Developer sets sights on railyard
Rick Holliday started off his development career working from a phone booth. Nine years later, an encounter with a Hawaiian shirt-clad, 60-year-old loftowner in downtown New York City inspired him to start what some have termed the West Coast “loft revolution.”
Holliday is the founder of Holliday Development, the recent purchaser of a 30-acre parcel along the railroad to the east of downtown. Long identified as a prime site for development, the site will now undergo approximately six months of analysis and planning before Holliday can begin to formulate more specific development plans.
Holliday is well known in the Bay Area, where his projects have created more than 1,000 homes and lofts in high-profile locations. In recent years he has branched out of the area slightly, taking his ideas of live/work lofts and flexible living space to Sacramento, and now Truckee. As he tackles the problems associated with development on the “railyard site,” Holliday said he will rely on his past development experience, without being afraid to try something new.
“A lot of times when you are a big company you have a pattern. We don’t,” Holliday said.
Two of the major complications with the site are railroad noise and contamination, problems that Holliday Development has solved near its base in Emeryville, Calif.
“Traffic noise has not been a problem. You can deal with it in design,” Holliday said. “You can buffer [noise] with the way you site plan.”
While the extent of contamination on parts of the site is still undetermined, it shouldn’t impede development; it will only take a little more work, said Holliday.
“The areas that we have been most active in have always had contamination issues,” he said, noting that Emeryville is a industrial town. “We wouldn’t have bought it if we didn’t think that we could make it clean enough.”
“There are a lot of complications, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of controversy,” Holliday said.
And that is the prime reason why Holliday Development moved to purchase the land. After seeing the town’s vision statement for the site, the developers were sure that both the town and the public wanted the parcel to be developed.
Holliday began his career in affordable housing. After working with non-profit outfits, Eden Housing and BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Holliday took out a line of credit on his house to get Holliday development off of the ground.
Several years later he ran into the guy in the Hawaiian shirt in New York, who in Holliday’s mind broke the mold of the typical individuals that live in lofts.
The man operated a successful appraisal business from his home. Holliday knew that the idea was a success on the West Coast when his first project of 88 lofts sold out in one hour.
“We saw a product, created it, and it worked,” said Holliday. “We’re willing to break with tradition.”
While lofts may not be as predominate a development feature as in the Bay Area, Holliday said they likely will have their place his development plans.
“We’re a nation of free agents,” he said. “The office in the house is almost a function of every home now.”
As Holliday development progresses with plans for their new property, locals who have been bewildered by the increasing number of golf courses in the region can rest easy.
“We’ve ruled out a golf course community,” said Holliday with a grin.
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