FREMONT -- The shell of the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station has made conspicuous progress in recent months, slowly rising above a dusty field northeast of the Tesla factory.
That small step in the city's complex Warm Springs development signifies something big: Fremont's dream of creating an 850-acre Innovation Center is slowly becoming reality, after years of planning and negotiating among a daunting set of moving pieces.
"It's so unique in the Bay Area to have a wealth of land to develop in a thoughtful way in proximity to BART," said Kelly Kline, Fremont's economic development director. "A project like this ensures our economic future by creating opportunities for a major employment center around transit."
That vision has been focused in the city's Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan, which council members will consider Tuesday night.
The plan envisions adding up to 4,000 housing units, 12,000 jobs, shopping and entertainment, restaurants, hotel and convention facilities, and parks and open space to an area anchored by Tesla and the new BART station. It also will offer office space tailored for biotech and solar-energy companies that already have clustered in the Warm Springs district, on Fremont's southern edge.
The $900 million BART extension will create a station near the corner of Warm Springs and South Grimmer boulevards.
It will open by the end of next year, said Tom Blalock, the BART board director representing southern Alameda County. AC Transit and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority buses will serve the BART station, which will have 2,000 parking spaces.
"The Warm Springs station will take pressure off of Fremont's original BART station," Blalock said. "And it will take cars off the road, because Santa Clara County commuters won't have to drive as far before parking and taking BART."
Although the development is in its early stages, positive buzz has helped Fremont lure companies; Thermo Fisher Scientific plans to open later this year on 22 acres it bought next to Tesla.
Lennar Corp. also has purchased 109 acres within the Innovation Center zone. The empty parcel is tucked between BART and the Tesla factory.
"Lennar is ... eager to partner with a forward-looking city like Fremont (and) to explore innovative, mixed-use development concepts at the property," Lennar executive Jon Jaffe said in a written statement last month, when the land purchase was announced.
Lennar has worked on projects similar to Fremont's and has successfully blended housing and commercial uses, Kline said. "They're known for being a residential developer, but they actually have a much broader repertoire," she said.
A 750-student elementary school will be built on the Lennar parcel, said Jim Morris, Fremont's superintendent of schools. The 5-acre campus will be next to a 4-acre park shared by the school district and the city.
The city and Fremont Unified forged a deal earlier this year with the area's developers, easing school district leaders' anxiety that new residents would crowd Fremont's already packed campuses.
Lennar, Valley Oak Partners and other developers pledged to pay for building a new elementary school and for additions to nearby junior high and high schools, city leaders said.
"This is the first time in recent memory that developers actually stepped up to the plate and said they're going to mitigate the impacts of development," Morris said. "It's joyful to be able to say to (city leaders), 'This is a new day.'"
Like its downtown, Fremont wants the Innovation Center to have an urban feel. The area's housing stock -- condominiums, townhomes, apartments -- will contrast with the single-family houses often associated with suburban Fremont.
"It's reflective of the city's vision to become more strategically urban," Kline said. "Smart growth? This is it."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.