THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Demolition underway on Clement Avenue site

THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Demolition underway on Clement Avenue site

Michele Ellson

A developer demolishes defunct warehouses on a site near the Park Street Bridge. Photos by Tom Charron and Michele Ellson; click photo for slideshow.

The City of Alameda is getting an early Christmas gift from a local developer. Boatworks developer Francis Collins is in the process of demolishing a series of defunct warehouses along Clement Avenue, near the Park Street Bridge.

The demolition comes in advance of what the developer’s representatives said in court papers would be a new development plan for the site.

“Our position has been, whether he wants to move forward with his project or not is his decision. But he can’t just leave those buildings there indefinitely,” Acting City Planner Andrew Thomas said.

City leaders sued Collins last year in an effort to force him to perform the demolition work on the 9.48-acre property, and Collins countersued, claiming the city’s cleanup demands stalled efforts to clean up and develop the planned housing project. Court filings from a November 13 case management conference show that Collins, while not conceding the city’s position, was working on a new development plan that would require the site to be cleared and was in the process of obtaining a demolition permit from the city.

Neither Collins nor his architect, Philip Banta, responded to calls seeking comment on Monday. But Thomas, who has been in talks with Collins, said the developer wants to put more multifamily housing on the site. Thomas said the new proposal will probably be submitted by Collins and before the Planning Board for its consideration early next year.

Demolition on Clement Avenue on November 29. Video by Tom Charron.

City leaders signed off on a project in 2011 that included 153 homes, a 29-unit apartment complex and a two-acre park, a year after reaching an agreement that halted years of litigation over development at the site. A month later, the city’s building official ordered Collins to demolish four buildings on the property.

“They are a health and safety hazard. Literally, after a heavy wind, you would find pieces of corrugated metal on the sidewalk,” Thomas said. Court records showed the property had been the site of three fires since 2007, including one that destroyed a fifth building there.

The settlement included a payment of nearly $4.6 million in future tax revenues expected to be generated by redevelopment of the site. The state ended the program that would have allowed the city to direct that money toward redevelopment projects earlier this year, and while state officials offered permission for the settlement to proceed, they’ve also said they could choose to revoke it in the future.

The Boatworks site isn’t on the list of properties where developers will be automatically permitted to apply to construct apartments and other multifamily housing. Thomas said Collins can, as he did before, use the city’s density bonus ordinance – which allows developers the opportunity to construct multifamily housing in exchange for affordable units – to build more than the apartment building that was already approved.

Still, city officials are happy to see the buildings come down off the site of what Thomas called “the worst case of urban blight” on the Island.

“It’s exciting,” Thomas said. “It’s been a long haul. Seeing those buildings down is nice.”

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Comments

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Tue, Dec 4, 2012

Francis Collins' years-overdue demolition of this blighted property raises just one question for me: how irresponsible do you have to be to avoid tearing down such blatant health and safety hazards for five years or more?

Submitted by Karen Bey on Wed, Dec 5, 2012

I agree with Andrew Thomas – this is exciting to see. I’m looking forward to seeing the new development plan.

Submitted by mister pointer outer on Sun, Jan 20, 2013

a "health and safety hazard"? what kind of whining is that? it was there for decades and no one got sick or hurt. if it displeases your finely attuned sense of aesthetics, that's one thing. but can the hyperbole.