City Center is apparently a go.
The long-awaited project that would create a downtown for San Ramon will break ground sometime in 2014, according to an article in the San Francisco Business Times. The much-discussed development would be located at the intersection of Bollinger Canyon Road and Camino Ramon in San Ramon.
Alex Mehran Jr., general manager and vice president of Sunset Development, the parent company of Bishop Ranch, confirmed the groundbreaking in a summer interview with a Business Times writer:
"Sunset has already entitled a 2.1-million-square-foot, mixed-use development known as City Center that Mehran says will serve as a downtown for San Ramon with a new city hall, public library, retail, restaurants and apartments to break ground next year. That project has been in the works for several years and was originally conceived as a luxury shopping center like Santana Row."
Although the article has been posted on the Bishop Ranch blog, Mehran stated in an email to the San Ramon Express that no announcement has been made.
In the Business Times interview, Mehran said Sunset is taking a new approach to the plan, which was originally conceived as a luxury shopping center like San Jose's Santana Row.
"We're re-imaging it to be sort of a very authentic downtown node, which isn't a manufactured thing to create shopping dollars," Mehran said. "It's not focused on the $1,000 handbag. It's more focused on the $30 polo with a trip to the movie theater and dinner."
Plans include a new city hall and public library along with retail, restaurants and apartments.
San Ramon is currently in closed-session discussions with Sunset Development regarding real estate transactions. At his monthly breakfast meeting on Friday, Mayor Bill Clarkson said he's hoping for an announcement in the not-too-distant future.
"I think they're in a spot (to begin) sooner rather than later," he said.
Even if the project were announced in the next month, Clarkson said, the site would probably not be touched until next spring, after the winter rainy season.
"I think there will be six months after we know it's coming," he said.
The project has been on hold because of the economic downturn, but Councilman Scott Perkins said retail occupancy rates are up in San Ramon, a sign of a comeback.
He pointed out City Center would cost $600-$700 million to build.
"Bishop Ranch has to get the business loans," Perkins said, pointing toward a similar project in Sunnyvale that went bankrupt. "Banks don't like to lend millions of dollars unless it's pretty sound."
Meanwhile, there are plans to widen Bollinger Road by one lane between Interstate 680 and the Iron Horse Trail, Perkins said. That would accommodate the bulk of traffic to City Center, which is predicted to come largely from the highway.
Clarkson said he didn't expect traffic to worsen during morning commute times, since retail stores typically open around 10 a.m., after rush-hour traffic has died down.
He said afternoon traffic could be hit, adding local residents would probably avoid the area on their way home.