UPDATE 6-3-19: The Brentwood Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 4 will NOT include The Streets of Brentwood apartments plan. No date for a commission meeting regarding that project has been scheduled yet.
The owner of The Streets of Brentwood, the city’s largest retail center, has submitted plans to the city to construct 320 apartments on the east side of the 57-acre property.
Facing a challenging retail market rocked by online competition, Fairbourne Properties, the Chicago-based operator of the mall, is seeking to change the city’s zoning to allow development of housing at the site.
The property managers filed a 48-page development with the Brentwood Planning Department in February. City officials are looking to bring it before the planning commission for a hearing June 4.
In the plan, the firm states, “The retail center is occupied with some well-known, creditworthy tenants, however, they have struggled to keep the space fully occupied and there has been no interest in developing the remaining buildings and pads. This is the reason residential is being proposed for this property. There is no demand for more retail and the addition of residential is likely to help the retail perform better.”
Planning manager Erik Nolthenius noted that the project could be a little contentious with the community. Given the strong opposition to some housing development proposals in the area, Nolthenius said he wouldn’t be surprised if the proposal drew some strong reactions.
But one local development activist, Kathy Griffin, of the Alliance for a Better Brentwood, said that the project might make some sense for the shopping mall.
“It’s an infill project, so it’s not pushing out against the urban limit line,” Griffin said.
The one aspect of the project’s design that caused her concern is the proposed buildings’ three-story height. Griffin said she believed the local fire department isn’t equipped with ladders capable of reaching the roofs. But she said she would have no objections if it’s “walkable.”.
Called “The Apartments at The Streets of Brentwood,” or “Anden Apartments,” the plan says the units are envisioned to create a vibrant, mixed-use district in the city of Brentwood. The shops provide retail, dining and entertainment opportunities, and the proposed apartments would help support those services by adding patrons within a short walking distance. By bringing additional customers into direct proximity of the shops, this would help to stabilize the existing tenants, support local businesses and hopefully help fill the vacant spaces within the shops, the plan theorizes.
The proposed project includes 320 apartment homes in 15 buildings of 10-28 units each. The plan further breaks down to 125 one-bedroom units, 131 two-bedroom and 64 three-bedroom units, to appeal to a wide variety of family sizes. The floor plans range from 646 to 1,086 square feet. The buildings are designed to have front doors off one side — the paseo side — and parking off the other side, served by drive lanes. Each unit would include a covered parking space, either a one-car garage or a carport. The proposal also includes additional, uncovered, surface parking throughout. Rent-cost projections weren’t covered in the submitted plans.
After reviewing the original proposal, city staff asked the developer to make a number of changes: add a minimum-six-foot high barrier around the entire project perimeter, security gating at the entrances off the main drive aisles, license plate recognition cameras at the main entrance and Shady Willow Lane, upgrade the sewer along Highland Way, acoustical analysis and construction of a sound wall.
The creation of residential apartments over retail stores is not a new concept, but is becoming an increasingly popular one across the country. Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University, said in a recent interview that converting malls into multi-service mini-villages may be the key to using unoccupied real estate in the retail market.
“We don’t need all the mall space we have just for shopping,” Nicholson said in recent interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”
In Richmond, a real estate investment firm is looking to add as many as 9,600 homes when it redevelops Contra Costa County’s struggling Hilltop Mall.
The planning commission will meet on the project on June 4, 7 p.m. in the Brentwood City Council chambers, 150 City Park Way. For additional information, call 925-516-5440.