DMV upgrades drive requests

Residents of the Panhandle neighborhood are closely watching a redevelopment plan that would swap the current Department of Motor Vehicles building with an upgraded version while adding apartments and retail stores to the 2.5-acre property.

The DMV recently selected San Francisco-based Build Inc. to redevelop its nearly half-century-old building at 1377 Fell St., a mixed-use project slated for completion by 2012, spokesman Michael Marando said. The agency is currently in negotiations with Build Inc. on terms of the proposed 65-year lease, including specifics on costs and the type of retail and housing that would be built there.

“We’re leveraging the value that the DMV has in state-owned properties,” Marando said.

Neighbors are so far supportive of a new DMV building as long as redevelopment plans address a number of problems plaguing the swiftly growing Panhandle — such as parking and affordable housing.

Leela Gill, president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, said the group has had minimal contact with the developers of the project, but had met with them about six months ago. At the meeting, the association offered the developers a neighborhood wish list that includes parking amenities and a community center.

“We see this as an opportunity,” Gill said. “Clearly, parking has been an issue in our neighborhood, especially as businesses continue to open.”

Gill said recent development in the area, including the new 70-condominium Broderick Place, is livening up the area but has tightened parking options for residents. At a minimum, she said, the DMV has to accommodate parking for its new building and whatever retail and housing ends up on the lot.

“We’ve also talked about building green, leveraging the Panhandle and bringing in more trees,” Gill said.

But the state agency and developer have been tight-lipped about the plans, Gill said.

Marando said the DMV will reach out to neighbors once negotiations on the property are finalized.

“There will be a community-involvement process once the final details are worked out,” he said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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