Ohlone College Board on Track with Frontage Plan

Trustees concur with public’s message on mixed-use project along Mission Boulevard

FREMONT, Calif (September 15, 2006) – In what could be a turning point in a 10-year journey, Ohlone College trustees signaled Wednesday that they will go forward with plans to turn 22 acres of land fronting Mission Boulevard into a lucrative retail and housing hub.

“It’s a huge step that we’re doing here,” Trustee Nick Nardolillo said. “The letter of intent is the next step and I want to encourage the board to keep the project moving.”

The letter of intent sets the basic terms between the college and the project’s developer. Trustees will vote on it in two weeks.

“It sounds like a good project and a chance that we can get some money,” Trustee Ruthe Foster said. Meanwhile, Trustee Dan Archer was asleep during the 40-minute discussion and he did not stir when a board member asked him if he had any questions.

College President Doug Treadway said the board’s decision was “really good news.”

“The meeting got the process on track,” he said.

The overall message to trustees from an unusually large crowd gathered at the meeting was “move forward,” as Harry Avila of Essanay Property Management in Fremont put it.

The worry is that delays will cut into the profits the college stands to make from the project.

With a red-hot construction market that shows no signs of letting up soon, building is predicted to become more expensive the longer it takes to move forward, eroding the benefits to the college, said Dominic Dutra, a Fremont City Council member and prominent local real estate developer.

“There’s a long road to go, but it’s important to establish that you’re on the road,” said Dutra, whose term on the City Council expires in December – before the development will come before council members.

The Ohlone board had been mulling over what to do with the strip of landbetween Anza Road and Pine Street for about a decade. Plans took off in about April 2005, when trustees chose Sobrato to develop and lease the land.

It still will take about two years before workers can break ground. Developing and zoning the project will require a lot of community input because it is in the historic Mission San Jose district, said Tim Steele, the project manager for the development.

He was on hand to show trustees proposals by his firm, Sobrato Development Cos., mostly multistory, Rancho-style stucco buildings topped with adobe tiles.

Although Ohlone chose Sobrato for the work, the college must by law open the project to bidders again. Ultimately, Ohlone will sign a lease for the land. The other steps – completing a design, getting zoning approvals and conducting an impact analysis – still must be completed.

“We’ve been working on this a long time (and are) still grappling with how it will affect students and the community,” Trustee Bob Brunton said.

Inside Bay Area: The Argus.