Salinas City Council gives thumbs up to planned redevelopment project.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
A massive redevelopment project proposed for east of Salinas’ downtown could unite Oldtown and east Salinas, and reinvigorate the city’s economy, City Council members said this week.
The council’s welcoming comments came after a presentation by Sean Cooley of Walnut Creek-based Cooley Development Partners on Nov. 27. As first reported on montereycountyweekly.com, Cooley has rekindled plans to turn what is now a seedy, industrial stretch in the city’s center into a mixed-use and sustainable project.
Councilwoman Jyl Lutes lauded Cooley for his use of new urbanist design principles, and for and giving local merchants a place to set up shop.
“There are a lot of businesses in east Salinas that need to expand,” Lutes said. “This is an opportunity to allow them to grow.”
Mayor Dennis Donohue said the project is not the silver bullet for revitalizing Salinas’ economy but it could help trigger development in nearby Oldtown and Soledad Street. “One project can have the domino effect of getting people excited and getting people moving,” Donohue said.
Cooley has partnered with Bristol Development Group to develop the up to $150 million project, which is called Alisal Marketplace.
Cooley first pitched the development south of East Alisal Street in 2005 but later dropped his plans after businesses, including Graniterock’s concrete batch plant on Work Street, refused to relocate.
Cooley now wants to build 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 commercial, residential, medical and civic spaces, including nearly 500 townhomes, 96 of which would be affordable.
Cooley’s economic consultant estimated that the project would create $2.9 million in city revenue and would employ more than 1,200 people at build out.
In addition to receiving a warm reception from the council, business leaders also spoke in support of the project. The Salinas United Business Association wants to redevelop the Alisal business corridor under a plan called “Vision 2017.”
“The people of east Salinas deserve a project like this,” Sal Jimenez, a business owner and SUBA board member, told the council. “We are due.”
Jimenez pointed out that the Alisal business corridor has no vacancy and the small retail space offered by the project would be “a gold mine.”
But to make the project happen, Cooley will have to relocate several large firms and dozens of small businesses.
Operations that would have to move include the Sun Street Transfer Station and BFI Waste Services. Councilwoman Janet Barnes questioned if there would be enough space for all the businesses to relocate since most of the project is residential. “It just seems gigantic to do this,” Barnes said.
Cooley said he has no intention to disrupt people’s businesses and wants to make their relocation seamless. Now that he has backing from the council, Cooley will host community-planning charrettes to see what type of designs and uses residents want in the project. “It isn’t until we get community input from charrettes that we’ll even show you another plan,” Cooley told the council.