Developer buys downtown railyard | SierraSun.com

Developer buys downtown railyard

David Bunker, Sierra Sun

An award-winning development firm has purchased Truckee’s downtown railyard site, a 30-acre parcel the town plans to incorporate into the historic downtown area.

Holliday Development – based in Emeryville, Calif., and renowned for its loft construction in the Bay Area – bought the site on Jan. 9 from Union Pacific Railroad. The land has been used for the turnaround of track-clearing snowplows since a large lumber mill vacated the parcel in 1989.

“This now vacant site is critical in achieving the town’s planning philosophy of infill development,” Mayor Josh Susman said in a written statement. “The town is working collaboratively with Holliday to design a process for developing the Master Plan.”

That master plan for the site will rely on details of the Downtown Specific Plan, which calls for affordable housing, mixed use commercial, office space and improvements to the environmental health of the Truckee River and Trout Creek.

Town officials said the public will be involved in the one-year to year-and-a-half process of designing the Railyard Master Plan, which will guide development of the site.

Part of what has propelled the railyard site (also referred to as the mill site) to the brink of development after so many years of vacancy, was a partnership with the Sierra Business Council, the California Center for Land Recycling and the town to secure a $350,000 Sustainable Communities Grant for redevelopment of the parcel.

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“We still have that grant,” Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said. “We have not begun to use it, yet.”

The $350,000, which was originally earmarked to develop a plan between the town and Union Pacific, will now go toward working with Holliday Development to create the master plan for the parcel.

“This is probably the single most important development decision for the Town of Truckee since incorporation,” Steve Frisch of the Sierra Business Council said. “The mill site is the cornerstone of what the town will look like 20 years from now.”

Paquita Bath, vice president of the Sierra Business Council, said, “We are delighted that Holliday Development is going to work closely with the town to make this a centerpiece of mixed use development responding to many of our local housing and business needs.”

Mixed use development is something that Holliday has excelled at. In Sacramento, they are transforming a warehouse into live/work lofts. According to their Web site, they “specialize in creating livable, workable and flexible space that meets the needs of a diverse and constantly changing market area.”

However, one hang-up that might face the developer is the possibility of contamination on the site. The parcel has long been rumored to have significant environmental damage. But Lashbrook said when the lumber mill left the property, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board did testing on the site and gave a notice of closure to the eastern portion, meaning it was not contaminated. Contamination may be found on other parts during earth removal.

For now, the next step the railyard site faces is community, town and developer input on the creation of the Railyard Master Plan, a document that will be integral to shaping the expansion of Truckee’s downtown core into the railyard area.

“The railroad defined what the town looked like in the past 100 years. The mill site will define what the town will look like in the next 100 years,” Frisch said.