Hall Equities Group has withdrawn their application with the City of Walnut Creek for a conditional use permit (CUP) allowing drive-thru service at their proposed 2nd & Main development and is reconsidering usage options for this 2.4 +/- acre site at the corner of 2nd Avenue and North Main Street in Walnut Creek.
The proposed plan for the 2nd & Main development called for a complete upgrade and overhaul of the site, including removal of all aging light industrial structures and renovation of the existing mixed-used building to include attractive new restaurant, retail, and office space. However, local neighbors led by community activists became negatively focused on the proposed construction of an In-N-Out Burger and its potential to impact traffic along this busy commercial corridor.
Prior to the announcement of the project, Hall Equities Group had already expended substantial time and resources evaluating possible uses for the site, and had made several plan refinements before arriving at the proposed plan, which situated all businesses as far as possible from nearby residences and comprised far less square footage than city zoning allows, providing space for a longer drive-thru and more parking spaces than any comparable In-N-Out in the Bay Area. While Hall Equities has consistently shown a willingness to engage in discourse with the community and address public concerns, the company feels there is little to be gained from public debate or attempting to move forward on the In-N-Out which is proving to be so divisive.
Owner and CEO of Hall Equities Group, Mark Hall, stated: “It is clear that some of our neighbors are having real concerns and anxiety about the potential for negative traffic impacts from our project, and In-N-Out Burger in particular. It is not in our interest to pursue such a divisive use as this In-N-Out has proven to be for the scale of this project. We have terminated the lease and development agreement with In-N-Out and will reassess the proposed project. We will come forward with a new application for the site in the near future. Our next project proposal may not be the most dynamic, or high profile of projects, but it will be a low impact good neighbor, and it will be a use that is consistent with the established zoning parameters.”
In response to the announcement of a proposed In-N-Out and Starbucks drive-thru at the corner of 2nd and Main, several residents also expressed criticism about full parking lots and congestion during peak hours at two nearby redevelopment projects by Hall Equities Group, inferring that the developer had acted in its own best interests, showing little concern over parking needs and the impact to traffic on adjacent streets. These residents may be unaware that Hall Equities Group foresaw the possibility of congestion at both Geary Marketplace and 680 Center and opted to construct much less commercial square footage, allowing much more space for parking, than the City had intended for the sites.
“The popularity of the centers we built attest to the neighborhood’s need for services, while the high volume at the sites reflect the continued need for responsible growth to support our growing population,” Mark Hall explained.
Hall feels it’s worth noting that these developments were undertaken during the downturn in the economy, when other developers were giving little attention to north Walnut Creek, and older commercial and industrial structures, were a blight along North Main Street. In contrast, Hall Equities Group recognized the need for services there and made substantial investments in the area. “It was a real challenge in that economic climate, but we succeeded in bringing in quality retailers and services like Sprouts, a healthy neighborhood market, and a large 24 Hour Fitness, that would provide real value and convenience for the people in the immediate neighborhood, rather than businesses that would predominantly draw people from outside the area.”
“Residents may have grown so accustomed to seeing the Sprouts, 24 Hour Fitness, and Chik-fil-A, that they have forgotten what was on those sites before we developed them,” Hall added. 680 Center was built on the site of the old Kaiser Cement Batch Plant, which operated for more than 40 years, creating significant noise and air pollution from trucks visiting the facility, and from the asphalt manufacturing process itself, which operated with heavy petroleum products and often released smelly fumes and fine dust into the air. Geary Marketplace was built on the site of the old Co-Op market that sat vacant and boarded up for 35 years, a target for graffiti artists and a deterrent to would-be investors in the area.
“Though our intentions are sometimes misconstrued, we pride ourselves on our commitment to Walnut Creek and nearby communities, and our vision for the future. We will continue to work with area residents, as we have with our other projects, to shape developments that suit the needs and personalities of the community, while being financially viable for our locally-based investors who invest their personal capital in improving the region,” Hall concluded.