Homebuilder signs deal for Alma Plaza | March 2, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 2, 2012

Homebuilder signs deal for Alma Plaza

D.R. Horton agrees to build first 19 homes in south Palo Alto plaza

by Gennady Sheyner

An ambitious plan to redevelop Alma Plaza in south Palo Alto took another leap forward Tuesday, Feb. 28, when builder D.R. Horton signed an agreement with the plaza's developer to construct the first 19 houses at the plaza.

John McNellis, the developer behind the project, told the Weekly that D.R. Horton had agreed to build the first phase of homes on the 4.2-acre plaza, which is located in the 3400 block of Alma Street. The company had also built the houses at Arbor Real, the residential complex at the site of the former Rickey's Hyatt.

McNellis' agreement with the builder is the latest milestone for a high-profile project that was the subject of 15 public hearings spanning two years. The City Council approved the zone change to enable the plaza's redevelopment in January 2009.

While the anchor of the new plaza will be a grocery store, the project also includes 37 homes, 15 below-market-rate apartments, a small park and a community room. The city's approval allows the construction of half of the homes once the lease with the supermarket is signed. The other half can be constructed once the store is occupied.

The Tuesday agreement pertains exclusively to 19 homes, but the same builder could return later in the process to build the remainder of the homes, McNellis said.

"We both anticipate and hope that it will be D.R. Horton building the second half," he said.

McNellis said he expects construction of the homes to begin March 5 and to be completed in August. Meanwhile, construction is in progress on the retail portion of the plaza, which includes the grocery store and the public park. The plan is to finish construction on the retail and the homes at about the same time, McNellis said.

The new grocery store will be occupied by Miki's Farm Fresh Market and would be modeled after the popular Berkeley Bowl supermarket. Michael "Miki" Werness, who worked as manager of Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market (both in Berkeley), announced in July his plan to open the store at Alma Plaza.

Miki's Farm Fresh Market is scheduled to open this summer.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


Like this comment
Posted by Just Curious
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:36 am

I keep wondering who gets the payoffs for approving these huge developments - (including the new one at 355 Alma) Staff? Council? Planning Commission?
All of the above? There is enough profit for more than one payoff. Not just cash but other valuable things. When a commissioner is so sad that the developer works so hard, it's obvious there is more going on behind the scenes.

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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:44 am

Wish the city had approved a throwback cherry orchard instead.

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Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

Wow! Just Curious, that's a pretty spurious allegation you made about our council persons and/or planning commissioners being paid off to approve a housing development. Any evidence to back this up? I'm amazed you'd even think that.

While I was not in favor of McNellis' development at that site, I certainly never believed our city officials operated in bad faith.

Like this comment
Posted by South Alma resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Will these houses be for rent or for sale? Are they going to be at a relatively affordable housing rate? We could really use more affordable housing in this city.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

@south alma resident:

What we really need is for all of these blighted properties to be developed with income generating businesses. The grocery store is fine. The housing is ok, but it better generate enough property taxes to offset the services it will require.

For too long this city has been on its high horse. Let's be sensible but realistic and stop being dissuaded by the NIMBY types who say no to everything then complain about the city budget.

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Posted by disappointed
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Since this is the same builder that did the UGLY, jammed together homes in the Rickey's Hyatt site, I am disappointed. Every time I pass that block and see the terrible colors and badly designed homes- I am disgusted. Now we will have more of the same in South Palo Alto. And I can't imagine what the traffic will be like if East Meadow ( family homes and schools) will be used to get to Fry's ! Not fair.

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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm

If the neighbors had not complained years ago, we might have a nice expanded market there right now. Instead we have to drive to Menlo Park or Mountain View to get to a standard market. Well, at least we have TJ's but you just can't do all your shopping there. I used to live next to the Lucky there and it was very nice to walk to the market. Now it is in the car and a long drive. Congestion, pollution, etc. People in this city just complain too much, then they complain when the long delayed project is approved, then they complain when everything is too expensive. What do you think 12 years of delay (2 years is just the latest phase of delays) cost the developer? This city is way too expensive to do business in.

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Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Mar 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

19 new families get to move to (or within If they are existing residents) Palo Alto, and neighbors get a market patterned after the ever-popular BerkeleyBowl, and PA gets to FINALLY see this eyesore redeveloped! BRAVO on 3 fronts!