Concord Naval Weapons Station: Hotels, conference center are key

By  | | Bay Area News Group

CONCORD — Rapid advances in autonomous vehicle technology make it difficult to predict future modes of transportation and to plan roadways accordingly.

Nevertheless, that is the challenge facing city leaders as they lay the foundation for the transformation of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a sprawling residential and commercial development that will take decades to complete.

The first phase of the project will include hotels, housing, retail and office space clustered near BART and the future tournament sports park.

Recently, the City Council reviewed developer Lennar-Five Point’s proposed land use plan for the former military base which includes a two-lane “transit spine” roadway that runs the length of the entire development from the North Concord BART station to Bailey Road.

A traffic analysis projected that 8,000 to 9,000 vehicles per day would travel the transit spine when the project is fully built, whereas 20,000 cars would trigger a four-lane roadway, according to Lennar’s consultant.

City staffers, however, recommended that the council reserve the land to build a four-lane arterial street or to add a bus rapid transit lane to ensure greater capacity. Lennar plans to pay for a shuttle that will run on the 500 acres it develops.

Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer said the city should be clear about how the road will function as a “true transit corridor” that efficiently moves people around the development without providing another route for East County residents seeking to avoid rush hour congestion on Highway 4.

“I don’t want Concord to be a cut-through city,” Obringer said ” I don’t want the naval weapons station to be a cut through place; I want it to be a destination.”

Although Councilman Ron Leone acknowledged the bumper-to-bumper commute traffic on Willow Pass Road, he argued that some California communities had suffered when new freeways routed motorists around entire towns.

“There’s commercial advantages of having people driving through your city,” he said. “Not all cut-through is bad.”

The Concord Reuse Project Area Plan calls for building up to 12,200 housing units and 6.1 million square feet of commercial space on about 2,300 acres of the former military base. The East Bay Regional Park District will receive 2,600 acres for the future Concord Hills Regional Park. The Navy is scheduled to begin transferring land to the city in late 2018

Lennar’s plans for the first 500 acres of the naval weapons station include 4,392 housing units (1,101 that are affordable), 1.3 million square feet of office space, 428,000 square feet of retail space, two community centers, an elementary school and 79 acres of parks and open space. The firm estimates it will take eight to 10 years to complete this phase.

The other primary transit corridors include Willow Pass Road, which will be widened to four lanes and Willow Pass bridge will be rebuilt as a four-lane span; and four-lane Delta Road that runs roughly parallel with Highway 4 connecting the BART station and Willow Pass Road. A network of bike lanes separated from vehicle traffic also will be part of the development.

Based on feedback from the community, Lennar had proposed several changes to phase one, including removing the commercial site between Willow Pass Road and Highway 4; adding 63 acres for housing; and reorienting the mixed-use development near the North Concord BART station to create a Main Street and connect with the new residential area.

City leaders agreed to reserve a 120-acre site a half-mile from BART station for a potential college campus, although that land is not included in the area for the first phase of development.

Lennar plans for high-density, multi-family housing with ground floor retail space, shops, office buildings and a hotel close to BART. The council also stressed the need to build a convention center nearby.

A “town center” with housing, a town square, grocery store, second-floor professional offices, retail space and a second hotel will be built in the northeastern portion of the property. It sits across Willow Pass Road from the 75-acre tournament sports park site the city is responsible for developing.

Lennar has proposed extensive grading to smooth out parts of the hilly site, particularly the land between BART and the future campus site so that the developed area is comfortably walkable.

Council members urged the firm to reduce the grading and preserve more of the property’s natural topography. Lennar has agreed to work with city staffers to do so.

In an email to the council, Concord resident K. Holly McGlothlin dismissed the developer’s argument that it is challenging to build on hills, citing the Sun Terrace neighborhood as an example.

“Hills enhance the views and neighborhoods so that when you drive around, you do not just see flat land and housing,” McGlothlin wrote.

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