Monday, April 11, 2005

Mixed-use development means developing Fairfield city neighborhoods the old-fashioned way

April 10, 2005

Revitalizing the 80-to-80 corridor

By Karl Dumas and Brian Miller

"Mixed-Use Development" is a catch phrase used to describe a new kind of development popping up in many California cities with older commercial corridors in need of revitalization.

There are new ideas in the planning and economic fields that we hope will provide hope for the future of West Texas Street/Texas Street/North Texas Street, also known as the 80-to-80 corridor.

Many of you may have read that the Fairfield City Council has made revitalization of the 80-to-80 corridor a high priority.

As with most California cities, Fairfield faces a dilemma: how to provide affordable, high quality housing to meet the needs of new and existing residents without continuing to spread into important farmland, open space and environmentally sensitive lands.

One solution outlined in our General Plan, is to encourage redevelopment in the city's existing area - particularly the West Texas Street/North Texas Street corridor. Revitalizing the 80-to-80 corridor with mixed-use development will provide new housing opportunities, strengthen the local economy, improve the visual quality of the city, and strengthen existing neighborhoods that abut the corridor. New housing is one of the best ways to entice revitalization in older corridors.

Mixed-use development means developing city neighborhoods the old-fashioned way, which is how towns used to be developed. This contrasts with separating housing from office from commercial in single story buildings with left over land remaining vacant - the new development objective is a mixture of uses.

A key objective is to permit more mixing of land uses where appropriate. In some cases, housing is provided in the same building, often above or behind commercial space (as in a traditional downtown). On other properties, it may be more appropriate to build housing on vacant land or underused parking lots behind the commercial uses fronting on the busy street. This housing can also serve as a transition between commercial uses and adjacent single-family neighborhoods.

On other properties, redevelopment may involve building only housing or only commercial space; it depends on location, traffic, the size and shape of the parcel(s), and the property owners' ideas.

Recently, a major development industry organization, the Urban Land Institute, published a book on commercial corridor revitalization. They recommend mixed-use development as one solution for aging commercial corridors. Cities throughout the Bay Area have certainly been exploring this option. Noteworthy examples include:

Oakland's "10,000 homes" project to bring 10,000 new housing units to underdeveloped sections of downtown Oakland.

El Cerrito: Plaza del Norte on San Pablo Avenue places apartments above shops immediately adjacent to a BART station.

Berkeley's Shattuck Avenue and University Avenue, among other areas, have seen the development of several new mixed-use apartments, condominiums and loft developments replacing former one-story commercial buildings.

San Jose has seen several attempts to revitalize its aging commercial corridors, including the well-known Santana Row luxury retail/condominium development project, which replaced a fading shopping center.

In the downtown area of Davis, former commercial parking lots and single story buildings have been replaced with new two-and-three story buildings incorporating housing above new retail space.

City staff has been directed by council to work with property owners, local businesses, developers, and neighbors to identify potential sites throughout the 80-to-80 corridor for infill and mixed-use development. Our goals include identifying underutilized sites suitable for these new development concepts.

Economic Notes: An update from Fairfield City Hall is written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at or

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