Antioch City officials agreed recently to spend the next 18 months trying to find funding to enable a major mixed-use development of apartments, condos, stores, restaurants and office buildings near the planned Hillcrest eBART station.
Exactly what will be developed around the station will depend on exactly where the station is located. Three station locations are under consideration: 1) in the Highway 4 median at Hillcrest Avenue; 2) north of Highway 4 and east of but fairly close to Hillcrest Avenue; and 3) north of Highway 4 and farther east from Hillcrest Avenue.
There is currently enough funding $500 million to extend an eBART line 10 miles from the Bay Point BART Station and provide stations in the Highway 4 median at Railroad Avenue and Hillcrest Avenue.
The problem with the other two Hillcrest station options is that they would cost significantly more due to the need to build a train tunnel under the westbound lanes of Highway 4. In addition, a new highway interchange at Phillips Lane might be needed in order to get people to and from the station and the nearby development.
The Phillips Lane interchange is estimated to cost $50-75 million. Tunneling under the highway to get eBART to the Northside West Station is estimated at $34 million; $61 million for the Northside East Station and the extension of tracks required. With other related costs added in, the total could add up to $100-$150 million, depending on the station.
The big problem is that there currently is no additional funding in the pipeline for an eBART tunnel under the highway or a new interchange.
In fact, there's already a $37 million shortfall in the funding to widen Highway 4 from Loveridge Road to the Highway 4 Bypass, possibly resulting in the Hillcrest interchange improvements being delayed. There's also no funding currently to provide the 1,000 parking spaces that will be needed initially around the eBART station (4,600 spaces will be needed eventually).
Due to the lack of additional funding, City Councilmen Brian Kalinowski and Jim Davis favor placing the eBART station in the highway median.
First and foremost should be delivery of eBART in a functional form to Antioch to serve not only Antioch but the rest of East County, said Kalinowski at a May 20 council workshop. I believe that the development of the properties (nearby) are secondary to the development of a functional BART station.
He pointed out that the Phillips Lane interchange proposal has already been rejected by Caltrans. Referring to the plans for major development around the station, he said, Some of them are very dreamy. I don't think they are doable. I think we've gotten off track and lost the scope of what we are trying to accomplish.
Other council members were entranced by the presentation by consultant Leslie Gould on possible development on the north side of Highway 4.
This is an incredible opportunity to have this much land that's undeveloped next to a BART station, said Gould. You have a tremendous opportunity to have a transit village, major employment center, creekside park and retail uses with freeway visibility.
All three station sites would allow for development of nearby businesses, providing 4,000 to 5,000 jobs. The big difference between the station sites is the amount of housing they would accommodate.
The Highway 4 median station would allow for 660 units of apartments, condos and townhouses, but those residents would be faced with a bit of a walk to get to eBART. The Northside West Station closer to Hillcrest would allow a short walk from eBART to get to a transit village with as many as 1,000 residential units. The Northside East Station would allow a short walk from eBART to a full mixed-use development of 3,500 units.
Gould showed photos of successful mixed-use developments in Walnut Creek, Santana Row in San Jose and around the Fruitvale BART station, among other locations.
Councilman Reggie Moore said that after seeing the development possibilities, he believes city officials should try to find the funding to make it happen.
If we want to establish an area that some 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now really is a true vision, then we need to pursue the out-of-median funding, said Moore. We know TOD (transit-oriented development) is the way of the future.
Mayor Don Freitas agreed, saying, I will tell you that I've referred to the Hillcrest property as Antioch's Gold Coast. Because this really is our opportunity to have enough land to do an outstanding job with regard to economic development, commercial, retail, residential and open space, as well as having transit and buses as well as the freeway system.
I realize there's $150 million in additional revenue that's needed. I also realize from a pure Antioch parochial view, it provides us jobs, it provides us sales tax revenue, it provides increases in land value with regard to the redevelopment agency, it provides more revenue to do other infrastructure issues.
Antioch planner Victor Carniglia was given the go-ahead to work with the landowners over the next year or so to see if funding can be found.