December 26, 2006 > Time travel
It is obviously possible to travel through time; we do it in a forward linear manner throughout our lives. Scientists have posed many theories of how time operates and postulate methods to manipulate movement in other directions. So far, only forward movement has been observed. It is true that light from long distances shows us the past, but we have not traveled to it, simply observed what is shown. The city council of Fremont has decided to test these assumptions and observable facts by turning the clock back, not by minutes, but years, when dealing with the redevelopment failure in Centerville.
When a contract between two parties reaches an untenable position, usually the best resolution is to void the deal and assess the reasons for impasse. Entering into another agreement with the same entities requires a great deal of caution especially when representations have been made that remain unfulfilled. In a recent session of the Fremont city council, a representative of the Charter Properties consortium asked, "What are you going to find out a year or 18 months from now that you don't know today and what do you lose in terms of time?" He noted that the existing plan will not work and somehow, because this group came up with an expensive and unworkable plan, they should be retained again without any competitive process. They have now decided that choices narrow down to "a horizontal mixed-use project or a retail only project which you originally wanted." This epiphany follows the statement that the architects of the group evaluated "every square inch of that site to maximize the potential."
The initial question remains of what will be known by following the process designed to allow interested developers to again bid on the project. Using an assumption by the spokesperson for Charter Properties, it is best to leave the process as a closed effort since the group that designed an unworkable plan using their best efforts is the natural choice to continue with a permutation of those efforts. The "new" idea is to dump the podium design and simply build retail in the same basic pattern. The question of how these folks who were unable to fill retail space will be able to reverse that result doesn't seem to bother the council. After a bit of mumbling and no answer from the developer, the whole issue was dropped.
According to this spokesperson, "What you didn't have at the beginning of this project was a developer who wanted to do a retail only project, but now you have one." Hallelujah! A born again developer who has seen the light because he is out $5.5 million on something that didn't work. Do I think that entitles him to get a free pass for the next round? No. If these people have the best design and background for Centerville, why not let them compete with those others who have solid reputations doing commercial projects?
Since we have waited years for the right project, why now, after two failures, is there the sudden push to cut corners and turn back the clock? The council fell for a pretty picture once against the counsel of community representatives and staff. Now they have somehow been able to fold time, pretend it never happened and begin again. The Twilight Zone meets Star Trek! Albert Einstein was correct that all is relative. It appears that time and lessons learned within it are meaningless. P.T. Barnum was right about a sucker being born every minute and the Fremont City Council is living proof. With this type of thinking, they will willingly line up to enter "The Great Egress."
Community Development Director Jill Keimach noted that "there has been a lot of interest from a number of developers" adding that there is much interest and awareness in the development community. The question remains, Why does a city council stubbornly refuse to entertain other ideas when those in their midst with the most expertise in these matters offer opposing views? This is curious to say the least. The last time Charter made its proposal, Councilmember Dutra, a developer in his own right, was opposed to the selection and now Councilmember Natarajan with planning background stood in opposition.
Natarajan correctly noted that a vision for Centerville is not necessarily dependent on current market conditions. She noted, "We should not be responding to current market conditions as much as seeing what the best development is for that site, especially given that it is a redevelopment site and a fairly large site which can be a catalyst for additional development." Right on, Anu! She added that we shouldn't be "shortchanging ourselves." Integration with the remainder of Centerville including the theater is of critical importance, but never seems to be mentioned. Council conversation centered on timing of the project rather than quality or a redevelopment vision. Again the majority of councilmembers don't get it. They stubbornly refuse to engage with their constituents and often leave rational thought at the council chamber doors when entering. Beam me up, Scotty!