FREMONT -- Two Irvington district shopping centers soon might be bulldozed to make way for 92 homes, reflecting the city's vision for the future but angering the strip malls' loyal customers.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider a plan to demolish the Connolly Shopping Center and the Chapel Business Center, adjacent properties on 3.7 acres at Fremont Boulevard and Chapel Way. Warmington Residential, a San Ramon developer, plans to put up a dozen buildings, standing as high as four stories, with 44 townhomes, 38 condos and 10 work-live units.
The plan, approved by the city Planning Commission, matches Fremont's goals of rezoning under performing retail centers and "strategically pruning some retail sites because of how much commercial space Fremont already has," said Joel Pullen, a city planner.
A retail study by Warmington's consultants says that because the 59-year-old Connolly Center is small, needs renovation and has tenants with low rents for short terms, it is a "poorly performing center ... ripe for conversion to a different use such as multi-family housing."
But some in the community disagree, and about 25 residents have sent emails and letters to city leaders, asking them to reject the developer's plans. That would save about a dozen businesses and several organizations, including an American Cancer Society branch.
"As a small-business owner ... I am appalled at the fact that Fremont wants to replace family businesses with townhomes," Mary Riddle wrote last month in an email city planners. "These are Fremont businesses that have been a part of Fremont as long as I can remember."
Others reject the idea that those shopping areas are underperforming.
"Closing the two centers will damage that entire business community," Fremont resident Alice Cavette said in an email. "Bob's Giant Burgers, in particular ... is still going strong after 52 years with many longtime employees and customers."
Joe Sordi, a Warmington representative, said that if all goes well in the project's planning, construction could start by summer of next year and finish by 2018.
The developer has a deal to buy the Connolly Center on the condition that Fremont approve the rezoning.
"We would need to get a firm indication from the city," Sordi said. "Tuesday night is pretty important."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
The Fremont City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Bldg. A, 3300 Capitol Ave.