HERCULES, CA-Catellus Development Corp. has sold 200 acres here for $23.7 million. The land is within the Victoria-by-the-Bay residential development, a master planned community of 880 homes, retail shops, parks and a school being developed on the site of a former oil refinery.

In 1997, Catellus acquired the land for an undisclosed amount and demolished the Pacific Refining Co., which had been there for 30 years, and began a massive industrial cleanup that involved removing the refinery, eliminating the soil of petrochemical contaminants and cleaning up the groundwater. Although company sources decline to say how much the cleanup costs, published reports indicate the company shelled out more than $20 million.

Hercules, first developed 100 years ago as the home of Hercules Dynamite Co., is located 18 miles from the San Francisco Bay Bridge, north of Richmond on Interstate 880 and in between Pinole and Rodeo. The industrial community was not always a first choice for homebuyers. However, for a community eager to catch up with the economic boom taking a stronghold in the Bay Area, the affordable housing, compared with the rest of the Bay Area, is likely to attract homebuyers with its $200,000 to $400,000 price tag.

“I was there the day we first looked at the site. When I walked the property on the rainy, blustery day, I stood there and thought, ‘If you could get rid of that refinery, this would be the world’s greatest residential community,’” says Tim Unger, president of Catellus Residential Group.

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