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Proposal would create vibrant ‘city center’ experience at Orchard Valley
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The main street at Orchard Valley with water features and a replica of the old Manteca High tower could become the heart of a “second downtown.”

A Santana Row experience — Manteca-style — may be developed by adding apartments and condos to The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

Santana Row in San Jose has high density housing surrounding a core area that serves as a gathering place for residents that provides commercial, services, dining, and entertainment venues. If such a scenario in Manteca happens it would essentially create a second “downtown” area or “city center” style experience for Manteca with the potential for a much more robust night life and seven-day-a-week buzz.

City staff is working with Poag Development to move a plan forward that would add housing to what originally started out  as a lifestyle center trying to replicate a Main Street-style experience with rows of in-line store fronts facing each other along an interior street instead of a major road or a freeway.

Bass Pro Shops — the main anchor — opened just as the housing collapse triggered the Great Recession. While the developer was trying to lure tenants as the economy took a dive they tried a strategy of pursing outlet stores believing the drawing power of Bass Pro could make it fly. That met with minimal success as e-commerce started to pick up steam.

The current strategy would create the same live, shop, and play mixture in more of a high density urban setting that has made San Jose’s Santana Row a huge success. It is also how River Islands at a Lathrop is planning their town square that will serve as the primary commercial area for the 11,000-home planned community. The town square will have condos above stores and restaurant with the area flanked by apartments to provide just over 600 housing units that would generate 1,500 residents to build a customer base for a vibrant commercial area.

Manteca’s Economic Development Manager Don Smail told the council Tuesday night that the city is currently assisting Poag Development with a plan to convert some of the existing parking lots and undeveloped store pads into high density residential such as apartments and condos.

 If that occurs, it would create a demand for a different assortment  of neighborhood retail, service and restaurant users to fill the empty in-line space.

At the same time developer Mike Atherton and partners are exploring a proposal to build upwards of 400 apartments on land immediately east of the Pass Pro Shops. 

Depending upon the proposal that Poag ultimately advances there could be well over 1,000 high density housing units on the southeast corner of the Union Road and 120 Bypass where the city is moving forward with California’s first diverging diamond interchange.

Such synergy could create a neighborhood of 2,000 plus residents that could walk to additional restaurants, entertainment venues, neighborhood style shops and services that could fill the empty store space between the Banana Republic and the JC Penney store.

It could lead to the creation of what many people want to see in downtown — al fresco sidewalk dining and patios, regular entertainment to draw people such as concerts, farmers markets, and other community-style activities. The fact there could be as many as 1,000 high density housing units in close proximity would help make such a concept workable.

Not only could Orchard Valley emerge as the town center for neighborhoods south of the 120 Bypass where 60 percent of the city’s population is expected to reside by 2040, but it would be easily accessible by the rest of Manteca. It located along the separated bicycle system that ultimately will loop Manteca. A separate pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the 120 Bypass that’s part of the Union Road interchange upgrade will provide a direct connection to Orchard Valley from north of the freeway.

The Orchard Valley as the “downtown-style gathering place” south of the 120 Bypass would have the added bonus of being private property such as the Spreckels Park shopping area. Since they aren’t public streets per se under the law and court decisions, issues such as homeless can be dealt with much more effectively than in a commercial area such as downtown that’s built along public streets. 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email