(Patch recently reported a new snag in the proposed Village Marketplace project. It was supposed to boost the downtown. Instead it has lost two anchor tenants. That article attracted dozens of comments. In this op-ed column, Leah Hall expresses her hopes for community action.)
The San Leandro Times features a story today on the shopping center planned for the downtown site purchased by the city after the Albertson's grocery store closed.
This is reportedly a $10,000,000 transaction.
It repeats the primary takeaway reported in San Leandro Patch earlier this week: everything is currently on hold because CVS Pharmacy, the proposed anchor tenant, wants 19 more street level parking spaces and a drive-thru lane!
Both news reports indicate that the developer and his architect are reworking the plans to try to appease CVS.
I am saddened and confused by nearly every development of this project since the plans were first revealed for "Village Market Place."
The project started with a positive goal: my understanding is that the city purchased the downtown site so that our local community and the county could have some say in what we value and what we hoped would be built (first a mixed-use, transit-oriented building; then a push for an upscale grocery store and a variety of good restaurants to add diversity to San Leandro's rich, if few in number, mix of ethnic foods and specialty food shops in the area.)
But this has morphed into nothing our community asked for. The current proposal merely provides more of what we are already have in abundance: street level parking and existing retail tenants.
I am especially frustrated that I am first learning about this second tenant (no one knows who the tenant will actually be, it is still being reported) this week, and only after the deal became snagged in a haggle.
What could possibly be the current strategy for these recent planning decisions related to making a deal . . . moving drug stores from one leased space to another across the street in order to expand the existing Safeway?
I am left wondering where has the breakdown in the community input part of the planning process occurred?
This is publicly owned land located in our strongest civic district, and I feel there is a moral obligation to insure that our community’s values and needs are taken into consideration and prioritized.
My family notes that this site, currently used as a parking lot with new paving and mature trees, is well-lit and serving the downtown on a daily basis and during city events such as the Farmers Market and Sausage and Suds.
The parking lot could serve our community for another 5-10 years with little investment while our planners and politicians develop significant community input and recruit the resources needed to realize a sustainable, market-responsive project.
Building the wrong project is more costly than shelving bad plans on the drawing boards.
Let’s craft a solution that is closer to the original vision, which I fully supported. When we make our downtown more vibrant and lure people away from their screens and out of their homes, workplaces and cars, they are not only consumers but also get exercise and encounter other people.
This is good for business and good for long-term health and happiness.
Read more about Village Marketplace in the Patch archives.
What is your view? What should the developer and city leaders do now? Sound off in the comments below.