WCTV Groundbreaking

These Projects Are On The Move In Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek is full of signs of the boom times.

A flurry of mixed-use development is filling out the corridor between downtown and the BART station to its north.

Construction began this month on the first phase of the city’s transit village, a development in the making since the 1990s and finally entitled in 2012. When finished, the project will include 596 apartments and 26,000 square feet of retail. The 16-acre mixed-use community will occupy the former parking lots at the Walnut Creek BART Station.

Transit-oriented projects are “extraordinarily complex,” said Lauren Seaver, vice president of development at Blake Griggs Properties, which joined the project in 2015. “But the location is what really makes it worth it to deal with all that complexity.”

Walnut Creek is attractive because of the accessibility to other job centers via BART and the freeway, Seaver said, combined with a great quality of life and downtown shopping and dining options.

“This is really the perfect location to put housing,” Seaver said. “It has minimal impact on traffic, because people are taking transit.”

Blake Griggs Properties is betting on continued interest in this part of Walnut Creek. In August, renters began moving into its 178-apartment project, Vaya, across the street from the BART station. The apartments are about 15 percent leased. Vaya and the Transit Village are helping enhance and extend the city’s traditional downtown, Seaver said.

“The build-out of this general area is going to make that core and that livability that draws people to Walnut Creek that much better,” Seaver said.

Several other projects underway are helping fill in that corridor. The 141-apartment Lyric project by Laconia Development at 1500 North California Blvd. now fills three sites that were once essentially vacant. Lyric includes 18,000 square feet of retail. The apartments are fully leased and the retail space is almost entirely leased.

Walnut Creek may have once been viewed as a suburb of San Francisco, but it is by now very much a “city unto itself” and the “cultural and business heart of Central Contra Costa County,” said Paul Menzies, CEO of Laconia Development.

Another project popping up between BART and downtown Walnut Creek is Anton NoMa at 1910 North Main St.

Anton DevCo started demolition this month on the former Fuddruckers restaurant at the site. Anton NoMa will include 135 units and approximately 8,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. The project is expected to take about two years to build, and when finished, tenants will be a short walk from both BART and downtown, said Trisha Malone, chief investment officer of Anton DevCo.

“There hasn’t been a lot of development in Walnut Creek for a long time,” Malone said. “Everybody has been focused on San Francisco and the peninsula for so long, but now they’re refocusing their efforts and looking at the East Bay.”

The wave of development around the Walnut Creek BART partly reflects the strong national and local economies, said John Cumbelich, founder and CEO of Walnut Creek-based commercial real estate firm John Cumbelich and Associates.

It’s also a reflection of the shifts toward development in general becoming more transit-centric and mixed-use, he said. Over the next few years, notwithstanding a recession or other major economic changes, there will likely continue to be a densification of the area around the Walnut Creek BART, he added.

“That makes a lot of sense from a planning standpoint, because when you concentrate this development along the freeway, there’s a relatively minor impact to the city streets of Walnut Creek,” Cumbelich said.