Web Exclusive: Salinas development plan reborn as a sustainable, mixed-use project
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
An ambitious retail and housing development planned for east of downtown Salinas is back on the table.
Sean Cooley of Walnut Creek-based Cooley Development Partners has rekindled plans to turn what is now an industrial island in the city’s center into a mixed-use and sustainable project. Cooley and his partner from Bristol Development Group will present the project, which is called Alisal Marketplace, to the Salinas City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Cooley first pitched the development along East Alisal Street in 2005. He says he dropped his plans after near-by businesses, including Graniterock’s concrete batch plant on Work Street, refused to relocate.
But after encouragement from Mayor Dennis Donohue, Cooley now plans to build the development further north than originally proposed. The development would be built on 52 acres bordered by the railroad tracks and Griffin Street between John Street and the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority’s Sun Street Transfer Station. The project would include 890,000 square feet of retail, commercial, residential and medical space, including nearly 500 townhomes and a civic plaza.
“If we had this opportunity people will drive up from Greenfield to shop here,” Cooley said during a presentation to Salinas United Business Association members on Nov. 20.
The biggest hurdle Cooley will have is finding suitable places for several large firms and dozens of small businesses to relocate. Operations that would have to move include the Sun Street Transfer Station, BFI Waste Services, the City’s corporation yard and Pacific Gas and Electric.
Cooley said he won’t move forward with the project unless 100 percent of property owners are on board.
“This is a voluntary deal,” he said. “No one is putting this down the throat of anybody.”
Cooley said he has met with 90 percent of property owners and they are receptive to the redevelopment project “if we can do thoughtful relocation.”
The area’s small businesses can find a new home within the project site, Cooley said. “Everyone can come back if they want to come back,” he said. “You don’t have to go.”
Cooley already has SUBA’s backing. The east Salinas merchants group wants to redevelop the Alisal business corridor under a plan called “Vision 2017.”
“We kind of feel that this is what we need to improve our area,” said David Brown, SUBA’s president.
Another plus, Brown said, is that the project would relocate the Transfer Station. SUBA opposes the expansionof the station because it will lead to more traffic and decrease property values in the area.
Cooley also wants the development to be sustainable and hopes to obtain LEED Silver Certification for the project. “Hopefully we can help brand the city as growing and green,” he said.
The development would cost about $150 million and would be built in phases, Cooley said. The roads, sewers and other infrastructure would be funded by a bond through the City’s Redevelopment Agency. To get the bond money, the city’s redevelopment area would have to be expanded to include the PG & E and Waste Authority sites.
Redevelopment Director Alan Stumpf said that process would take at least 18 months. Cooley said it would be about two years before ground is broken, assuming the City Council supports the project.
“It’s really up to the council to tell us how fast to run,” he said.