On the morning of September 8th, 2016 a group of ULI members gathered for a panel discussion and sneak peak of The Orchards at Walnut Creek, a new retail project. This development is set on twenty-five acres and once finalized will feature 200,000sf of new shops anchored by a 55,000sf Safeway Lifestyle Center. In addition to the new infrastructure, the property will exhibit a park-like 4 acres of preserved community open space. Also in the works is a continuing care retirement center with up to 200 units of senior housing. This facility will be neatly integrated into the property and feature amenities designed to enable aging in place. With the retail space nearing completion and the Safeway receiving some finishing touches the tour was treated to a walkthrough of an active project.
The panel, organized by Bruce Jett of JETT Landscape Architecture + Design, lead landscape architect on the project, featured speakers with an array of expertise and an intimate knowledge of the projects history, objectives, and hurdles. Steve Buckley the Planning Manager for the City of Walnut Creek kicked things off by speaking to rigors of balancing the need to transform the prior low-performing office park into a retail center with the varied objectives of public interest groups. Scott Grady the Vice President of Development at TRC spoke next about working with the City of Walnut Creek to deliver tenants that fit the demographic needs of the area and efforts to create leases that deliver long-term value for residents. Next up was Matthew Henderson an Attorney at Miller Starr Regalia who gave an insightful recount of the behind the scenes efforts to meet due diligence requirements on a project with high environmental, design, and community standards. Last to speak was Ken Lowney, Principal at Lowney Architecture, who gave an inside look at the site interpretation, design formulation, and site-specific challenges in creating a highly functional multi-use space.
All parties involved with the project worked in concert to create a mixed use development that would preserve a historic sense of place. Drawing inspiration from the native grassland and historic use, the project ties together a rustic agrarian-modern style of architecture, old growth oak trees, a pedestrian friendly layout, water-sensitive landscaping, and community friendly amenities. The walking tour of the site highlighted a number of the innovative features that helped make the development a reality. In creating a flowing site layout, developers were able to build around the massive oak trees and create focal points from these natural features. Perhaps most impressive is the rooftop parking structure, an undulating double slab surface with a membrane space to accommodate runoff. The roof also features EV plug-in parking and solar panel awnings covering spaces. Surrounding the perimeter of the property is a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path.
The cross disciplinary nature of the panel offered a unique view on the cooperative force necessary to successfully implement mixed use projects that create community value, with strong consideration for design elements and environmental factors.