HERCULES -- The developer that wants to turn the half-finished, four-story Sycamore North complex into upscale apartments with ground-level stores will host a community outreach meeting at City Hall on Saturday.
The project currently is in limbo, since UC-BNB Partners LLC discovered last year that no easements are in place to use an adjacent alley or the space above it for construction, or later for maintenance.
The alley belongs to the Bayside Homeowners Association, which encompasses about 330 single-family houses. Some Bayside residents have said they want one or more floors of the building razed, or taken down altogether; others want it finished, if only to eliminate the sight of a hulking structure wrapped in a weatherproofing wrap.
Sycamore North originally was conceived as a mostly low-income housing development to satisfy the affordable housing quota of Bayside under state redevelopment rules in effect at the time. The Hercules Redevelopment Agency, acting as its own developer, spent about $35 million on building the project before it ran out of money.
In 2011, an affordable housing developer, Bridge Housing, proposed to finish Sycamore North as an all-affordable project but backed off amid angry protests from some Bayside residents who warned that low-income residents, concentrated in a single complex, would bring crime and depress nearby property values.
The following year, Presidio Development Partners of San Francisco and its principal, Mark Conroe, agreed to take over Sycamore North from the city for the nominal amount of $425,000 and a promise to finish it as an upscale rental apartment complex with about 10,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. Conroe has since renamed the project Town Centrale and named the development team UC-BNB partners.
In a June 5 letter to Bayside residents, published on the local website WaterfrontWatch.org, UC-BNB says that in 2009-2010, the homeowners association and the city, as project developer, negotiated an agreement, but it was never signed. In May 2012, UC-BNB offered to sign the draft agreement, but the homeowners association gave "very little response," the letter continues.
In April, city officials met with the HOA and offered to pay for the easements. However, "On May 14, the HOA board's attorney wrote a letter to the city stating that unless the top two floors of the project were 'removed,' then the HOA would not discuss providing the requested, minor easements," the UC-BNB letter continues.
The manager for Bayside at Concord-based VierraMoore Inc. was out of the office Thursday; an assistant manager did not respond to a message from this newspaper. Hercules City Manager Steve Duran referred a question to City Attorney Patrick Tang, who did not immediately comment.
Conroe, in an email Wednesday, said, "We continue to have strong and sincere interest in completing the project. We are optimistic that an agreement can be worked out with our neighbors so that the project can be completed and the blight removed from the neighborhood."
What: Community meeting (to discuss Sycamore North/Town Centrale)
Where: Hercules City Hall, 111 Civic Drive
When: 10 a.m. Saturday