WALNUT CREEK -- City leaders hope the Shadelands Business Park is on the cusp of a comeback.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the City Council approved creation of the Shadelands Property and Business Improvement District, which will levy fees on park property owners to help pay for universal needs from a BART shuttle to private security patrols.
This plan has been in the works for three years, as property owners and employers in the Shadelands worked with the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce to create support for the improvement district and set priorities to help revive the 240-acre park, which has a more than 30 percent vacancy rate.
It will help "invigorate the Shadelands to make it once again a competitive employment center and to encourage economic growth out there ... with the intention of creating high-paying jobs," said Ron Gerber, the city's economic development manager.
The district will generate $385,000 a year, and is set to be in place for five years before requiring renewal. The money will be used for wayfinding signs, branding and advocacy for things like greater zoning flexibility, private security patrols and a Shadelands permit program.
But most of the money will go to paying for a BART shuttle to the Pleasant Hill BART station. County Connection has already rerouted its Route 7 bus so it has fewer stops, picking up every 15 minutes during peak commute hours. With passage of the improvement district, the bus will likely soon be free for riders, much like the Free Ride Trolley bus that trolls downtown. The buses may eventually be painted distinctively and Wi-Fi added, according to officials.
Supporters say these incentives are necessary to help Shadelands compete with the likes of Bishop Ranch, a business park in San Ramon.
"Shadelands is the place that we look at as where our kids graduating from college will likely come back and look for careers, therefore it's a very important part of our community," said Jay Hoyer, president of the chamber.
All property owners in Shadelands were mailed ballots to vote for or against the district's creation. The city clerk counted the ballots Tuesday night and found no majority protest; the council then unanimously voted to create the district.
The annual assessment rate for commercial parcels is .06 cents per building square foot plus .019 cents per parcel square foot. For example, the former Contra Costa Times parcel, now owned by developer Mark Hall, would be assessed nearly $20,000 a year. Private tax-exempt parcels will only pay 50 percent of the rate.
Walnut Creek will pay nearly $14,000 toward the improvement district because the city owns four properties within Shadelands.
Advocates say this district gives Shadelands something it hasn't ever had -- a unified group of business owners. Much of the Shadelands zoning hasn't changed since it opened in 1975, and many believe park zoning must be more flexible to lure businesses.
A project by Safeway to redevelop its office property into a new shopping center was a major shift recently approved by the City Council.
"Not only is (the improvement district) a great opportunity for the various projects that the district will help sponsor ... but more importantly it's a first step to give the Shadelands (owners) an opportunity to come together as a cohesive group to be able to work together for the future to improve and enhance the opportunities that are presented on the Shadelands," said David Bowlby, speaking on behalf of Property Development Centers, Safeway's developer. "I think it's a first step in really rejuvenating and moving the Shadelands area forward."
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617 or firstname.lastname@example.org