July 14, 2024
The city of Fremont is buying a 23,000-square-foot downtown office building. Officials say they have a few ideas for the site.

The Fremont City Council has bought an office building next to its City Hall complex, with an eye toward possibly converting the building into a new City Hall at some point.

The 23,000-square-foot building at 39180 Liberty St. is in Fremont’s budding downtown district. It currently houses several commercial tenants, including real estate and financial firms, law offices and a mental health clinic, according to business listings on Google.

The council unanimously approved buying the building for $6.54 million at its Aug. 15 meeting.

The purchase agreement does not require any changes to the terms of existing leases, and city officials did not specify any immediate plans for the businesses that call the building home.

Mayor Lily Mei reflected on Fremont’s past — “five small towns that came together” — and used the building purchase to look toward the next phases of the city’s development.

“This is something that would hopefully be an opportunity,” Mei said, “whether we use it for our city Civic Center, or — we’ve talked about also in the past — performing arts, or also just a gathering space in terms of housing that we need to commit to.”

Short- and medium-term uses for the building could include relocating some city departments as space becomes available, officials said. But the impetus for the purchase is strategic in nature, as Fremont looks to the future of the city’s downtown area and its housing needs.

The office building — coupled with the city’s adjacent property holdings, such as the City Hall buildings on Capitol Avenue — will create what officials describe as a “super block” that is fully controlled by the city. Long term, the building could be part of a new City Hall, with the current City Hall site being redeveloped into mixed-use housing that would contribute to Fremont’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment obligation and be a “major advancement toward achieving a critical mass of new residents and businesses downtown,” according to city staff.

In March, the city said its assigned share of the region’s housing need for the next eight years is about 13,000 units, more than 7,000 of which are intended to be affordable.

The building is being described as a piece to a larger puzzle of furthering the city’s goal of creating a “walkable and vibrant mixed-use destination for the entire community, with Capitol Avenue serving as that primary retail spine,” Assistant City Manager Christina Briggs told the council.

Since the adoption in 2012 of Fremont’s Downtown Community Plan, Briggs said, the area has seen “significant private-sector investment, and the city’s long-term vision is really beginning to take shape — it’s exciting.”

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The office building on Liberty Street is owned by a group made up of several trusts, including Bishop 2001 Living Trust, Gordon Declaration of Trusts and Abreu Living Trust, according to city documents. The City Council authorized the reallocation of $6.75 million from the city’s investment opportunities reserve to pay for the property and any related costs.

The city’s reserve was established to earmark unanticipated, one-time money to take advantage of opportunities such as buying the building on Liberty Street, said David Persselin, the city’s finance director.

The city in 2016 stopped putting one-time money in the strategic reserve, opting instead to use such money for capital needs, Persselin said. He added that about $2 million will be left in the reserve following the building purchase.

Council member Teresa Keng — who has experience in commercial and residential real estate — described the purchase price for the property as “very fair.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Keng said, “and this location is kind of a missing piece in our downtown district.”

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