PITTSBURG -- A long-delayed plan to transform an empty five-acre lot next to Pittsburg's civic center into a three-story commercial office building is moving forward after being stalled by a slow economy.
On Monday, the City Council will consider a development agreement for the Civic Tower project next to the civic center along Highway 4. The project calls for Concord-based developer Garaventa Enterprises to construct a three-story office building between 65,000 and 75,000 square feet in size, a bicycle path, parking lot and a separate full-service restaurant next to a proposed eBART station at Highway 4 and Railroad Avenue.
If approved, the agreement would clear the way for the project to go through an approval process before construction could begin. "It provides a template for the developer, but there are still many steps before it can actually be built," Assistant City Manager Garrett Evans said this week.
The agreement calls for the project to be completed by September 2017. In 2009, council members, acting as the then-Redevelopment Agency, approved a similar agreement for a three-story building that involved giving the city-owned land to Garaventa Enterprises in exchange for developing it.
The project never got built as a result of the economic slowdown, and earlier project approvals have expired. And with the shutdown of redevelopment agencies under a state law in 2012, a new development agreement with the city is needed before the project can go forward. An environmental impact report won't be required as a result of the review of the earlier project.
With today's improved economy, the time is right to move forward with the project, said Robert Hammons, project manager for Garaventa Enterprises. "It was never out of play," he said. "The plan would be to develop the project when the economics were appropriate. "
At a March hearing, planning commissioners voted 4-0 to recommend that council members approve the new development agreement. During the hearing, planning Commissioner Patrice Belleci-Shipe questioned whether the stand-alone restaurant should be included, given that several new restaurants have opened on Railroad Avenue in the city's Old Town in recent years.
Another concern she raised was how the restaurant would affect Cafe Pica Deli, which leases space at the remodeled and expanded Pittsburg branch of the Contra Costa Library next to the project site.
Whether a restaurant is included in the project will be determined during the formal review process, Evans said. The area where the Civic Tower would be built is within a quarter-mile of Pittsburg's proposed eBART Civic Center station. The station was a key factor in deciding to move forward with the Civic Tower project, Hammons said. "It's definitely going to help attract businesses," he said.
Under an earlier vote taken by the City Council, commercial property owners within a half-mile radius of the proposed eBART station will have ballots mailed to them in May asking whether they would be willing to pay a one-time tax to help build the station.
The tax would be levied only when commercial property owners filed a building permit for new construction. The Civic Tower project would be among the properties subject to the tax if it is approved by a two-thirds majority.
The station would be part of the 10-mile eBART extension from the Pittsburg-Bay Point station to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch. While funding is in place for the extension, the Hillcrest station, a maintenance facility and transfer platform east of the Pittsburg-Bay Point station, there is no BART funding for the Civic Center station.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.