problems with FTA requirements disappointed Whitmore, who had hoped that Gresham Central would set a precedent for streamlining the process of obtaining grants and make the process simple for the average developer.

The final product, although unconventional for the area, does not, from the planner’s standpoint, represent an extreme departure from normal design practice. The density achieved is high, but there are examples of higher density construction in the Portland area. An example of Gresham Central’s departure from design norms is its treatment of the automobile. Cars are accepted as a fact of life, unlike the “neo-urbanist purist” view. From a casual glance at the centralized parking, it is not evident that the parking ratio has been reduced. Indeed the 1.5 spaces per unit does not restrict the tenants’ mobility, because there is adequate parking along Roberts Avenue. Based on the current leasing rate in the Gresham Project, developers can assume that tenants are willing to forego some of their dependence on cars if transit is easily available.

Much of the project’s ultimate success depends on the interagency coordinator, even more than on the developer. Unfortunately, not many transit agency planners have the necessary knowledge and experience in public financing and development, in local and national transit, and in housing policy issues. Successes to date are few and far between, but, because of this project, the developer and the project manager are being sought to help bring success to other public/private transit oriented projects.

At Gresham Central a great deal of success depended on the trust that formed between the developer and agency coordinator in the early stages of the project. “There are a lot of facets to a project like this,” according to the developer, admitting that the task would have been impossible without the coordinator’s cooperation. Both parties shared a common vision for the project and both stuck to it until the end. The challenges were numerous and often daunting; and, had there been a change of staff during the process, it is unlikely the level of trust would have been maintained. The fact that the developer was also the owner furthered the sense of commitment. Strong commitment generally results in a better end product. Project manager Whitmore believes that in this type of project the developer should be required to hold the property for a stated period of years. The initial fee of ten to fifteen per cent generally required on this type of project was cut to five per cent. Because of the financing and construction problems a large profit is unlikely, so the developer is counting on rentals to make the project profitable. Not all developers are willing to deviate so far from the traditional way of making a profit.

Whitmore agrees that a good relationship between the developer and agency is critical: “Never go for very long with the developer without being specific about what you want. You have to be up front. What’s harder to communicate to the other side are the difficulties you, as the agency, know can arise, due in large part to the complexity of the funding mechanisms, but which you can’t always anticipate.”

A good measure of success is the participants’ willingness to tackle other projects based on the experience gained. The Gresham Central developer states, “I’d do it again,” and Tri-Met is busy looking for other projects to let him keep his word.



Gresham Central is proof that, given well defined public objectives and both private and public commitment, it is realistic to expect quality results in a development. Given the spotty history of public/private development, the success of Gresham Central represents a positive step in the evolution of sustainable cities. In this case, favorable circumstances existed, including public ownership of land and underusage of nearby, existing transit facilities. Small changes in public and private behavior, combined with strong leadership, went a long way toward the project’s success, and appear to have impacted the community positively.

Regional commitment and agency teamwork also made a difference. In the past, many public agencies across the country have lost credibility in the development community by building expensive transportation systems with little thought given to the decision making process. The planner and developer can interact in mutually beneficial ways to deliver a product not achievable by either party individually. The development agreement is a recapitulation of the principles that should be in place long before it is signed.

Gresham Central’s success is not accidental: the communities’ and the local agencies’ commitment to regional betterment, focused market analysis, the right combination of location and land ownership, and the perseverance, hard work and vision of the principal partners all contributed to making it a reality. Recently enacted ISTEA legislation made CMAQ-TOD funding available which closed part of the gap in financing, and the City contributed with innovative financing incentives. A pleasing architectural motif and attention to the placement of the buildings and the public elements within the existing urban fabric also contributed to the project’s success. While it is difficult to gauge long term public acceptance of the final product, it seems safe to say that the partners’ experience, intuition, and foresight into evolving consumer needs and tastes played as much a role in its success as the “hard” factors. The recognition that lifestyles are not static in the modern world, and the adoption of refined market analysis tools will serve public agencies and developers well when they consider similar ventures.

From a participant’s point of view, the public/private development process is far from smooth. Unfortunately, until more public/private projects are built there is little accumulated experience from which to draw. As precedents are set, and as more public/private developments meet with success, a greater bank of knowledge will be available. Until that time the prospects for “stand alone” projects with little or no public money are in doubt. Perhaps self-sufficiency for projects that contribute to the betterment of urban life is a worthy long term goal.


Gresham Central Joint Development Project

Residential: High-density apartments (35 units/acre)

Agencies Involved: Gresham Development Co., Tri-Met, Metro, City of Gresham, Portland Development Commission, State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Federal Transit Administration, Oregon Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and special assistance from Portland General Electric Co., Key Bank of Oregon



Special Features


Density: 35 du/acre

MCM Architects

Parking Ratio: 1.5 spaces/unit

1022 SW Salmon St. #350

Other: Pedestrian promenade, articulated

Portland, OR

facade, front porches and zero-line setback






Gresham Development Co.

None Used

1607 SW Stephenson St.


Portland, OR




Land Use Information

Development Schedule

Site Area                                   2.58 acres

Planning Started                        Aug. 1991

Total Dwelling Units              90

Development Agreement  Aug. 1994

Gross Density                          35 units / acre

Construction Started                  Sept 1995

Gross Building Area               83,000 sq. ft.

Sales/Leasing Started                July, 1996

Total Parking Spaces              134


Number of Stories                   3




Residential Unit Information

Unit Type

Size (sq. ft.)

Number Built

Market Rate Units

One bedroom



$ 560

Two bedroom



$ 695

Three bedroom



$ 795



Building Use Information

Development Cost Information





Sq. ft.









Building Costs


On/Off-Site Improvements

Landscape, (incl. promenade)









Construction Loan Interest +/-





Legal Fees, Taxes & Insurance





Design, Surveys, etc.





Marketing and Renting





Developer’s Profit







Development Cost per Sq. Ft. of GBA: $59.46


Figure 8-1 Gresham Central and MAX tracks, Portland, OR



Figure 8-2 Central parking at Gresham Central



Atlanta, Georgia



Resurgens Plaza is a high-rise, luxury office building of 17 stories built over a 10 floor parking garage in the northern part of Atlanta, Georgia. The garage has been incorporated into the building design to give the appearance of a single, integrated building. There is a direct connection to the Lenox transit station, providing access to the rail and bus service run by the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA). This provides a convenient way for workers to commute to the building and for clients and employees to use MARTA to access other areas such as Hartsfield Airport and downtown while leaving their cars at the garage in the building.

Resurgens Plaza was a $50 million dollar project conceived during the building of the rail system through the area. It is built directly over the tracks on the northeast side of the Lenox station. The project is a good study of transit oriented development because it involves air rights agreements with both MARTA and with a group of citizens who owned homes in the area.

The project was built in two stages. The first stage involved designing the MARTA “envelope,” an enclosure of reinforced concrete, to allow the rail line to run through the area of construction. Construction continued when MARTA was operational. The building was opened in July of 1988, six years after the Development Agreement was signed and four years after the opening of the MARTA north line through the area. Since opening, the building has been operating at full occupancy, averaging less than 5% vacancy over all eight years.



One of the goals of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority was to encourage cluster development around the MARTA stations. In 1973 MARTA persuaded the city of Atlanta to designate special zoning districts allowing high intensity uses around some of the proposed rail stations. These districts were one of the reasons for the increased development in the Midtown area, a building boom which began even before the opening of the midtown stations in 1982. A great deal has been written regarding the air rights agreements of the late 1970s that enabled IBM and Bell South to construct large office complexes adjacent to or on top of stations in the midtown area. As plans for expansion continued north up to the Lenox station, special zoning districts were also created in the Lenox area, which was a rapidly growing perimeter center.

American Home Equities, forming a limited partnership called Resurgens Plaza Company, hoped to cash in on the combination of a building boom in the area and the convenience of the new MARTA rail system. They designed a plan to build a mixed use project on, and adjacent to, the proposed Lenox station. At the time, MARTA was in negotiations with owners and residents of a lower income neighborhood, called Johnsontown, which was in the path of the proposed rail line. The residents, with the backing of then-mayor Maynard Jackson, were able to negotiate a settlement with MARTA. MARTA became the land owner of the parcel and gained title to the first 100 feet of the air rights above the land proposed for the railway, enough room to build the station. The residents of Johnsontown, through collective action and negotiation, were able to secure the remaining air rights, including those above MARTA’s 100 foot threshold. A tiered structure of rights thus evolved over the proposed MARTA station and railway.

The Resurgens Plaza company entered the negotiations with MARTA at the same time that the agreement was being worked out between the previous residents of the area and the transit agency. Resurgens Plaza worked with MARTA to lease their air rights and with the previous Johnsontown residents to purchase the remaining air rights. As a result, the residents received an excellent return on their investment, MARTA was able to build the station, and the developers had an agreement to create a large scale development on the transit station site.



General Atlanta Background

The city of Atlanta can be described as a fragmented city of sprawl, or an example of concentrated development near alternative transit modes. Atlanta has experienced tremendous growth since World War II, but most of the population growth has been outside the city limits. The city saw a decline in population in the late 1960s and 1970s. Currently, Atlanta’s population is about 400,000 for the city proper, with the metropolitan area over 2 million. Atlanta is also a city with a legacy of racial segregation that is still evident today. Within the city limits, African Americans form a two-thirds majority, while many of the outlying suburbs are nearly 90% white.


A major goal of the MARTA system was to stop the white flight that had begun in the 1960s and to spur commercial development back into the largely black central city. However, MARTA was not able to enlist sufficient support in the suburban communities. A one cent sales tax increase imposed to build the system was approved in only two of the five counties making up metropolitan Atlanta. As a result, MARTA and the corresponding bus service planned to provide service only to Fulton and DeKalb counties, the two counties within the Atlanta city limits.

The sales tax initiative was lobbied heavily in the African American community, and this backing was largely the reason for its passage in those two counties. In deference to this support, city leaders pushed for the initial work to began on the east/west line to provide greater access from minority neighborhoods to downtown. By the end of 1979, approximately 12 miles of the current 15 mile east/west line had been built. This development did not spur the building boom that many had hoped for. Many speculators and developers who had purchased land in the Omni area and Vine City were left with empty land.

The spurt of development did not begin until the MARTA line was built northward. By the time the North Avenue station was opened at the end of 1981, the Bell South building was already planned. As the line extended to Midtown and the Arts Center in 1982 and to Lenox in 1984, these areas were already experiencing high levels of growth. Some of this growth was due to speculation regarding the building of the transit line, aided by the favorable zoning procedures adopted by the city of Atlanta for regions in and around transit stations. However, most of this growth was due to market conditions which had pushed the wealth of Atlanta into the northern area. It is difficult to determine whether growth in the Lenox area was spurred on by MARTA, or whether MARTA was following the growth into that region.

Lenox Station Area

Lenox Station is located approximately seven miles north of downtown Atlanta and is accessible via the Northeast line of the MARTA system. The Lenox area and the adjoining Buckhead area have been a magnet for Atlantans since the construction of Lenox Square, Atlanta’s first regional mall, around 1960. Since that time, the Lenox area has seen increases in commercial and more recently in office space, to the point where many consider the area to be Atlanta’s “second downtown.” Lenox Square has undergone transformation and expansion and continues to be one of Atlanta’s premier malls. In the 1970s and 1980s, office and hotel development experienced large surges of growth in the area. The Lenox area now holds nearly 10% of metropolitan Atlanta’s total office space, up from 5% in 1980 (Cervero, 1994; Cervero and Landis, 1993).

Transit Options

Resurgens Plaza is located directly on the MARTA Northeast line and has a direct connection to the Lenox MARTA station. This station serves both the MARTA rail line and six bus lines. Adjacent to the MARTA tracks, behind the Resurgens building, are freight rail tracks. Transit proponents envision these tracks becoming a future commuter rail line. Despite the proximity of transit, the Lenox and neighboring Buckhead commercial areas are largely auto dominant. Plentiful parking is provided for both shoppers and office workers. The Lenox and Buckhead MARTA stations are one mile apart, providing easy transit access. However, the area does not see much pedestrian activity, except directly around the Lenox station.

Previous Uses of Project Site

Much of the area surrounding Lenox Square Mall underwent significant development during the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, the area proposed for the MARTA Lenox station and future Resurgens development had remained a low density residential area. The area contained 35 small parcels with approximately 20 homes still remaining. Many residents were lower income residents working as service employees for affluent Buckhead residents to the west (Tollett, 1996). The parcels were laid out on a grid pattern of streets which has since been altered. The Johnsontown area was seven acres in total, separated into a north component of five acres and a south component of two acres. The south component was the part later developed into the MARTA station and Resurgens Plaza. As the residents began to realize that MARTA would be coming through the area, in 1974 they formed the Johnsontown Community Development Corporation (JCD) to negotiate the land deals with MARTA.



Location and Orientation

Resurgens Plaza is located on East Paces Ferry Road, near the intersection of Lenox Road. The building has direct auto and pedestrian access to the street and to the Lenox MARTA station. Fare gates for the MARTA station are located outside a third floor exit from the building. Pedestrian walkways have been built to allow easy access across the street and over to Lenox Road. The building was built directly over the MARTA rail tracks on the Northeast side of the station. MARTA rail cars pass through a tunnel at the base of the building when entering or exiting the MARTA station. Directly behind the building run the Georgia Southern Railroad freight tracks.

Project Size and Description

Resurgens Plaza is a 27 story building, situated on an acre of land, part of the original Johnsontown South land holding. This high-rise structure measures 325 feet by 122 feet and fills the entire acre. The building is designed in a Federalist style, reminiscent of buildings of the 1920s. The building contains both offices and parking.

Commercial Space

The offices are in the top 17 floors of the building. The building contains approximately 400,000 square feet of class A office space and attracts a clientele of legal firms and high profile business firms. These firms enjoy the convenience of using MARTA to move their employees or their clients to and from downtown or the airport. The lobby of the building is on the 11th floor. There are two banks of elevators. One set is directly connected between the offices and the parking garage, and the second bank runs between the lobby, the MARTA entrance, and the street entrance. At the MARTA entrance to the building, there is a small retail space containing a cafe.


The first 10 floors of the building contain 1000 parking spaces for use by the occupants of the building or their guests. Fees for parking are incorporated into the rent, and guest parking is charged an hourly fee. The ratio of parking to office space is 2.5 spaces per 1000 square feet. This ratio is lower than most surrounding suburban development which is at 3.0 to 4.0 spaces per 1000 square feet. The developer felt that the location next to MARTA enabled them to reduce the parking requirements slightly. This decision was encouraged by city zoning policies.

Parking for the MARTA station is located across the street from Resurgens Plaza in a garage shared with another development. This parking is fee parking. Approximately 600 spaces are dedicated to MARTA users. There is also a surface parking lot on the opposite, north side of Resurgens Plaza, providing approximately 200 spaces, dedicated solely to MARTA users. This lot is a free parking area.

Special Features

Resurgens Plaza has many unique features. One feature is the integration of the parking facilities within the building. Dummy window panels were placed in the first 10 floors so that the front of the building shows no evidence of a parking garage. Ventilation for the garage is provided by screened openings in the rear and one side of these floors.

Resurgens Plaza’s location, directly on top of the MARTA rail tracks, creates additional value for a piece of land that many would consider undevelopable. The train envelope, built during the MARTA construction, allowed the building to be built without disruption of rail service, and the construction of the garages on the lower floors helped to buffer the vibrations of the trains from the offices.

Resurgens Plaza also contains many features that make using alternative transportation extremely easy. The direct connection to MARTA allows one to access the bus and rail lines with minimal exposure to the elements. In addition, the developer built a “kiss and ride” facility which encourages carpool use. The facility is a pull-out area along East Paces Ferry Road, where autos can conveniently pick up or drop off passengers using MARTA or going to Resurgens Plaza.



The Resurgens Plaza development can best be analyzed in three phases. The first phase involved MARTA and the Johnsontown residents who were to be displaced by the proposed Lenox MARTA station. Much of this negotiation took place during the late 1970s. The second phase involved MARTA, Resurgens Plaza Company, and the Johnsontown residents during the initial planning of the building and the construction of the MARTA facilities. The third phase, which involved MARTA and Resurgens Plaza Company, took place during the actual construction of Resurgens Plaza. Other participants during this time were the City of Atlanta and other developers in the area. Development Agreements and leases assigned responsibilities among the groups.

Johnsontown Residents

The thirty-five parcels making up the Johnsontown area were considered prime locations for a MARTA rail station during the expansion north of downtown. Recognizing the value that their land could have for the transit station and for development around the station, the residents organized into the Johnsontown Community Development Corporation (JCD). By organizing into a group, the owners felt that they would have more power in negotiating the sale of the land to MARTA. The group worked with the City of Atlanta in 1977 to investigate ways to retain air rights for their properties in the station area. Using the influence of the former mayor, Maynard Jackson, they convinced MARTA to locate the Lenox station on their properties. It does not appear that the residents were displaced against their will. They realized that change was inevitable, and that by banding together they would be able to profit from the changes. JCD sold their properties to MARTA but retained partial air rights to the Johnsontown North and Johnsontown South areas on either side of Railroad Avenue.


MARTA was created in 1965 to address transit needs in Atlanta and to attempt to create financing for the creation of a rail line. This financing took some time to get approval after an initial referendum was defeated in 1968. Eventually a one cent sales tax was approved by Fulton and Dekalb counties in 1971. The other three counties in the Metropolitan area, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Clayton, did not approve the sales tax increase. MARTA was trying to achieve a balance between two desires. One was to extend MARTA into the north suburban areas of Dekalb County where many families fleeing the inner city had settled. The other was to provide a convenient transit system for people living in the inner city. From these desires, the East/West and the North/South lines were created. The East/West line was constructed first to provide access from the lower income areas to downtown. The North/South line was created to tie downtown to the new development areas in the north and to encourage suburban travel by subway. MARTA opened the initial East/West arm in 1979 with an east extension in 1993. The North/South line was opened in stages between 1981 and 1992 with a spur line opened in 1996. The Lenox station was opened in 1984. MARTA wanted a station convenient to commuters that would also provide access to Lenox Square, a large shopping mall. It was expected that access to the mall would help increase the number of riders significantly. MARTA was looking at sites just southwest of Johnsontown but chose the Johnsontown site. MARTA then created a long station with two entrances, one Southwest and one Northeast. The northeast entrance had parking on the Johnsontown property. The southwest entrance was located one block away from the southern entrance to the mall. MARTA allowed JCD to retain some of the air rights over the station and the parking areas. By doing so, MARTA was able to obtain the land at a lower cost.

Resurgens Plaza Company

The Resurgens Plaza Company was created as a Georgia general partnership of Resurgens Plaza-American Home Equities, Inc. and Resurgens Plaza-Sonnet, Inc., with the intention of developing the Johnsontown North and Johnsontown South sites. American Home Equities realized the potential of this site as it was located in the rapidly expanding Lenox area and adjacent to a future rail station. The plan was to develop a mixed use development on both of the sites, including building on top of the rail tracks. In order to do this Resurgens Plaza would have to negotiate a lease for the touchdown rights and partial air rights from MARTA and to purchase the remaining air rights from the JCD group. This resulted in the Development Agreement between MARTA and Resurgens Plaza in 1982, which assigned responsibilities for the project. MARTA would construct the station facility, and Resurgens Plaza would build the caissons and tunnel envelope over the MARTA tracks. Resurgens Plaza built the supports over the tracks for a possible 40 story building, but as the office market cooled in the early 1980s, they scaled down to a 27 story building on the Johnsontown South site. They sold their air rights in the Johnsontown North site to Vantage Properties Inc., who went on to design Atlanta Plaza.

City of Atlanta

The City of Atlanta helped shape this area in many ways. First the City worked directly with the JCD group to help that group retain ownership of their air rights when selling the land. The city, through Mayor Maynard Jackson, influenced the location of the Lenox station on those parcels. The city also created a high intensity usage zone around the station which allowed higher densities than in adjoining areas. Parking requirements were eliminated, allowing the developer’s planners to place the amount of parking they felt was needed. It was assumed that MARTA would decrease parking requirements. Other than MARTA’s parking needs, the requirements would be at the developer’s discretion.




Prior to the Development Agreement with Resurgens Plaza, MARTA had negotiated with JCD to acquire the land for the station and a parking area. This proved to be a lengthy process as each individual land owner had an interest in JCD. MARTA had planned mainly surface parking around the station area. MARTA negotiated with JCD to acquire surface and subsurface rights for the entire area, partial air rights and touchdown rights, the right to develop space above a facility, for Johnsontown South and partial air rights for the Johnsontown North site. As part of the agreement with JCD, MARTA negotiated title to the first 100 feet of air rights and the touchdown rights on the Johnsontown South site, and a small portion of the North site. The title to the first 100 feet would allow MARTA to construct the concourse and the bus bays for Lenox station. MARTA also had plans for a pedestrian bridge and connections to other developments on the parcels.

JCD and Resurgens Plaza Company

The Resurgens Plaza company expressed an interest in these parcels during the negotiations between MARTA and JCD. Resurgens Plaza had to wait for these negotiations to be settled before starting their own negotiations with JCD, and they had difficulty working with a group composed of 30 individuals. Eventually, they bought the air rights above 100 feet over the south parcel and all of the north parcel air rights.

MARTA and the Resurgens Plaza Company

MARTA and the Resurgens Plaza company entered into a Development Agreement in November of 1982. MARTA would be responsible for the construction of the station and connections from the north concourse area to the Johnsontown North parking area and to the future Resurgens Plaza. Resurgens Plaza would be responsible for construction of the foundation and the train envelope of the building. Resurgens Plaza also was to be responsible for moving the original kiss and ride turnout built by MARTA and would provide an amount of parking equal to the spaces that construction would displace.

MARTA granted easements to the developer to construct the foundation for Resurgens Plaza. However, Resurgens could not disrupt MARTA’s own construction of the rail lines in the process. The train envelope was to be 60 feet, half the total width of the resulting building. Resurgens Plaza was on a tight schedule. Construction of the train envelope had to be completed by the time MARTA opened the line in December of 1984. Design of the foundation began in April of 1984, and construction began in June. The lease agreements set the annual rental fees and terms of the lease, with an option to purchase at the expiration of the lease. Included in the Development Agreements and the Lease were the details of plans to realign Railroad Avenue (which became East Paces Ferry Road) and the abandonment of Wolfe Avenue in the Johnsontown North area. Amendments to the lease agreement stated the final terms for the kiss and ride area, the provision of temporary parking during construction of the building, and the provision of replacement MARTA parking.



JCD with MARTA and Resurgens Plaza

The Johnsontown Community Development group received $12 per square foot from MARTA for the surface, subsurface, touchdown and partial air rights during their initial negotiations in the late 1970s. The remaining air rights that JCD controlled were later sold to Resurgens Plaza at $8 per square foot of horizontal space. Overall, JCD received approximately $20 per square foot for the seven acres of land, amounting to $6 million in two payments. The deal insured that the small property owners in Johnsontown received a good return on investment. It also was proof of the value of the land in the Lenox/Buckhead area. When the negotiations with Resurgens Plaza were finished, the JCD were no longer a factor in the project.

MARTA and Resurgens Plaza

The Development Agreement was the document used to assign responsibilities for many of the activities involved in the construction of the station and Resurgens Plaza. The agreement was signed in 1982 and worked in tandem with the General Lease signed between the two parties in 1984. The lease of the air and touchdown rights for the Johnsontown site was prepared in time for the first stage of the construction of Resurgens Plaza: the building of the foundation and the train envelope. Due to the tight schedule, the lease was enacted on May 29, 1984 with gaps in some of the terms. These would be filled in through future amendments. In order to complete the foundation and tunnel in time for MARTA’s opening at the end of 1984, work on the Resurgens foundation continued around the clock for six weeks from June until August of 1984. MARTA then had ample time to test the line before opening at the end of the year.

One of the advantages of the accelerated work schedule was that the building of the foundation and train envelope could proceed without having to worry about passing trains. This provided substantial cost savings. The cost of the foundation and train envelope was $1 million including the overtime for working 24 hours a day. If the initial construction had taken place after the start-up of MARTA service, it would have taken between six months and a year to complete and cost up to $4 million (Pinckney and Korman, 1987).

Once construction started, final details were determined regarding lease payments, bonds, and financing, and the details were incorporated into the lease as amendments. The first amendment, issued at the same time as the General Lease, required Resurgens Plaza to maintain a cash payment bond in the amount of $1 million to help cover Resurgens’ obligations and liability to MARTA for the construction of the train envelope and foundation. The bond amount would be returned by MARTA upon successful completion of the project. This amendment also set a deadline of July 1, 1984 for the agreement of a lease amount for the property. The second amendment to the lease, issued on July 1st, set the rent due to MARTA for their portion of the air rights and touchdown rights at $105,000 per year.

A soft office market and problems with finding a partner for financing delayed the continuation of the project for eighteen months. During that time, Resurgens Plaza decided to concentrate on developing only the southern portion of the seven acre parcel and sold the air rights to Johnsontown North to another developer. Resurgens also narrowed the scale of the development to offices only, and decreased the project size from a 40 story building to 27 stories. By February, 1986, they found financing for the $50 million project through a partnership with General Electric Real Estate Equities and amended the lease a third time to include General Electric as a Mortgagee. With the financing secured, construction could begin.

With construction underway, a fourth amendment was created on August 1, 1986 to revise the annual rent to a fixed and a variable component. The variable portion remained at $105,000 annually but was augmented by a fixed amount of $7,370 which was to be paid upon completion of the building. The variable amount was to be adjusted in two ways. First, it would be adjusted annually through the use of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Atlanta Metropolitan Region. Second, beginning in 1991, the adjusted rate would be verified by a selection of three auditors. If the auditors’ estimated rate determined in 1991 exceeded the current rate, the estimate would be adjusted to reflect the new rate as verified by the auditors. At this point, it does not appear that the rate has been adjusted other than by the consumer price index.

This fourth amendment also solidified the responsibilities of the developer and MARTA for providing the kiss and ride facility and replacement parking. Based on plans submitted in the amendment, Resurgens Plaza would construct the kiss and ride facility at their own expense. The high rise would displace some MARTA surface parking in an area next to the track envelope. Resurgens Plaza would have to pay for 66 new spaces to be added to the existing MARTA surface parking.

Resurgens Plaza and Other Developers

During the downturn in the market which caused the delay in construction, the Resurgens Plaza Company offered both Johnsontown sites to other prospective developers. Vantage Properties, a Texas development company purchased the air rights to the five acre Johnsontown North area. This developer was not interested in the Johnsontown South site because of the complications of building directly over the tracks and because of the small size of the parcel. The developer negotiated with MARTA for the touchdown rights, connections with the station, and for the replacement of the surface parking. The result was the construction of Atlanta Plaza, a building of 34 stories across the street from the Resurgens site. Ironically, this building was completed before Resurgens Plaza, as construction began soon after the negotiations concluded. Included in this project is a five to six story parking garage in the building with MARTA parking on the lower levels.



Final Costs and Schedule

Resurgens Plaza cost approximately $50 million, with $1 million for the initial site improvement to build the portion of the foundation on the MARTA tracks. There is no evidence that the project went over budget. The final architect for this project was Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates. Construction began near the end of 1986 and the building opened in July of 1988. The Lenox MARTA station was fully functional during this stage of construction. Care had to be taken not to disrupt the activities at the adjacent station and on the rail line. This was a factor which lengthened the time needed to complete the project. For example, the hoisting of materials over the tracks could only be done between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. while MARTA trains were out of service.

Developer and Agency Policy Changes to Insure Success

Because its charter forbids the sale of agency land, MARTA limited its efforts in the development to leasing its land. MARTA was under an eight year moratorium on development at transit stations, but this restriction was lifted during negotiations. MARTA allowed construction while the rail line was being built and afterwards when the station was in service. It was during these early years that other agreements with private developers resulted in the building of the IBM tower (now called One Atlanta Center) and the Bell South Building, both near MARTA stations.

The developers of Resurgens Plaza also made adjustments to help make the project successful. These decisions were market based. Originally Resurgens Plaza was to be a mixed use project of 50,000 square feet of retail space, 50 condominium units, and a larger office tower. Instead, the project was limited to the 27 story office building. Excess air rights across the street were sold off during a slow time for development in the area. Resurgens Plaza also delayed in getting financing for the building, securing a better deal in the process. This delay added about eighteen months to the process.

Overall Results

Despite the difficulties, Doug Tollett of American Resurgens Management, a subsidiary of the Resurgens Plaza company, is extremely happy with the results. Vacancy rates have been minimal since the complex opened, and both tenants and management feel that the MARTA connection is a major benefit to the project. American Resurgens Management feels that a project located directly on the station is more desirable than one using a shuttle service and that this has kept vacancy rates low. In addition to the Atlanta Plaza project across the street, recently completed buildings in the immediate vicinity include the Lenox Building and the Marriot office and hotel