One of biggest questions among Park Avenue District neighbors has been “when?!” Indeed, watching the Sherwin-Williams project unfold has been like “watching paint dry.” Clouding the picture was the sudden departure of Lennar project contact Kevin Ma who has ushered the project through.
Things have been relatively quiet with the project since the architectural FDP was approved back in February, 2018. The City’s project bar chart, last updated in December, 2018, indicates it is in the “plan check” phase.
Attention has been turned lately to our states lethargic approval process for culpability in our ongoing housing crisis. The Sherwin project has seen about five years of meetings and subsequent approvals. Sherwin closed the plant in 2006 and the six-year environmental cleanup was certified in 2013.
“The goal is to break ground early this year,” noted Ma’s replacement Dan Ferguson through email. “… and begin opening the first phases of the community in approximately two years thereafter.”
Another All Rental Project?
Another question among neighbors has been whether Lennar would launch the project as apartments or condominiums. Ma attested all along that this decision would be “market driven” but at least two years out, Lennar has apparently committed to apartments.
“Our business platform is to develop and manage rental communities,” Ferguson clarified. “Although market conditions could certainly change over the next 2-3 years we currently intend to build this one in-house and manage as an apartment community.”
There is no legal way for our city to enforce ownership units and the city does not offer bonus points for inclusion of ownership units. The developer is required to record a condo map that would be used should they ever opt to convert to condos. The last significant apartment complex to convert to condominiums in Emeryville was Bridgewater in 2014.
Many have pointed to the reason developers have been reluctant to build condominiums being California’s stringent defect law (SB-800 passed in 2002). For ten years after construction is completed, the developer is liable for common issues like water intrusion or cracks. There is less liability for developers to go with rental projects.
South Bayfront Bridge Update
One of the amenities of the project that residents have been clamoring for is the South Bayfront Pedestrian Bridge. The project has been in the works for over a decade. Like the Emeryville Art Center, the bridge was the victim of the loss of Redevelopment in 2012 but the city successfully recouped funding from the state in 2015.
The 230-foot long bicycle and pedestrian bridge will go over the railroad tracks roughly where 53rd street is and connect to the Bay Street Shopping Center Parking Garage. An RFP for the project was issued in December, 2017.
Councilmembers Bauters committed early in his 2018 turn as Mayor to “putting a shovel in the ground” for the project. This never materialized and this tweet has apparently been scrubbed from his account.
The delay for the project was apparently caused by a stalled easement negotiation with Union Pacific Railroad. The negotiation involved acquiring “air rights” over their tracks and the acquisition of a small parcel necessary for the bridge landings according to City of Emeryville Senior Civil Engineer Ryan O’Connell.
The good news is that the city was finally able to reach an agreement with UPRR as announced at January’s BPAC meeting. The project will now go out for bid next month and construction could begin as early as this summer. Construction is expected to take 18 months but O’Connell warned that the bridge could lay fallow for some time until the landing areas to access it are completed.
Council is expected to approve a resolution for the agreement with UPRR and scope of work at tonight’s meeting.