Millbrae salvages downtown development plan

Millbrae’s $250 million downtown development plan near the BART/Caltrain station, endangered by California’s proposed high-speed rail project, appears to have been saved.

The 10-year-old development, dubbed Site One by officials, is projected to bring in hundreds of condos right by the Peninsula’s transit hub, along with a movie theater and retail stores.

The Pacheco Pass, one of the proposed routes for the high-speed rail line, was set to stop at the Millbrae station to connect with BART and Caltrain. City officials originally believed the train would require two extra tracks, a parking structure and security fencing.

Under that alignment, the city would have to rethink its redevelopment plans or scrap them altogether, Community Development Director Ralph Petty said at the time.

The city has worked with the San Mateo County Transit District since late October, however, and has worked out a situation in which the high-speed rail, which would zip riders between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just more than 2½ hours, will use existing Caltrain right-of-way tracks as it passes through Millbrae, City Manager Ralph Jaeck said.

As a result, the city’s redevelopment plans should not have to change pending an investigation by a city-hired engineer, he said.

The solution is particularly important as the High Speed Rail Authority decides today on a route for the $40 billion train: the aforementioned Pacheco Pass or the Altamont Pass, which cuts from the Central Valley to the East Bay.

But the city’s plans are not completely saved yet. Developers need to acquire two-thirds of the land around the station by buying out surrounding businesses before construction can begin. Developers, who have already been given multiple deadline extensions, are expected to purchase the property before they meet with the City Council in January, Jaeck said.

If the land is not acquired by the deadline, the city would change its plans, find other developers, or give another extension, Jaeck said.

Developer Dan Rogers declined to comment on the status of the property acquisition after he said in October that he had 40 percent of the land purchased.

By the numbers

» Eight acres of land; development on five acres

» 231 condominiums

» 105,000 square feet of retail

» 131-room hotel

» Six-screen art-house cinema

» 40,000 square feet of office space

» 900-space, two-story underground parking garage

» Station square community area

– Source: City of Millbrae

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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