Brisbane 541-acre brownfields rail yard development
- Published Friday, October 29, 2004, in the San Francisco Business Times
Asian investors' mile-wide opportunity
Brisbane parcel ready to go, but "the city is holding the key"
By Lizette Wilson
After spending 15 years and roughly $120 million to purchase and clean
up a huge toxic site in Brisbane, a group of Asian investors is
finally ready to develop the plot.
Universal Paragon Corp., a privately held company, applied to the city
of Brisbane to redevelop the former landfill and railroad yard into a
commercial retail center with public open space and other amenities.
"It's the beginning of what will probably be a very long and very
thorough environmental review process as well as conversation with the
community about what they want to see," said Brisbane City Manager
Clayton Holstine. "We're prepping ourselves as a community to deal
with this when it comes in."
Covering 541 acres just west of highway 101, the site is nearly a
square mile. The largest of its kind anywhere in the Peninsula, it
represents about one-third of Brisbane's total land area.
Although UPC hopes to include as much as 1 million square feet of
retail, 10 auto dealerships, a convention center restaurants and
theaters on the site during the first phase alone, what actually gets
built could be quite different.
The main reasons? Cash and the community.
"The market conditions will mandate what is built," said UPC General
Manager Ted Peng. "Right now only the commercial real estate project
Housing isn't permitted on the land [BATN: Contrast with Emeryville!]
and commercial office buildings aren't needed.
Indeed, vacancy rates for commercial office buildings in the Peninsula
is still around 21 percent, and whole buildings at the new Jay Paul
development at Pacific Shores have stood empty now for four years and
Along with what is developed, community discussions will likely fixate
on how much.
Current plans call for roughly 110 acres of community open space,
including bicycle and pedestrian paths and "passive space," which
could include restored wetlands for migratory waterfowl. Holstine and
Peng both said they expect the tight-knit community, which is known
for resisting development in the past, to be very involved in the next
Said UPC sales director Jack Murphy, "There will be a lot of
compromise between what we want and what the city wants."
Now that UPC has filed its Phase I Specific Plan, it will begin the
process of compiling its environmental impact report. The site has
heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and other nasties left from
previous users and will require additional remediation costing $30
million or so, according to Peng. After getting the land entitled and
the EIR approved, UPC must then draft a specific development plan and
win planning and city council approval.
The upshot? Another five years and $100 million before UPC can start
"The city is holding the key and they are in the driver's seat," said
Peng. "We have a long way to go. This is a very big project for us."
Formerly owned by Tuntex Corp., UPC is now privately held by
individual investors in Taiwan and Japan. The company also owns and
operates the Universal Hotel in Los Angeles, some warehouses in
Brisbane and a portion of the San Francisco Executive Park, as well as
some properties in Asia.
Said Peng: "They (the investors) have been holding this since 1989
without it bringing in revenue. They must have something on their
mind for it to work. We hope to go through the public planning and
find a solution."
Lizette Wilson covers real estate for the San Francisco Business Times.
[BATN: See also:
Brisbane brownfields railyard plans raise toxic worries
TOD eyed on brownfields site near Bayshore Caltrain