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County center east of McDonalds?
Deal may create 400 jobs at former Lowes site
The current propose county center site and the proposed new location. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA

The proposed South County Courthouse and Government Center could go where Lowe’s once planned to build a 145,000-square-foot home improvement center  northeast of the Airport Way and 120 Bypass interchange.

It would be located to the east of the McDonald’s that opened recently along Airport Way

Manteca may use $3.8 million in growth fees to buy 10 acres of the 12.3-acre site from Manteca Development Group. If that happens, the county has tentatively agreed to have its arrangement with Manteca for the government complex to be shifted to the site that has direct access to the traffic signals at Fishback Rod and Daniels Street. That would free up the original 10-acre city-owned site committed to the county at Milo Candini Drive and Daniels Street for development in conjunction with a possible family entertainment zone the city is pursuing.

The new location is considered better situated for a county complex. The remaining 2.3 acres would be kept  by Manteca Development Group, whose managing partners are Bill Filios and Arthur Nunes, and developed for commercial uses.

Lowe’s last year decided not to build in Manteca due to corporate downsizing and the chain store’s repositioning program.

In 2009, the city and county agreed to a deal that would have San Joaquin County build a center  in Manteca on city owned land. The county would be able to buy the 10 acres for $1 with the city constructing a storm retention basin at city expense. The agreement was for seven years. It expires on Sept. 8, 2016 but it extends automatically for 10 years if the county begins the process of developing plans for the site by the end of the seven-year term. The city also agreed to lock in fees at 2009 levels or $1.8 million.

The county has indicated the Lowe’s site is a much better location. The site also has a storm retention basin in place therefore saving the city money down the road.

The South San Joaquin County government center  could include satellite county offices for community development, public health, human services, the sheriff’s office, district attorney, and public defender as well as the possibility of including a Superior Court building on the same site. It would create up to 400 government jobs when in full operation.

Manteca had been competing with Lathrop and Tracy that were offering potential site for a South County center. Manteca was selected based on price, fees, parcel location near the Highway 120 Bypass, vehicular access, visibility, and that fact it already has full infrastructure in place.

The site switch would allow Manteca to create more synergy around the proposed Great Wolf Resort should McWhinney Co, decided later this year to proceed. They are now negotiating for a 400-room hotel, an indoor water park and a 20,000-square-foot conference center on 30 acres of city owned land west of Costco. The city also is working on an adjoining 140-acre family entertainment zone.

The city would use $3.1 million in public facilities fee reserves and $700,000 in the wastewater treatment plan phase three expansion reserves to pay for the 10 acres that are part of the Lowe’s site. The city has been told by the state Department of Finance they should qualify for reimbursement to the growth fee accounts from the $45.6 million in redevelopment agency bond proceeds they can still spend. That’s because the county center was one of the identified projects for the bond money.

Once the city closes escrow on the site, the county will give its official blessing to the new location.

If the state ends up denying the purchase for RDA reimbursement or another obstacle were to come up, the city would put the land up for sale and return the proceeds to the original growth fee funding sources.

The City Council is meeting Monday at 1:30 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., to consider the purchase.