Ground broken for new Park Street shops
Ground broken for new Park Street shops
Left to right: Greg Klein, architect, John Malick & Associates; Chris Seiwald, Foley Street Investments; John C. Buestad, Foley Street Investments; Kari Thompson, Alameda Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Marie Gilmore; architect Douglas Mighell, Stantec; James S. King, Woodland Construction; Ken Carvalho, Foley Street Investments; Jamie Keating, Foley Street Investments. Photo by Mike Rosati.
The Park Street site that once served as home to Good Chevrolet will soon host a Walgreens and other retail shops – a hopeful sign to city leaders who want to see their plans to revitalize the city’s former Auto Row come to fruition.
A group of local investors broke ground Monday on the new Alameda Station development. Construction is expected to be completed in May 2014.
“We’re trying to do something that’s really nice for Alameda, not just put up some buildings and run,” Chris Seiwald, founder of Perforce and leaders of the investment group, said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Seiwald, whose tech company is headquartered up the road on Blanding Avenue, stressed the local nature of the project, which in addition to being owned locally is being designed by a local architect and landscape designer.
Mayor Marie Gilmore offered high hopes for the project, which she said is named after a former rail station that once sat adjacent to the site; city leaders are hoping new development on Park Street will help replace the sales taxes the city lost when the dealerships closed. It will join the Alameda Marketplace, a collection of food purveyors that opened on the site of a former Ford dealership in 2002, and Park Vista Square, which took the spot once occupied by Cavanaugh Motors and recently completed construction.
“At long last, we’re going to transition our former Auto Row into something productive, useful and needful for Alamedans,” Gilmore said.
But that transition hasn’t come quickly or easily for the city – which worked for years, in the midst of a deep recession, to craft a strategy for revitalizing the northern stretch of Park Street – or for investors who purchased and have been working to repurpose the former dealerships, something Seiwald jokingly referred to during his remarks.
Bill Phua, who purchased the former Cavanaugh Motors property, worked for two years to win city approval to build a new commercial development there, securing it in 2009 after fielding last-minute requests from the city that he provide secure bike parking and transit passes for workers there and pay for a bus shelter with an electronic bus arrival sign. At the time, his project was billed as a “poster child” for the troubles developers faced in working with the city.
Earlier this year, the Planning Board denied Phua’s request for use permits for the Park Vista Square complex, which sits at the corner of Park Street and Buena Vista Avenue; he said he wanted to attract a restaurant, brewery or winery, wellness center or artists studios. But City Planner Andrew Thomas said Phua has courted possible tenants - a brewery and a wellness center - and will request permits allowing them.
Alameda Station’s investors began assembling the parcels at Park Street and Tilden Way in 2009, Gilmore said, earning the city approvals needed to move forward with the development in 2012.
The Planning Board’s approval of development at the Alameda Station site, which originally included the CVS drugstore that now sits at Oak Street and Santa Clara Avenue and a Chase bank branch, included more than 80 conditions. The City Council rejected an appeal of some of those conditions, with Gilmore saying at the time that city leaders needed to balance the drugstore’s needs with those of residential neighbors nearby. CVS ultimately backed out, and was replaced by Walgreens, which will place its third Alameda store in the development.
“I think Chris alluded to the fact that we’re ‘feisty,’” Gilmore said Monday, quoting Seiwald’s remarks. “We’re feisty because we care. And I think it’s really added to the project.”
The crowd at Monday’s groundbreaking included city and business leaders and former Good Chevrolet staffers like Craig Cherry, a longtime Alamedan who worked at the dealership for a decade.
Cherry expressed support for the new development.
“I miss Good Chevrolet and the big brick building,” he said. “But you know what? Times change.”