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December 9, 2009 > Niles town plaza holds grand opening

Niles town plaza holds grand opening

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photos By William Mancebo

Niles residents had been waiting a long time for this day; almost ten years had elapsed since the Fremont City Council approved the plan for the development of a Town Plaza. On December 4, the grand opening of Niles Town Plaza became a reality with an official's snip of scissors through a swatch of ribbon.

For the transformation, $7.5 million was spent to improve the area and build the community's new gathering spot. The cost included expenditures for environmental decontamination, as the rail yard contained arsenic used to kill weeds. During this process, over 11,000 tons of soil was removed and sent to a disposal facility.

Josh Huber, Project Manager at Fremont's Redevelopment Agency explained that in April, the old Passenger building was carefully transported across the tracks from Mission Boulevard to its current location at the new Town Plaza. "The Freight Building was also renovated and re-situated about 50 yards from its original spot," says Huber.

Niles residents were generally in favor of the Plaza. Only a few issues surfaced during the construction involving cosmetic issues such as what direction the colonnade would face and whether or not to have a water feature for the fountain.

"The general idea for the Plaza," says Huber "is to improve the condition and look of the area. If it's more attractive, it can draw people, improve business and stimulate economic development. Part of the issue is that Niles is geographically isolated," says Huber. "The Plaza will help make the area more attractive to businesses and restaurants."

Arlyne Meyer, owner of the antique shop, 'A Moment in Time,' adds, "I've owned this business for seven years and seen a lot of changes. The Plaza is great and very pretty. It would be nice if we could put more boutique shops there, but everything is good."

The next project is a feasibility study to determine the best way to transport passengers from Niles Canyon Railway into the Plaza. Pedestrians would need to go under the Sullivan Underpass, which is dangerous and a safety issue for pedestrians.

According to Huber, "If an 'at grade crossing' is constructed we would have to put up a crossing arm gate and I'm not sure that the California PUC or Union Pacific would approve. Another option is an 'at grade separation' where pedestrians would cross via a bridge or a tunnel."

Currently passengers are shuttled to the Plaza by volunteers using antique buses.

Summing up his thoughts on the completion of the project Huber says, "The Town Plaza project has been very challenging with a lot of different pieces, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle."

In addition to the recent ribbon cutting ceremony, a weekend grand opening event, to draw more of the general public, is planned in the near future.

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