WALNUT CREEK -- To get a green light for a major expansion and remodel at Broadway Plaza, shopping center owners are willing to write the city a $5 million check.
As part of a draft development agreement, which basically gives Broadway Plaza owners Macerich Inc. vesting rights and other assurances, Walnut Creek would receive a guaranteed $3 million, and the option for $2 million more, depending whether Macerich needed to extend the contract.
In return, Macerich would get a 20-year total term to implement its long-range master plan. All impact fees would be based on 2013 rates.
"The schedule (of development) would be at developer's discretion for when they start ... but once they start they would have to implement each phase in a timely matter so it didn't disrupt the downtown," Planning Manager Steve Buckley said at a special City Council meeting last week. "In return for some of these guarantees, Macerich has agreed to fund cash payments to the city ... which would be spent as the council sees fit."
This draft agreement was hammered out between Macerich and city leaders, including Mayor Cindy Silva and Councilwoman Loella Haskew.
The Macerich plan, yet to be approved, calls for as much as 300,000 square feet of new commercial space. The plan calls for existing parking garages to be demolished on South Broadway and rebuilt; expansion of the Macy's store; and the face-lift and remodel of many existing stores and pedestrian-oriented improvements. Later plans include construction of a new two- or three-story building on the west side of Broadway Plaza street, in the current men's Macy's location. Unlike previous versions of the plan, Macerich no longer wants to close off Broadway Plaza street or build underground parking or allow housing in the center.
One large hurdle, and perhaps the reason Macerich is willing to fork over millions, is a 1,000-foot section of an underground culvert at Broadway Plaza. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently has authority over that culvert, and won't allow any construction near it. A bill in Congress currently, if passed, would de-federalize that section of culvert for the San Ramon Creek and turn control over to Walnut Creek, thereby allowing Macerich to expand.
No construction work can be done anywhere near the culvert while the Army Corps of Engineers is still involved, said Macerich Vice President of Development Garrett Newland.
Silva put it bluntly, saying, "If the government doesn't de-federalize this, (the project) isn't going anywhere."
Officials should know soon if Congress approves of the deauthorization of the creek. If the project continues and is approved, how the influx of cash will be spent is not clear, but it's on everyone's minds.
Mayor Pro Tem Kristina Lawson suggested that $250,000 be earmarked in the agreement to go toward the city's centennial celebration, set to take place next year. While City Council members seemed interested in that idea, they said they needed more information on what exactly the centennial steering committee would do with the money.
But Councilman Justin Wedel pointed out that the city has some major needs.
"We have a huge deficit ... and the only recommendation that has been discussed up until now is to go out and raise taxes," he said. Wedel questioned how city leaders could be asking residents for more money and at the same time receive millions from Macerich.
Silva pointed out that any money from Macerich would be recognized as "one-time moneys" and by council policy is to be used on one-time purposes, not on backfilling the budget for operations. That policy was instituted last year.
The final environmental report for the Broadway Plaza long-range plan is expected in the next few weeks, and the City Council will have final say on the plan, likely in December. If everything goes through, Macerich anticipates beginning construction next year, which means the city could see it's first $1 million very soon.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.