South San Francisco councilmembers are facing a pivotal decision in selecting a preferred builder for a housing development which officials hope will help establish a new city center.

The city’s Housing Standing Committee, comprised of members of the City Council and Planning Commission, selected two potential developers interested in constructing a sweeping project along El Camino Real. The recommendations will head onto the full City Council, which is slated Wednesday, March 28, to pick a preferred candidate for the site purchased by the city’s former redevelopment agency.

The two finalists, Blake Griggs developments and AGI/KASA Partners, are vying to construct as many as 820 housing units on public property where Westborough Boulevard turns into Chestnut Avenue just west of downtown.

The site in tandem with development of a new Civic Center on adjacent land could become a keystone area for the future of the city’s growth, said Alex Greenwood, director of Economic and Community Development.

“Along El Camino Real, near our BART station, has long been identified as a prominent, strategic area of this city and this will be one of the catalysts that will open up new possibilities for the area,” said Greenwood.

Of the two proposals, the Blake Griggs development offer is the largest, comprised of 820 units, 167 of which would be affordable, in a 12-story tower. While most of the development would be for rent, 118 of the units would be for sale.

Granting purchasable opportunities in the development is a key focus for officials, said Greenwood.

“With home ownership, we would have more stability and the residents would be more likely to be a part of a neighborhood,” he said.

Beyond the housing component, the project would include 14,000 square feet of retail space, 5,500 square feet reserved for child care plus about 3.5 acres of open space. Greenwood said officials appreciated the solid financing plan for the project as well.

“The applicant has an overall strategy for equity and financing that was looked at as superior, and there would be a very good chance of the project moving forward even if the economy suffers in the coming years,” he said.

The AGI/KASA Partners proposal includes 812 units, with 162 affordable units to be built by Bridge Housing in a standalone building. It also includes 5,500 square feet of child care space, 7 acres of park land, 13,000 square feet of space reserved for artisanal merchants such as coffee roasters, breweries and other independent businesses.

For his part, Greenwood said he believes the two finalists would likely both improve South San Francisco’s future growth.

“The way they lined up, the proposals are very close in terms of size and scope and the potential benefits they offer the community,” he said.

Though the size and scope of the project is still to be determined, the area is zoned to allow buildings as tall as 120 feet, according to the request for proposals, and could accommodate between 120 and 180 units per acre with developer contributions such as quality architecture, green building or other community benefits triggering additional development.

The two finalists are whittled down over a series of discussions from 12 originally interested applicants to six selected bidders. The candidate approved by the City Council will enter an exclusive negotiating agreement, as officials are hopeful to break ground on the development by 2020.

Considering the pivotal nature of the project, Greenwood said he believes it will be an essential step forward for the city.

“This is an opportunity for badly-needed housing and it is designed in a way that is integrated into the surrounding community and respects the surrounding community,” he said.

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