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Manteca deal of the century moving forward?

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POSTED August 15, 2017 1:18 a.m.

What could arguably be the sweetest deal for Manteca’s economy since Ed Powers a century ago convinced Claus Spreckels that the sandy plains was ideal for a sugar beet refinery appears to be in the nitty gritty stage.
The City Council is meeting behind closed doors tonight at 6:15 to talk about price and terms with McWhinney Real Estate Services for 67 acres owned by the city along the 120 Bypass west of Costco.
The Colorado development firm has been in talks with two destination water park resort operators.
Manteca not only has a prime location along the 120 Bypass in terms of luring consumers in the Northern California Mega Region, but it has something of even more value — environmental clearance for a basic project of a 500-room resort hotel, 80,000-square-foot indoor water park, and a 30,000 square foot conference center. It took almost five years to secure that in Manteca. One can only imagine how much longer it would take in places like Brentwood where Great Wolf started looking after they had second thoughts about Manteca. Great Wolf, however, only wanted 30 acres compared to the 67 acres that are now the subject of negotiations. Great Wolf also talked about a second phase that would kick the hotel up to 750 rooms.
One of the two suitors McWhinney is working with wanted a larger footprint given the destination resort they recently opened has 220,000 square feet of indoor water space — think the combined square footage of the Manteca Target and Manteca Walmart —  a 977-room hotel, and 230,000 square feet of meeting space. That was built all at once. It’s essentially the same plan the resort has for its fourth resort that is in the process of being built for a 2020 opening.
The environmental clearance is still good as gold even for a larger project. That’s because the bigger footprint wouldn’t create issues in an addendum save for one issue — traffic. That is being mitigated however, as Manteca moves forward with property acquisition and the start of more detailed design work for the McKinley Avenue and 120 Bypass interchange. Better traffic circulation was what limited the adopted EIR project to 500 rooms. Caltrans’ concerns would be addressed by the interchange as it would place the resort in the middle of two interchanges a mile apart.
The council is also in negotiations concerning terms and price with Manteca Development Group for 119.67 acres of city property for the family entertainment zone sandwiched between Big League Dreams, the waterpark resort site, McKinley Avenue, and the wastewater treatment plant.
Will the curtain rise on 3rd act for El Rey Theatre in downtown Manteca?
The building that served as the linchpin for downtown Manteca for 49 years could take on that role again.
City of Manteca staff is working with a concern that wants to turn the shuttered Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. & Brickyard Restaurant in the 100 block of East Yosemite Avenue into an events center.
The biggest issue appears to center around the remodeling of the brewery production portion of the building to accommodate space for events.
As for parking, most of the activity will be on the weekends.
The bottom line is city hall is approaching the proposal with the attitude “how can this work” as opposed to “why it can’t work” while adhering to building codes.
The building originally opened on April 15, 1937 as the El Rey Theatre. It was built at a cost of $110,000 at the height of the Depression. The 900-seat, air-conditioned theatre dubbed “The House of Courtesy” was complete with tiled bathroom floors, art on the walls, and ceilings accented with gold leaf. Its marquee was crowded with big name, first-run movies. It became the social center of the greater Manteca area and the anchor of downtown.
The El Rey was still humming along on Aug. 6, 1975 when fire ravished the building following a screening of “The Towering Inferno.”
The El Rey sat gutted for more than 20 years before it was converted into Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. and Brickyard Oven Restaurant. It served as a big draw for downtown and even hosted special events such as the Manteca Idol staged by the Boys & Girls Club that packed in over 300 people in its heydays every Wednesday night at Kelley Brothers. There also were a number of live performers on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons.
The restaurant was a victim of the economic slowdown seven years ago.

New day dawning
for city’s Community
Development Department
The idea that customers — read that Manteca’s 76,000 residents — are the city’s most valuable asset is picking up steam.
Monday was first day on the job for Greg Showerman as Manteca’s Community Development Director.
Showerman is working to duplicate a culture where customer service is the yardstick that judges just how effective a job the department does.
It means striving to do what a business needs to do to stay viable by understanding that “without their business, we don’t generate the money that pays for our salaries.”
“Customer service has to be No. 1,” Showerman said.
While you may have heard that before from 1001 W. Center St, it is different coming from Showerman. The reason is what has brought him to this point. Prior to being hired by the Manteca Public Works Department in June of 2015, Showerman worked for 21 years in the private sector including 11 years owning his own business.
It was that background that led to him being tapped to serve as the assistant city manager a year ago before the City Council appointed him as the acting city manager in November.
Last week he was helping transition in his new boss, City Manager Tim Ogden.
Manteca didn’t miss a beat with Showerman temporarily at the helm.
He also made three key decisions that will have a long-term impact on Manteca — the hiring of three of the eight department heads that make up the city’s executive team. That includes Police Chief Jodie Estarziau and Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd. The third position he didn’t technically hire although he made the recommendation to the council to do so given its unorthodox nature. The recommended hiring was himself as Community Development Director in March. 
Showerman was not interested in applying for the city manager’s job on a permanent basis.
The other good thing about the 60-year-old Showerman is that he has  the potential to bring stability to the Community Development Department leadership. With just over two years working for a public agency he’s not exactly well vested for even partial retirement.
 Showerman said he hopes to work for at least another seven or so years.
Why that is important is simple. In recent years the tenures of Community Development directors in Manteca have been relatively short. The position by far has had the highest turnover of any department head. That’s not a good thing when you have growth.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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