April 1, 2007

Manteca Considers ‘Lifestyle Center’

By Paul Burgarino

MANTECA -- A commercial development center that many feel could become a regional attraction is finally within the scope of the City Council.

However, residents will have a chance to fire away with questions about the proposed "lifestyle center" along the Highway 120 Corridor in south Manteca during Monday's City Council meeting.

Before a Planning Commission meeting two weeks ago, Tennessee- based Poag & McEwen unveiled long-awaited design concepts for The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, a 746,740-square-foot center geared toward shopping and leisure activities for all.

The proposed 72-acre project will be a mix of restaurants,lodging, designer retailers and outdoor amphitheater that surround a "Main Street." The city and Poag & McEwen have been working toward a resolution for the center for the past 30 months, Community Development Director Kyle Kollar said.

Mark Grambergs, a vice president of development with Poag & McEwen, said the Manteca lifestyle center would feature unique architecture incorporating some of the "old roots of Manteca and the surrounding area."

Included in the preliminary design concepts is a large tower resembling the old Manteca High School tower, which would serve as the center's "beacon," or focal point.

Conditions of approval include a development agreement that would commit Poag & McEwen in bringing a 106,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shop to Manteca. The initial agreement would last for five years, but Poag & McEwen could extend it for another five years once construction begins.

Similar lifestyle centers designed by Poag & McEwen around the country include such high-end retailers as Banana Republic, J. Crew, J. Jill and Williams-Sonoma. Plans for the Manteca site show 17 stores of various sizes slotted for retail.

Development could start by the summer with an anticipated opening in fall 2008.

"Is this project time sensitive? You betcha," Kollar said. "We feel this project is a watershed kind of a project and offers a significant economic opportunity for both the present and the future and we want it to get done soon."

Design plans call for the city to give the developer "some flexibility" from normal city standards because of the uniqueness of the project, Kollar said. Those deviations include an increase in building height, unscreened outdoor displays of merchandise and increased signage, among other changes.

The council also will look at a lengthy environmental impact report which addresses issues such as traffic, air quality, water usage and possible health risks. Kollar said the city has worked with these agencies through the process to limit the amount of impact to the surroundings as much as possible.

"Some things simply cannot be mitigated on projects, with the lifestyle center being no exception," he said. "It's up to the council if they still want it to proceed."

None of these issues were questioned by the commissioners, as they asked more about aesthetics, including the possibility of recreational vehicle parking outside Bass Pro Shop.

The agreement includes a parking lease that would allow the city to use the parking areas for a Park-and-Ride lot, an emergency response staging area with helicopter landing capabilities and recreational activities.

The council will also hold a public hearing on a Patio Development LLC changing the aging Patio Trailer Park from 23 dwelling units into five single-family detached homes and

10,000 square feet of commercial office space and necessary parking and landscaping on Main Street.

Contact Paul Burgarino at (209) 832-6143 or [email protected]

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