Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) is a decommissioned U.S. Navy property roughly 5,000 acres in size, located north of Concord, CA, a suburban city 30 acres east of San Francisco, CA. CNWS was closed by the Navy in 2005, and after 6 years of planning along with community feedback, the city of Concord adopted Concord Community Reuse Project in 2012. The plan gives guidelines for the development of a mixed-use community with over 12,000 housing units. It will be one of the largest mixed-use projects in Northern California, and presents a great opportunity to develop a model sustainable city, almost from the ground up.
Discover past uses of the site–from endangered species restoration to autonomous vehicle testing. Explore future plans for site how CNWS fits into the growth of the greater region.
World War II
CNWS was a portion of a larger base used during World War II as the main ammunition storage facility for the Pacific Theater of Operations. After World War CNWS continued to be used by the Navy for ammunition storage, maintenance services, and further military support until 1989. The Navy finally vacated the area in 1999.
Meanwhile, between the years of 1940 and 2000, the surrounding Bay Area’s population grew fourfold (400%), while Concord’s population grew by roughly 100 times as much (10,000%), from 1,373 to 121,780. However, the population of San Francisco only grew by 20% during this period. This was an era of growth in the suburbs as opposed to urban centers.
Tule Elk Seed Herd
Between 1976 and 2006, CNWS was home to a seed herd of tule elk, the largest land mammals native to California that were nearly hunted to extinction during the early 1900’s. The land in CNWS was perfectly suited to for them, and over their 40 year stay, about 1,300 were moved from CNWS to other herds across California. Thanks in big part to this seed herd, there are now over 4,000 tule elk in California.
Base Closure & Initial Development Planning
CNWS was closed by the Navy in 2005, and in 2006 the city of Concord was chosen to serve as the Local Reuse Authority (LRA), and given the objective of creating a Reuse Plan. After 6 years of engagement with the community and local businesses, the Concord Community Reuse Plan was completed and adopted in 2012. The plan calls for a 30-year buildout, with Phase One requiring a 10-year buildout for 4,400 housing units. In 2016, Lennar was selected as the Phase One Master Developer.
Meanwhile, between the years of 2000 and 2015, the surrounding Bay Area’s population grew 13%, while Concord’s population grew 6%, and San Francisco’s population grew from 11%. The rapid growth in the suburbs that had occurred between 1940 and 2000 had slowed.
Autonomous Vehicle Testing
In 2014, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. (MBRDNA) partnered with Concord and the Navy to open a testing ground for autonomous vehicles at CNWS. With 20 miles of roads and 2,100 acres of testing area, it is the largest such testing facility in the country. It is still open as of 2016.
Future Area Plan
The plan gives guidelines for a 30-year buildout of a mixed-use community with over 12,000 housing units. The entire plan calls for, with Phase One requiring a 10-year buildout for 4,400 housing units.
Future North Concord BART Station
North Concord BART station is a 47 minute ride from Embarcadero station in San Francisco. It is one of the least busy stations in the BART system, as evidenced by the fact that it had the second fewest number of riders in September 2016.
The BART Station Profile Survey from Spring 2015 revealed that out of all 45 stations, North Concord station had the highest percentage of riders (70%) who drove to BART. Also, riders entering at North Concord station traveled the greatest distance to get from home to BART (median of 6.7 miles). Both of these findings highlight the lack of population density around the station, especially when compared to other stations. Therefore, there is an opportunity to create a dense, walkable, transit-oriented residential neighborhood around North Concord BART.
Bay Area Impact
Residents of dense cities are more energy efficient and use less water per capita when compared to suburban residents. For example, San Francisco residents use the least amount of water in California. But as San Francisco itself is unable to meet the demand for growth, then the challenge for the region as a whole is to help the 85% of Bay Area residents who live outside San Francisco consume less. The biggest opportunities for future innovation in sustainability, therefore, may lie in the suburbs instead of the cities.
The outcome of suburban redevelopment projects such as at CNWS will impact the entire region. If successful and thoroughly planned, they have the potential to alleviate housing crunches at the urban cores and also roll out new sustainable innovations (water conservation, renewable energy use, etc.) at a large scale. But if unsuccessful and poorly planned, they also have the potential to exacerbate regional problems such as traffic, drought, air pollution, overburdened infrastructure, overcrowded schools, lack of open space, and other issues related to sprawl.