Walnut Creek city staff and downtown residents have given cautious support to a proposal to tear down the empty eight-story former bank building–otherwise known as 1500 Newell–and the building that currently houses the 7-Eleven store and replace them with a four-story, mixed-use condo and retail complex.
The new 128,575-square-foot complex, called the Village at 1500, would house 49 condo units on the upper three floors. Specifically, 19 of those 49 would be two-bedroom flats and 30 would be two-bedroom town homes. For residents, there would also been an outdoor pool, spa, clubhouse, and lounge.
This is according to a city staff report eing released in advance of Thursday night’s Planning Commission meeting. You can view the report here
According to the project, the developer is Alamo Essex, LLC. I earlier wrote
that Alamo Essex is a joint venture that brings together two companies, the Alamo Group and the Essex Property Trust of Palo Alto, a publicly traded real estate investment trust. The Alamo Group has been involved in revitalization several projects in downtown Walnut Creek, including McCovey’s Restaurant, Maria Maria, 1515 Restaurant Lounge, and Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge.
As for 1500 Newell, the proposal says that 10 percent of the residential units would be set as aside as “affordable” or “inclusionary” housing. Ten percent sounds impressive, but, four to five units. Is that enough?
On the ground floor there would be nearly 28,000-square-feet of retail space, including a 2,000 square-foot-restaurant.
One notable “site improvement” would be a “new pedestrian promenade” along Las Trampas Creek. “It is envisioned that this area will eventually be improved to provide a ‘natural’ walk along the channel, consistent with policies in the General Plan to enhance the creeks and natural resources of the City.”
Another notable feature would be that—unlike certain proposed luxury retail department stores we don’t need to mention—this new development would provide new parking in the form of two stories of underground parking.
For those who pay attention to whether the project complies with the city’s General Plan, the city staff report says it does—for the most part—in that it encourages a mix of commercial and residential uses in the downtown core area. Height-wise, the building rises 50 feet plus “small parapet extensions” and the rooftop stairwell. This height plus those extensions are in compliance with height exceptions for small “architectural embellishments.”
Possible sources of controversy?
–Well, of course, we’ll have to see what design the developers have come up with. Let’s hope it’s attractive.
–City planners are concerned about proposed sidewalk “improvements” along south Main Street, including the placement of planters and benches in the public right-of-way that could reduce the usable sidewalk area. Also, planners want the developer to make more effort to incorporate “green” building materials and features into their design.
–The city arborist has complained about the proposal to remove 11 trees , including several mature, healthy trees, to make way for construction. “The City Arborist does not support the removal of four red oak trees on South Main Street and recommends that every effort be made to preserve these trees.”
–Finally, neighbors from the nearby Parkmead Community Association generally support the project, but are concerned about an increase in traffic. A traffic analysis is currently underway.
With regard to the next step, planners recommend that the Planning Commission receive reports from the staff and developer and give the developer feedback.