Concord starting fresh — again — in search for Naval Weapons Station master developer

CONCORD — The largest development project in the Bay Area needs a new master developer — again.

Concord City Council members this week discussed next steps in finding a new team to develop the Naval Weapons Station, a massive project 20 years in the making and which is expected to take four decades to complete.

The new suitor will be Concord’s third in less than three years. In late January, the council voted 3-2 to cut ties with Concord First Partners following revelations of internal strife and legal battles within the Seeno family, troubles first reported by this news organization.

Council members said they had lost faith and trust in the Seenos, a powerful family who operate an East Bay building empire. The family’s Discovery Builders Inc. led the Concord First Partners consortium, along with Lewis Management and Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group.

Abandoned by the U.S. Navy in the late 1990s, the 5,200-acre weapons station officially closed in 2005. Development plans for a 2,300-acre portion of the land have called for building thousands of homes, millions of square feet of commercial space and retail centers, parks and open space and schools to accommodate what is essentially a mini-city on Concord’s north side.

Concord officials have returned to the drawing board and, after the last deal went sour, are taking more precautions. A council study session this week began drafting a questionnaire to help narrow down the field of prospective developers. City Council is expected to approve recommended questions by the end of April.

After reviewing submitted questionnaires, the city’s next step would be to invite chosen developers to submit proposals.

During the last search, there was a focus on whether developers had a willingness to negotiate with local labor groups. This time around, one key item all council members agreed on was requiring its next master developer to disclose litigation against them on a rolling basis.

Guy Bjerke, director of economic development and base reuse for Concord, told council members that a handful of developers have already expressed interest, including Irvine-based City Ventures, New York-based Brookefield Properties and Australia-based Lendlease.

Lewis Management was still contemplating its interest prior to the meeting, Bjerke said in an interview. He has not heard from Tagami.

Building giant Lennar Corp. has also “checked in” with the city, Bjerke told council members. The company pulled out of the project in March 2020 when its initial exclusive negotiating agreement expired and its negotiations with local labor unions failed.

Bjerke told this news organization that expressing interest at this point is not a significant or required step in the process.

“Responding to the request for qualifications,” he said referring to the questionnaire, “is where the rubber meets the road.”

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