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Orchard Valley: The devil, as, they say, is in the details

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POSTED January 14, 2010 1:42 a.m.
Manteca’s biggest park-n-ride lot is also one of Manteca’s best-kept secrets.

It’s located at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. You’d be hard pressed to know that since there aren’t exactly a lot of signs directing you to it as you’ll find at other park and rides on major freeway corridors.

Manteca inked a sales tax sharing agreement with Poag & McEwen for 35 years to help secure the lifestyle center anchored by Bass Pro Shops. Much like other cities that make similar deals with sales tax or redevelopment agency money, the rationale is that the money goes to reimburse the developer for high upfront costs necessary to build such a large complex. Given the complexity and competitiveness of the regional shopping center business such deals are commonplace and are studied heavily before jurisdictions enter into them.

That deal essentially has the City of Manteca leasing the 1,922 parking spaces at Orchard Valley for “municipal use” over 35 years.

Those uses include park and ride spaces, for emergency response staging with helicopter landing capabilities, and other recreational activities.

Poag & McEwen may restrict portions of the leased space for no more than six times a year and no more than seven days per event. The developer also is responsible for maintenance of all the parking spaces plus must carry insurance to cover the city.

Now the $35 million question – assuming that taxable sales over the next 35 years at Orchard Valley allows Poag & McEwen to get the maximum amount -when is the city going to start using the 1,922 parking spaces for municipal uses?

First – and – foremost the parking spaces must be readily identified as being a park and ride lot. That means not just signage but working with San Joaquin Regional Transit to secure a bus stop for commuters.

Then the city needs to look at other possible uses.

Not every downtown businessperson has been wild about having the streets closed for the annual Crossroads Street Fair or the Sunrise Kiwanis Pumpkin Fair. It does close down streets and disrupts traffic patterns.

The Sunrise Kiwanis every year are also faced with the tough act of trying to secure a second site for a carnival that is staged in conjunction with the Pumpkin Fair that generates significant amount of revenue for community services projects.

It would seem that the obvious thing would be for the city to approach the Sunrise Kiwanis as well as the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau – which stages the street fair – to see if they want to relocate those events to the Orchard Valley parking lot.

It would be great exposure for both events especially since the city should be able to allow them to set up fronting the Highway 120 Bypass since they are leasing all 1,992 parking spaces and therefore it is their call and not Poag & McEwen’s.

The idea of both events is to draw outside visitors as well as bring the community together. What better way than doing it at a high profile location along the Highway 120 Bypass?

By chance, the Pumpkin Fair in the 1990s was held on land right around where Bass Pro Shops is located today at the old Manteca Rodeo Grounds.

Consideration should also be given to shifting the farmers market to Orchard Valley as well.

There are plenty of pros and cons to that move since there are a number of people who walk to the weekly event at Library Park plus it provides a nice family setting.

Yet it ends there. There are no shops that those attending can drop into nor are there many restaurants nearby.

As strange as it may sound, Orchard Valley may indeed provide a more “small town” ambiance than downtown. Think Pleasanton farmers market on Saturday mornings but on a weeknight evening.

You would have people stopping by for fresh produce after work with their families, strolling stores, and going out for dinner. They could even catch a movie beforehand or after.

There is even an appropriate venue for the farmers’ market-style entertainment near the lake and fountain between Bass Pro Shops and the Kerasotes Showplace Theatre.

The odds are the farmers market attendance would jump significantly given the fact it is more visible which would be a boon for the participating farmers.

Of course, if the city simply entered into the parking lot agreement to make things look good and had no intention of following through on the various possibilities then it is all a sham.

The devil – as they say – is in the details.
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