HERCULES -- Plans to salvage the failed Sycamore North project and turn it into a high-end apartment complex with ground-floor retail took another hit with the discovery that no easements are in place to use an adjacent alley or the space above it for construction, or later for maintenance.
"The project can't be built without these easements -- by us or anyone else," Mark Conroe, principal with developer UC/BNB Partners LLC, told the Hercules City Council on Tuesday.
The council unanimously granted Conroe's group a 4½-month extension, to July 31, to close escrow on the property, since renamed Town Centrale. The previous deadline for closing was March 15.
Last month, the council had agreed to an extension with somewhat different conditions, but Conroe's group never signed off on the deal. Under the extension granted Tuesday, the buyer will pay carrying costs of about $27,000 a month, until closing.
The Hercules Redevelopment Agency, acting as its own developer, originally conceived the project, on Sycamore Avenue north and west of San Pablo Avenue, as a primarily low-income housing development to satisfy the affordable housing quota of the adjacent Bayside subdivision under then-prevailing state redevelopment rules. But the city ran out of money after spending about $35 million, with the four-story structure about half-finished.
A proposal to sell the project to affordable housing developer Bridge Housing in 2011 collapsed after angry protests from some Bayside residents who predicted increased crime and falling property values in their subdivision.
Last year, Conroe's firm, Presidio Development Partners of San Francisco, agreed to take over Sycamore North for the nominal amount of $425,000 and a promise to finish it.
But some Bayside residents were not ready to live with Sycamore North in any form and urged the council to order the structure torn down, or at least to lop off one or two floors.
Conroe plans about 145 upscale apartments and 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of restaurants and stores.
Last year, Conroe unsuccessfully sought an easement for refuse collection from the Bayside homeowners association, which owns the alley running behind Town Centrale. This time, he said, he seeks easements that are "much less obtrusive, reduced in scope."
City Manager Steve Duran announced that he and Mayor John Delgado will meet with the Bayside homeowners association next week to attempt to resolve the "logjam."
Calls and an email to the management company for the Bayside homeowners association, Vierra Moore Co. of Concord, were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Outside the council chamber, Conroe said he is still optimistic that he can complete the project and that he hopes that most Bayside homeowners will realize that a completed Town Centrale would benefit their community and their property values.
He said he found out only recently that there were no easements in place to finish construction, having assumed that the city had secured them before it began construction on Sycamore North more than three years ago.