By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | dailyrepublic.com
Mixed-use developments that blend residential and commercial uses on one property are becoming popular in the Bay Area as a way to redevelop underutilized infill parcels in older commercial areas and downtowns.
These developments bring businesses and their customers together in a community setting that offers conveniences and services to residents, similar to an old-fashioned walkable “village.”
Walnut Creek and Emeryville are two cities that have great examples of mixed-use development in their core areas. Many Fairfield commercial areas already conditionally permit mixed-use residential/commercial development, and a few sites around town may see proposals to develop these concepts.
We recently spoke with Kathryn Abbassi, managing partner, Oliver Road Properties, the owners of the longtime vacant 44,000-square-foot former Orchard Supply Hardware building sitting on a 4.03-acre parcel within Fairfield Corners Shopping Center on Oliver Road.
The building has been vacant since 2013 when Lowe’s purchased the OSH stores and closed the Fairfield location. Mary’s Pizza Shack, Favela’s Fusion restaurant, Avalanche Frozen Yogurt store and FedEx Office Print & Ship Center are some neighboring businesses.
Oliver Road Properties has teamed up with Tallen Capital Partners to create a visionary development concept for 1500 Oliver Road, proposing to remove the existing empty building in its entirety and construct a five-story mixed-use building with retail and residential uses to enhance and support the existing businesses in Fairfield Corners.
Economic Notes: Kathryn, can you tell us when Oliver Road Properties became involved with this property, and outside of the investment economics, what attracted you to invest in Fairfield?
Kathryn Abbassi: Purchasing the property in 2010, we saw that many cities along Interstate 80 had been successful in creating more jobs and housing. We felt that Fairfield was a location that was up and coming. We also were particularly attracted to the desirability of the neighborhood location of the property.
EN: 1500 Oliver Road previously housed a large retail anchor-type store. Please tell us about some of your efforts to identify new retailer uses for the site since OSH closed its doors.
Abbassi: For close to three years, Colliers International, a real estate company that is very active in Fairfield, communicated with all major retailers on our behalf. It became increasingly clear that 1500 Oliver Road, vacant eight out of the last 11 years, is no longer a location appropriate for large-scale retail establishments. Likewise, large-scale restaurant entertainment venues were also problematic because of their massive parking requirements.
EN: Your development team is proposing a mixed-use development with 15,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, shop space and 119 upscale apartment homes. Could you give us some insight on the development experience of your team and the types of developments they have worked on?
Abbassi: Our team’s experience includes custom high-end home developments in the East Bay, townhouse developments in Nevada and retail developments in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Tallen Capital Partners is a part of the team who helped work on an appropriate solution for the property. Mr. Tallen is a 30-year veteran retail investor and developer who is actively involved in redeveloping a 138,000-square-foot shopping center in Walnut Creek. He was also a partner in the Napa Tahoe Crossings development (Bank of America, Pet Club) adjacent to Costco in Fairfield.
EN: In your opinion, what makes 1500 Oliver Road particularly suitable for mixed-use development, and can you describe how the project is designed to “fit in” with the scale and architecture of the surrounding neighborhood?
Abbassi: The property is particularly suited for mixed-use development as an infill location in an attractive mixed residential and neighborhood shopping area including a grocery store. The retail portion of the development will stimulate the housing portion and vice versa. The proposed building is designed to fit in with the scale and architecture of the surrounding neighborhood supporting existing use. The front of the building has been located closer to the commerce on Oliver Road and the back portion of the development has been designed stepping down toward Woodcreek Drive in order to harmonize with the residential nature of the neighborhood. We are also maintaining mature redwoods and a sound wall along Woodcreek.
EN: What categories of users do you envision for the retail portion of the development?
Abbassi: We are envisioning neighborhood serving retail for the commercial portion of the development. We are actively reaching out to size-appropriate upscale restaurants and other community-oriented quality retailers such as health food stores.
EN: What are some of the specifics of the proposed apartment homes?
Abbassi: The one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments proposed are perfect for individuals, couples, families or neighbors looking to downsize and stay in the area. There will be ample, secure parking that exceeds city requirements. Amenities include a clubhouse, swimming pool, barbecue area and more. Some apartment homes will be fitted for disabled use. The residential units will be competitively priced.
EN: The city is undertaking a specific plan for its downtown and the West Texas Street corridor. Mixed-use development is contemplated in that plan. If your project is successful, what type of effect do you feel it will have on development in other parts of town?
Abbassi: We see our mixed-use development as a catalyst to demonstrate that the marketplace is viable for development and improvement in other areas of Fairfield, such as downtown.
The Oliver Road Properties and Tallen Capital Partners team hope to hold a neighborhood meeting in November or December to obtain community input on their development concept. “Neighboring businesses like Favela’s Fusion are very excited about the mixed-use concept,” Kathryn Abbassi said.