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October 26, 2015

Exclusive: Wilson Meany on Bay Meadows, Treasure Island and What’s Next

By Allison Nagel

At Bay Meadows, one of the largest redevelopment projects in the Bay Area, Wilson Meany and financial partner Stockbridge Capital Group are completely transforming the old racetrack. Bisnow caught up with Christopher Meany and Janice Thacher to chat about Bay Meadows and Treasure Island, look to the future and highlight an essential tool when traveling—an e-reader.

Bisnow: Why is infill development and redevelopment so important for Wilson Meany?

Chris Meany: We believe fundamentally in creating vibrant places that are both responsible to the people they serve and complementary to their surroundings. Infill development is not only a part of our portfolio—it is exclusively our portfolio, because we believe in cities and the need for cities from an ecological, cultural and social perspective. Cities provide ideas, access and opportunities in a way that other places cannot and we strive to enhance and help the cities in which we work thrive.

Bisnow: With pricing such a hot topic, how will the affordability requirement affect what you do for multifamily housing?

Chris Meany: Treasure Island will fall somewhere between 25% and 30% of its total units as affordable, which is nearly double that of Bay Meadows, which has 15% affordable housing. Each project is treated independently, and the amount of affordability is really a function of the community’s needs and priorities, the other infrastructure that must be privately funded and any public contributions available.

Bisnow: Do both of these projects advance what the governor was calling for with denser development and better infrastructure?

Chris Meany: Yes, both projects do involve infrastructure improvements that support higher density and we believe do a good job of providing an insight into the future direction of development in California as the state population continues to increase and the need and desire to live in a more sustainable manner becomes a choice and necessity.

One thing we and our partners at Stockbridge Capital are very excited about for Treasure Island is the novel approach we took toward density allocations across the Island, which were informed by studying many other master plans. More specifically, we pursued the creation of “flex zones” where density and height will be allowed to vary between buildings and blocks, which should allow us more flexibility to build the project out and respond to market demand in real time, as opposed to having highly prescribed entitlements that sometimes require waiting for certain market conditions to arise before they become feasible.

Bisnow: At Bay Meadows (shown above), all the office buildings will be LEED Gold. What are some of the features of the buildings that help earn that certification? Why was that important for this development?

Janice Thacher: Yes, that is correct; some of the larger features include the general density and proximity and encouragement of alternate forms of transportation (e.g. location steps from Caltrain, bike storage, EV charging stations); other details include water-efficient landscaping and low-consumption fixtures; yet others focus on the building engineering qualities that will ensure optimized energy performance and tools for measuring and verifying that optimization on a building and tenant-specific basis.

Meeting LEED Gold standards for Bay Meadows Station was important for two key reasons. First, it is consistent with the overall commitment to sustainability at Bay Meadows, which has been part of the design since the beginning. Second, it is important to our tenants as well. Tech companies—including SurveyMonkey—share this value and it is important to them in making decisions regarding their office space.

Bisnow: What makes the next few years exciting for Wilson Meany?

Chris Meany: With the evolution of technology and globalization, it is a very exciting time for the West Coast in general, and we are very fortunate to be working in two regions that I personally believe are some of the best places in the world to live and work. We have some very large projects that will all be reaching critical milestones in the next few years—whether that’s Hollywood Park down in Los Angeles, the next steps at Bay Meadows, or breaking ground at Treasure Island (shown above); likewise, we are finally in a place where we will be evaluating new opportunities and look forward to hopefully finding a smaller deal or two that will not take so long and require a little less patience to feel a sense of completion (since the larger projects will all likely take at least 20 years from start to finish).

Bisnow: Since you both have been traveling, can you tell us what’s your must-have thing to read or listen to while on the road?

Chris Meany: I always have an electronic reader with me. Everyone should have read Piketty’s Capital by this point. Currently I am reading Issacson’s biography of Franklin.

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