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City Sets in Motion Plans for Downtown Development

The planning process has begun for the 500-acre area encompassing the BART station. The aim is to create a "transit-oriented" neighborhood by bringing more housing, retail and jobs downtown.

The city council celebrated the start of a long awaited project Tuesday evening with a first look at the scope and timeline of the Downtown Specific Plan.

Downtown Concord BART is the focus of the plan, which would bring high-density housing to the 500-acre project area spanning downtown Concord. Development would include low-income and affordable housing, as well as retail and service-oriented establishments.

The aim is to increase public transit ridership, make the area more accessible and safe for pedestrians and cyclists, and bring more jobs downtown. 

But before any development can get underway, the plan itself must be completed. The process is set to take more than two years and cost $600,000. The bulk of that money — $480,000 — will come from a Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) grant. The city is contributing $120,000 to develop the Downtown Specific Plan, which consists of three main components:

1) A community engagement process to develop a vision for the area;

2) Policies to promote enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access to and from the downtown BART station, attractive high-density infill — residential and commercial, incentives for affordable housing, and improved transit opportunities; and 

3) Strategies for financing infrastructure and new development.

"The key element to this project is that of community outreach," Senior Planner Joan Ryan told the council during a presentation at Tuesday evening's meeting.

The city has already begun soliciting public feedback through the Concord Connects website as well as last Saturday's "Ideas Fair."

A nine-person citizen advisory committee will be established as part of the community outreach plan, and "there will be consistent and regular updates" regarding the plan" from this group, said Ryan.

Despite being in the earliest stages of the downtown development project, Mayor Ron Leone and members of the council expressed their appreciation for the progress, which has been a long time coming.

"For years and years we've talked about it and finally something is being done," said Councilmember Dan Helix. "I'm so grateful for the grant. Hallelujah!"

"I'm very excited about this," said Leone. "We talk so much about taking a look at the Naval Weapons Station — and that will eventually come to pass — but we've got a golden opportunity now [to develop the downtown BART area]."

"I just look forward to a great downtown," concluded Councilmember Tim Grayson.

Are you excited about the Downtown Specific Plan to develop the area around BART? What do you think should be the top priorities for the project? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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