Latest Sherwin site plans draw optimism … skepticism

Published On September 19, 2013 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Planning & Development

As the Sherwin Williams project wraps up its due-diligence period and transitions to its next stage of procuring entitlements, the reality of the impact of the development of the remediated paint factory is beginning to settle in. Developers Thompson Dorfman Partners and Oakland-based SRM Ernst have kicked off a series of community meetings soliciting input from neighboring Park Avenue residents & businesses in an attempt to reach out and alleviate concerns. “We want to create a unique place, a town center … not just another residential complex” said Thompson Dorfman principal Bruce Dorfman during a recent community meeting at the Emeryville Warehouse Lofts. SRM lists Phase I of the Pixar campus amongst its achievements and TD was responsible for notable Emeryville developments including the Bay Street residential, The Courtyards at 65th and Terraces at Emerystation. They’ve previously collaborated on the San Jose Water Site across from the HP Pavilion.

The footprint of this development represents a sizable chunk of the 1.2 square miles of our city and the largest piece of undeveloped land available. There seems to be a “make or break” attitude about the project for the Park Avenue District and concerns that if not watched closely could damage the historic neighborhood (perhaps the last link to Emeryville’s past with its abundant brick & historic warehouses). One thing that all neighbors seem to agree on is that they don’t want an extension of the Bay Street Shopping Mall. While Bay Street contributes heavily to the City’s tax-base … it comes at the cost of a heavy traffic burden and the “homogenized retail” contributes little to the character of the city (in fact has perpetuated the “Gentrification” label that our city seems to wear).

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“They’re promising us fantastic locally serving retail space and yet they’re not providing assurances on how they intend to deliver this” says 32 year Park Avenue district resident and Emeryville School district parent Brian Donahue “Emeryville has a long legacy of new residential projects with linear retail that remains vacant year-after-year … or worse, wind up as a mattress store.”

Mr. Donahue references previous developments such as the Emeryville Warehouse Lofts and Icon residents where similar discussions were had of luring a restaurant  … but ultimately this never materialized. Icon’s Holden facing retail space was intended to be a restaurant and now serves as a temporary gym after failing to attract a tenant and EWL’s prominent corner unit serves as the cluttered Tectonics Architectural firm. Neither provide any tangible community benefit. It is presumed that this development will bring the critical mass of people needed to sustain these type of desired businesses.

Emeryville Warehouse lofts resident and Ad-Hoc Sherwin-Williams committee organizer Donna Briskin remains optimistic about the project: “Joe (Ernst of SRM Ernst) and Bruce have been very responsive so far and we are optimistic that they’ll uphold the vision outlined in the Park Avenue District & City General Plan“.

Thompson Dorfmann seems receptive to community input thus far on what types of businesses the neighborhood would like to see. Some ideas that have been “thrown around” include:

  • A Café
  • Art Gallery
  • Bike Store
  • Boutique Pet Store
  • Florist
  • Wine Bar
  • Bakery
  • Deli/Small Grocer

For what it’s worth, in an attempt to “Crowdsource” what the community would like to see, we’ve added a Neighborland.com post for this site (We’d love to hear your input on what the neighborhood would like to see).

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“Small business thrives on consistent local support of residents and other small businesses. When there is a unique mix of services and retail operations within a geographic area all businesses, as well as the city, profit from the synergy” says Krisna Hanks, owner of East Bay Pilates and Economic Development Committee member who has been tapped to help steer Thompson towards encouraging local serving, community-minded small businesses. “As a small business owner in Emeryville having the support from neighborhood businesses, unique to each other, helps our business in numerous ways, such as increase client base, attract larger and more diverse audience, expand range of marketing efforts and ultimately assist in the sustainability of our business”

Other contentious issues that this development brings that the community is asking for answers are:

100% planned Rental Units

Emeryville seems determined to be more Family Friendly and not just a pit-stop for twenty & thirty-somethings on their way to parenthood. Emeryville needs people to vest in it and the bottom-line is that renters are statistically proven to vote less, volunteer less, and stay for shorter durations. The all-rental model seems at odds with this idea. Thompson has indicated that the current economy is slanted towards rentals while SFGate.com has indicated otherwise in this recent story “Bay Area rental pendulum swings to condos“.  Thompson has also indicated that pitching units resting on a former paint factory may be a hard sell. It’s unclear what recourse the city or residents have to influence this.

What to do with all those Cars?

The development stands to have a major impact on the already taxed Horton-Overland bicycle boulevard. The development allots for approximately 500 units and with that could come 1000+ vehicles. This development could make street parking a premium in what is already becoming a parking-troubled area. Will traffic be somehow diverted toward Hollis? Will an Emery Go-Round stop be added to accommodate commuters, perhaps a car-sharing pod? (Or perhaps an additional route to West Oakland BART?). These are questions that will have to be addressed in a forthcoming traffic-impact study.

And what to do with the two acres of open space?

The open space between the proposed development and the railroad tracks is designated as a park and it may be the city’s best opportunity to create a needed dog-park or community garden. Perhaps the city’s development Bonus structure could provide incentive for Sherwin to contribute to bringing this to life.

The impact of the Bay Street Pedestrian Bridge

The fabled Bay Street Pedestrian bridge is now under appeal by the state (we may have declared victory a bit prematurely). Joe from SRM Ernst has indicated that this would be critical to the success of the Sherwin project as it would provide a direct pedestrian line to the retail, dining and entertainment amenities that Bay Street offers. This would also serve as an avenue from Bay Street to the aforementioned Central green retail area and assure its success.

What you can do:

Residents who want to stay informed or get involved can bookmark this URL, subscribe, or email 
sherwin_info@evilleeye.com
 to be added to an email list of periodic updates. There’s also a community bulletin board on Horton at Sherwin St. (in front of the Artists Co-op) to help communicate Sherwin Development related happenings. Print and post this bulletin in your neighborhood or unit to help us generate create awareness of this critical juncture for our city.

Upcoming Meetings:

Attend one of the following community meetings to voice your opinion (I will publish these in the free E’ville Eye Community Calendar when I have more specific information).

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

2 Responses to Latest Sherwin site plans draw optimism … skepticism

  1. Molly says:

    Green space please!!! Dog park, room for soccer/football/frisbee games, picnics, gardens, etc. It could be Eville’s Central Park.

    This county girl is suffocating in the concrete jungle.

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