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City Center Project Could Get 35-acre Park Added

The developer of the multi-billion dollar City Center development has offered to set aside 35 acres for a public park.

At the last of four study sessions between the Santa Clara City Council and Planning Commision Tuesday, Steve Eimer, an executive with New York-based developer Related, unveiled the alteration to the proposed 9.2-million square feet mixed-use development.

Meetings with members of the public, as well as concerns voiced by City Council Members at previous study sessions, led the company to add more green space to the project, Eimer said. The park will displace 720,000 square feet of office space on the north end of the five-parcel project, located near Great America Parkway.

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In addition to agreeing to put in the park, Eimer told the committee that Related would give the city $5 million toward park development as well as build the access road to the park. The addition of the park would increase the amount of green space in the project’s footprint to 40 percent, he added.

“Thank you for listening to us,” Mayor Lisa Gilmore told Eimer. “Many said with such a large a piece of property we would be fighting tooth and nail … Something like this: my mind is going with the possibilities With a piece of land like that I can imagine our citizens doing all sorts of things.”

Gilmore said the park would be like a “Central Park North.”

Councilwoman Debi Davis called the revamp “amazing,” adding that the park will play an important role with the amount of 5-and-10K runs the city hosts.

Eimer told the committee that it is up to the city to decide how to use the park if it moves forward with the proposal.

Several Council Members and Planning Commissioners mentioned putting a soccer field in the space.

“So many groups in our community have been crying out for more recreational space. This comes as a gift that we can not even conceive of,” said Councilman Pat Kolstad, “This is just exactly what the city has wanted. This is a real win for the city, for Related and for all the neighbors around city place.”

Still, not everyone was so enthusiastic about Related’s proposal.

Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill said she had a “hard time supporting” the addition of the park, adding that she would like to see more of an effort to tie the area in with the Guadalupe River and that she would like to make better use of open and “natural” space. She pointed out that the land belongs to the city.

Despite the big announcement, much of the study session was devoted to discussing the development area plan, which governs such aspects of the project as land use designations and density.

Nate Cherry, an executive with Los Angeles-based design consulting firm CallisonRTKL said a project of this magnitude has unique challenges. Creating a common thread between the proposed City Center, Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara Convention Center and California Great America is difficult, he said.

Looking at the project in its entirety and understanding how all those attractions play off one another is key, Cherry said,

“We have always thought of this project as a hub for the most creative people in the county,” he said. “Any project like this … you want to have flexibility to accommodate shifts in the marketplace.”

During the public comments section of the meeting, Melissa Cerezo, with Valley Transit Authority, turned out again to voice concern over the project, imploring the city to disclose the development agreement. Cerezo has attended previous study sessions, stating that VTA opposes the development because of the proposed alterations to interchanges she says will hamper the light rail’s expediency.

Patrick Nikolai, of Santa Clara, said he supported the project.

“I live in Santa Clara. I want to spend my dollars in Santa Clara,” he said. “This is a game-changer as much as the stadium. It is the kind of place I want to go … There is so many options. It can grow. It can change. It will never go stale.”

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