Public Market Development Plan Will Bring More Traffic, Few Benefits to Residents

August 19, 2008

Developer To Get $10 Million and Street Widening

Residents Might Get a Park – in 20 Years

by Reem Assil

One of Emeryville’s biggest development proposals received a green light last month, when the City Council gave its approval to a major overhaul of the Emeryville Public Market site. The plan is for a sprawling mall and office at the city’s heart. Voting 4-1, the City Council approved a 25-year development plan that will add hundreds of housing units, additional commercial space, and a park to the existing site. The site now has a food court, an office building, and movie theater.

Known officially as the Emeryville Marketplace, the current site is bounded by Shellmound Way, the railroad tracks, 64th Street, and Christie Avenue. The proposed expansion would add additional office space, 52,000 square feet of retail, and up to 340 new housing units on what are now large parking lots.

Council Member John Fricke, the lone dissenter, voiced three major concerns:

  • TMG Partners, the project’s developer, requested and received approvals locking in zoning approval of any combination of residential/commercial/retail for 25 years. Fricke strongly objected to the fact that under the proposal, construction of the future park isn’t required before the year 2028, 20 years from now.
  • The plan involves extensive street-widening that will exacerbate the city’s traffic woes and conflicts with the city’s stated goal of encouraging more walking and bicycling.
  • TMG Partners is requesting $10 million from the city. The money will likely pay for a parking garage. TMG claims that the return on the city’s investment over the next 25 years will be $60 million. But, the city has yet to recoup any of the millions it gave to Madison Marquette for construction of the Bay Street mall’s parking garage, although similar repayment promises were made. The $10 million for the Marketplace garage will be taken from the city’s fund for capital improvements, like public parks and recreational areas.

Many residents spoke on Tuesday night with similar concerns, particularly the seeming unwillingness of the city to take a stand and ask developers for more community benefits. People also said that street widening would result in more traffic, further compromising quality of life for city residents.

Juanita Carrol Young, a Terraces resident, spoke of “real tangible returns” on investment.
“I expect things like bicycle and pedestrian safety, funding for the schools so that my daughter Larissa can have the best education and opportunities possible, and family-sustaining jobs,” she said.

Reem Assil is a community organizer for EBASE. Reem is inspired by both her love for community and her understanding of the importance of building power in the labor movement. Her formative experience with coalition building and community organizing comes out of organizing in the Arab American community, in which her heart lies.

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