City staff hints of new ‘economic development opportunity’ at Hilltop

City staff hints of new ‘economic development opportunity’ at Hilltop
The Hilltop Horizon Specific Plan is set to reshape approximately 143 acres of land, including the Hilltop Mall.

Richmond’s planning staff revealed a group has a new interest in the former Hilltop Mall site during an update of the Hilltop Horizon Specific Plan Thursday evening. 

Lina Velasco, Richmond’s Community Development Director, said the city was approached with “a potential economic development opportunity” and will pause working on the specific plan to “explore if this opportunity will bring something additional to the community.”

Velasco said the group came in late in the process and has asked to remain confidential, but the city is unsure if anything will evolve from their conversations.

“I will say that it is something we heard during the community process that you all wanted to see,” Velasco said. “Which is why we’re taking a pause."

City planners are ready to move forward with the Specific Plan which will guide the development of the 143-acre site to support the City’s General Plan vision to promote the transformation of the plan area from a low-intensity auto-oriented retail center to a higher-intensity, mixed-use destination. 

Julius, a speaker at the meeting, pushed for more information about the potential economic development opportunity. “You mentioned this very vague economic driver that is coming in. I think we deserve to know who this driver is,” he said.

"I apologize, I can’t say anything. We definitely don't want to have them go away if they’re asking for confidentiality for the moment.” Velasco responded.

The Hilltop Horizon Specific Plan aims to create a comprehensive development strategy that will entice people, businesses, and investments. The final mix of uses and development initiatives will be determined through a planning process, involving community and stakeholder involvement, informing decisions.

Hector Rojas, Planning Manager for the city and the Hilltop Horizon Specific Plan’s project lead, said Richmond received a Local Early Action Planning grant from the California Department of Housing and Community and a Priority Development Area grant from the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“These two grants are given to communities in the Bay Area like ours who are really looking to increase housing stock,” Rojas said.

Last year, the owner of the Hilltop Mall site, Prologis, brought on housing development company Signature Development Group to create a plan for hundreds of new housing units and retail spaces. Neighbors pushed back against Prologis’ early plans for a logistics center.

Rojas said the housing portion of the specific plan would accommodate between 5,000 to 7,500 dwelling units.

“This is a considerable amount of housing and we’re really excited that this plan area alone could represent a huge opportunity for meeting our RHNA requirements,” Rojas said. 

The plan includes a mixed-use component that would allow retail development along the primary roads of the Hilltop Mall site and open space for parks. 

Rojas said that while the city would be pausing to talk with the group behind the potential economic driver, it wants to return the land-use plan to the Planning Commission and Richmond City Council by the end of the year.

“We're going to go ahead and fully develop the specific plan for the rest of 2025 and hopefully come back to the planning commission and city council for adoption of the specific plan sometime in 2025,” Rojas said.

Some residents have pushed for an Emeryville-style vertical mixed-use project, while others have pushed for parks, housing, and retail. 

In 2022, Costco asked residents for feedback as the company contemplated building a new outlet at the former Hilltop Mall.

Costco ponders Hilltop Mall location
Costco is asking for residents’ feedback as the company contemplates whether or not to build a new store at the former Hilltop Mall site. Hilltop Mall, now known as Hilltop Horizon, was purchased in February 2021 by Prolgois Real Estate Investment Trust Company with the intention of building a logistics

Last year, Richmond’s City Council members shared their visions for the property.

Councilmember Melvin Wilis pushed for transitional housing, and Councilmember Cesar Zepeda pushed for a hospital. Councilmember Soheila Bana wanted to see a bike-ped overpass over the freeway. Mayor Eduardo Martinez envisioned a signature building tall enough for people to see from the freeway. 

City council’s Hilltop visions: revamping Richmond’s dead mall
The Richmond City Council provided feedback last week on the future of Hilltop as part of the Hilltop Horizon Specific Plan, which will guide future development at the mall and surrounding areas. During the discussion, council members revealed their own visions for the property. Cesar would like to see a

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