A New Marina
Huge University Villages development would rival the existing city itself.
Thursday, March 4, 2004
Yet another large piece of the Fort Ord re-use puzzle was made public last week with the unveiling of the concept plan for University Villages. Described as a “partnership” between the city of Marina and large-scale developers, University Villages would have the effect of creating a whole new town.
The initial concept was presented to about 80 interested citizens and local officials on Feb. 24 at the Marina Community Center near city hall. A slideshow presentation was followed by a question-and-answer period on the plan for more than 1,200 homes and a beach boardwalk, among other things.
Development in Marina is an ongoing saga as the city’s share of Fort Ord land is significant and the plans to use the land are ambitious. Regional pressure to create affordable housing makes the issues doubly contentious.
University Villages comes in addition to the 1,050-home Marina Heights residential project, a 440-unit senior residential project called Cypress Knolls, and expansion of the campus at CSU Monterey Bay.
University Villages is a mixed-used plan for the area of Fort Ord between Marina proper and the college campus along Highway 1 and inland. Designs show a combination of homes, offices, stores, parks and a hotel on and around 12th Street, where the Fort Ord Re-Use Authority office now sits.
Part of the motivation to develop the area is to bring sales tax revenue to the city. The developers came right out of the gate at the presentation talking about making a “regional” shopping center with “large format” retail outlets that will create a “people intense” environment.
The developers have formed a limited liability company called Marina Community Partners, made up of both Centex Homes and Shea Properties, two of the largest development concerns in the nation. They want to build 1,237 housing units on 126 acres of land, use 20 acres for parks, 70 acres for stores, 60 acres for a business park and four acres for an “arts and culture” area.
Of the 1,237 housing units, 20 percent would be so-called affordable and 10 percent would be considered “workforce” housing. South County Housing, a non-profit housing builder, is handling the “affordable” aspects of the project. A South County representative at the meeting explained that the county median income for a family of four has risen from $58,000 a year to $66,000 and housing is categorized based on that number. A house deemed affordable to someone with a very low income would cost $100,000 to $120,000; a family in the low-income category should be able to afford a home priced at $150,000 to $200,000, and a moderately priced home would cost $250,000. A full spectrum of price types is planned. “We’re going to have all levels of affordability,” says spokesman Bob Schaffer.
The entire project consumes 440 acres. The developers claim that the new business will create 3,700 to 4,700 new jobs and the 550,000 to 650,000 square feet of retail will generate up to $220 million in sales tax, of which about $2 million will come back to the city. In addition to other features, the plan envisions using an existing bridge over Highway 1 to create a “beach boardwalk” and re-orient Marina as the gateway city to the Peninsula.
Pending approvals by the city and other agencies, the actual groundwork would begin in 2006 and construction would continue into 2015.
Schaffer would not cough up an estimated value of the land, saying the value changes constantly depending on the development configurations.
“It’s just all over the map,” he says.
The scale of the effort is such that the city has hired a full-time manager, Doug Yount, for the University Villages project. Yount called it “a partnership between the city and the developer,” and that rather than being a “regulator” the city will be an “enabler.”
Some of the questions raised by the public were critical. As with the Marina Heights project, numerous exemptions from the General Plan will have to be granted to make it work. One involves moving the current site for a transit center to within walking distance of what will be the University Villages center. Coordinating the project with other major uses on Fort Ord may also mean re-alignment of roadways.
And there is some question as to whether there will enough water for all the development on deck in Marina. The developers said there are ongoing “extensive discussions” between the city, the developers and the Fort Ord Re-Use Authority about water.
Simon Whitmey, project manager for the developers, said a new source of water will be needed. “The plan does call for an augmentation supply,” he says. “There’s a belief there’s adequate water for these and other developments. Getting there is part of the challenge of being a developer.”