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BART Board Chooses Developer for Millbrae Station Site Project

Developer Republic Urban Properties envisions office space, retail and residential units, but no hotel as a rival developer proposed.

The BART board voted today to partner with developer Republic Urban Properties to develop a property BART owns adjacent to the Millbrae BART and Caltrain station.

Today's 5-2 vote launches what promises to be a lengthy planning and approval process for the site, which is intended to be a showpiece of transit-oriented development.

Republic's current proposal includes around 140,000 square feet of office space, 17,000 square feet of retail and 350 residential units, BART staff said today.

Notably, it does not include a hotel, which was featured in a rival proposal by developer Justin Development Corp.

While the City of Millbrae, which has final approval over any project on the site, has expressed an interest in seeing a hotel at that location, city officials informed BART last year that they would not share any revenue from a hotel occupancy tax, officials said today.

Republic is also offering prepayment on rent and a higher base rent, and has said it will replace any BART parking displaced by the project.

With that and other financial considerations in mind, BART staff indicated that the Republic Urban proposal was a better deal for the transit agency.

Over a period of 20 years, BART staff estimates the Republic project could generate around $39.9 million for BART, versus $37.4 million for the Justin Development Corp. proposal.

"The staff analysis shows that this is best for BART," said board member Gail Murray, who voted in favor of Republic.

Murray also noted that she was skeptical of a hotel project, given that the area around the Millbrae station is currently unattractive and unfriendly to pedestrians.

"It's going to take years for that to be redeveloped into something that is attractive, that would make a hotel visitor or a resident walk around that area," Murray said. "That also figured into my analysis."

But not all board members were willing to relinquish the notion of a hotel.

"You have an opportunity to build a hotel only six or seven minutes away from San Francisco airport, and that's not going to change, and 30 or 40 minutes from San Francisco, and that's not going to change," said board member Robert Raburn.

Several board members complained about the process by which the developer was selected, noting that BART had failed to follow its own procedures. Board member James Fang, who has been accused in some public accounts of failing to disclose ties to Justin Development, objected today to heavy lobbying by Republic Urban, arguing the developer had essentially bought the vote.

BART staff indicated that before the project can be approved, the specific plan for the station site will need to be updated, a process that could take at least 18 months. Both developers had indicated a willingness to pay for the planning process.

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