|Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore signs the conveyance of Alameda Point June 24 with Roger Natsuhara, assistant secretary of the Navy. PHOTO/Steven Tavares|
ALAMEDA//DEVELOPMENT | Sixteen years after the Alameda’s Naval Air Station closed forever, the U.S. officially conveyed the scenic, but still toxic Alameda Point back to the city of Alameda.
“Come to Alameda Point,” said Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore. “We are open for business.”
At an outdoor ceremony Monday afternoon on the grounds of the former Navy base, Gilmore and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara officially signed the conveyance of Alameda Point over seven decades after the point was ceded to the federal government.
The road to turning over the former Navy installation back to Alameda has been long and arduous. But, in 2012, the federal government offered the over 1,300 acres of waterfront land offering some of the most sweeping panoramas of the San Francisco Bay, back to the city at no cost.
“The Alameda community has been waiting a very long time–a very long time–for this moment,” said Alameda City Manager John Russo. “We’ve crossed one finish line and find ourselves ready to race at another starting line. No more false starts in this race. Now is the time.”
During the past year, the city of Alameda has made significant progress in near-term planning. Early planning and regulatory hurdles may be completed by early 2014 allowing Alameda to begin attracting investment and capital as soon as next year, said Russo. “The faster we get the right activities going on out there, the faster benefits can accrue to Alameda and to the region,” he added. “To borrow a military phrase, we must move with all deliberate speed.”
The future Alameda Point will include a transit-oriented development featuring a mix of housing options for incomes of all levels, commercial and retail, research and development and 700 acres of parks and open space, says Russo. The city says the project will create over 9,000 permanent jobs along with a bevy of opportunities in construction.
However, while the land is a veritable blank slate for the city and developers to transform the look and prosperity of the island, significant investment is still needed. Much of the point, long rundown following the years following the closure of the military installation, needs refreshing. Historical buildings need retrofitting, while roads call for reconstruction. Years of environmental cleanup left over from the Navy’s operations at the point must be continued.
In 1993, the Alameda Naval Air Station was included in steep Clinton-era budget cuts to the military and officially closed in 1997. The base realignment plan ultimately cost the city 14,000 jobs and wounded its civic identity inextricably linked to the base. Gilmore referenced those dark days nearly two decades ago with the city’s new vision for Alameda Point. “Today, we hope to honor that past and to create an extraordinary new community for the city, the region and the state.”
Added, Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, “I have no doubt the unique charm of Alameda will only grow and thrive with the transformation of Alameda Point.”
As a steady drizzle fell on the proceedings Monday afternoon, Russo noted the island community’s great fortune tied to Alameda Point and its potential as a significant generator of tax revenue for Alameda and the county, at-large. “The Italians say when it rains on a wedding day, it’s good luck. The rain is just a reflection of that luck and now we have to meet that luck with hard work.”