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Sour demise, sweet future

Spreckels Park rises from economic disaster

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Sour demise, sweet future

The new Social Security office just opened on Commerce Court behind Home Depot in Spreckels Park.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED November 5, 2011 1:26 a.m.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story of a three-part series on the envisioned employment triangle centered on the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass interchange that could ultimately generate in excess of 17,000 jobs.

Spreckels Sugar for 75 years represented Manteca’s economic strength.

The four 15-story sugar silos that once stood near where Target is today was the landmark most people associated Manteca with as they passed by on Highway 99 or the 120 Bypass.

The loss of 230 jobs - including 120 permanent jobs - in February of 1996 couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Manteca was a bedroom community still trying to shake the chains of the recession that started in 1989 that sent the value of its No. 1 industry at the time - housing - stumbling for what was then a shocking 10 percent when it was hit with the news. In February 1996 the closure of Spreckels Sugar cost jobs and damaged the community’s psyche.

Worse yet, a shuttered sugar plant at the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s highest profile interchange - Highway 99 and the 120 Bypass - threatened to place an albatross around Manteca’s image. No bank was willing to take a risk on financing any project on the site for fear demolition would uncover toxic issues that could cost tens of millions of dollars to remedy.

That’s when the great-grandson of Benjamin Holt who invented the Caterpillar tractor and the grandson of Warren Atherton who authored the GI Bill of Rights stepped up to the plate.

Mike Atherton was purely a home builder at the time with his partner Bing Kirk.  Atherton saw economic potential where others only saw economic despair.

Atherton pitched his vision to Bill Filios who had cut his teeth in development building apartment complexes for Stockton’s Alex Spanos. The partnership they formed - AKF Development - succeeded in doing what others in the private sector thought impossible. They turned the 362-acre shuttered sugar beet refinery site into a teeming economic success. It has been so successful that it is literally driving the Manteca economy by generating tax revenue that has allowed the city to build Big League Dreams, secure the Stadium Retail Center by paying for infrastructure, finance amenities around the city, and made it possible to lure Bass Pro Shops.

City leaders projected it would take 20 years to reach the 2,000 job mark and to be completely built out. Spreckels Park hands created 2,000 jobs by its 10th anniversary

 Today, there are only three parcels left that haven’t been developed within Speckles Park.

About eight years ago, the partners started talking up “Spreckels Park” for land south of Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange. Today that 1,049 acres has been annexed to Manteca. ANF - Art Nunes has replaced Kirk - is the principal partner in Austin Road Business Park. It is the largest planned development ever envisioned Manteca. It is expected to generate up to 13,000 jobs and create housing for 10,200 more residents.

Four years ago “Spreckels Park III” known as Yosemite Square was advanced. The project was originally envisioned for 314,000 square feet of office space, 414 condos plus 312 apartments, and 361 single family homes on the northeast corner of the 120 Bypass and Highway 99. They are now in the process of going back through the approval process. Now the project has about 30 percent less housing, no retail, and has 475,675 square feet of business park and office uses. It also covers 63 less acres. The new version has 761 housing units

Altogether the three developments form a triangle around the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass interchange. Together, they have the potential of one day being home to a combined 17,000 jobs.

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