The road to Manteca’s future — the Daniels Street extension to McKinley Avenue — is opening today.
And elected leaders such as Mayor Ben Cantu and Councilman Gary Singh want to make sure that Manteca doesn’t squander the opportunity.
The opportunity is using the $180 million private sector investment opening June 29 in the form of the 500-room Great Wolf indoor waterpark resort to lure other concerns into the city’s envisioned family entertainment c enter (FEZ).
The $10.5 million Daniels Street extension the city completed in November includes infrastructure and three intersections on place to open up the rest of the 120-acre FEZ bookended by Great Wolf and Big League Dreams to development.
And while the city is advising motorists that the signals at McKinley and Daniels will be activated and flash red for the next few weeks, both Cantu and Singh are more focused on giving the green light to a robust economic development department and breaking ground on the long-promised McKinley Avenue interchange on the 120 Bypass.
interchange built is critical
“What good is it going to do to have it (Daniels) open up to McKinley if all it does is dump traffic onto a narrow road that rattles your teeth?” Cantu asked.
As for Singh, he sees McKinley Avenue as something that should have already been in place given the additional impact Great Wolf opening will have on the Airport Way interchange.
“It hasn’t helped (moving the McKinley project forward) with the staff turnover,” Singh said.
The city is in the process of wrapping up right of way acquisition and clearing away structures for the interchange. Design and environmental studies have been done for the most part and apparently all — or almost all — of the funding has been secured or identified for the project costing north of $30 million.
And while staff believes dirt will start moving for the interchange in the next year or so, the bigger problem may be not simply marketing Manteca but clearing away obstacles in the approval process that can kill projects.
“Time is money,” Singh.
The city has Manteca Development Group headed by Bill Filios who played instrumental roles in landing Orchard Valley anchored by Bass Pro Shops, development Spreckels Park commercial, and securing the deal for Living Spaces furniture showroom that opens next month marketing the FEZ.
But Singh and Cantu doesn’t believe that is enough.
Singh, Cantu view economic
as key to Manteca’s success
Manteca Development Group has a track record of getting concerns to take a bite but if the city doesn’t have a process in place to land them they can lose them.
Singh said city needs to make the approval process as quick and smooth for FEZ projects as possible. Cantu notes the overall marketing of Manteca needs to be taken to the next level. Both agree the best way to do that is get a robust economic development department up and running.
But they disagree when it should happen.
Cantu wants to see funding included in the upcoming budget that goes into effect July 1.
Singh would like to see that happen as well but he also wants to make sure the city has a stronger handle on its finances first. Financial consultant Stephanie Beauchaine was brought on board nine months ago to straighten out accounting issues to essentially make sure money is in the proper accounts and put the city in a position where they have a handle at any given time how much money they have that is collected restricted for use for specific purposes.
Singh doesn’t think the city will be on firm enough grounds by July 1 to proceed with getting an economic development department in place.
Cantu believes the city can’t afford not to launch such a department now.
He believes drawing down the reserves to get such a department in place will pay huge dividends. That’s because the task of such a department is to secure commercial and industrial ventures that generates taxes and jobs — two things critical to move Manteca forward.
As such, an effective development department essentially pays its own way.
“We do a great job of landing a big deal like Bass Pro or Great Wolf every 10 years or so, but not much more,” Cantu said.
And while Cantu looks at commercial others cities such as Tracy have and believes Manteca should aggressively market itself to such firms, Singh believes a more focused approach would payoff better in the long run.
“Retail is changing,” Singh said.
Singh believes emphasis on mega-regional concerns that site stores or hotels aimed at a 50 to 100 mile radius will prove much more resistant to economic downturns. He looks at the concept of the FEZ — dining and other family orientated entertainment that will feed off the synergy Great Wolf and BLD will create — and notes that they represent business models that provide jobs that can’t be replicated by online commerce.
The Daniels extension as currently configured has two through travel lanes and a dedicated bike lane in both directions with a curb lane that serves as a right turn lane but could ultimately become a third travel lane each way in the future. There are also dedicated left turn lanes.
The city employed the late 19th century light poles that you see downtown, at the Lathrop Road overcrossing on Highway 99, on the new Union Road diverging diamond interchange on the 120 Bypass, in and around Del Webb at Woodbridge, and on the existing stretch of Daniels Street west of Airport Way.
There are three intersections with traffic signals. Great Wolf Way will serve as the main entrance to both the resort and the family entertainment zone. Entertainment Way is just past Costco and runs behind the BLD complex. A third yet-to-be-named intersection is just east of the T-intersection with McKinley Avenue.
Bus turnouts are in place near Entertainment Way that accesses the employee entrance to Great Wolf.
The entire stretch is landscaped.
The center median is the widest in Manteca and arguably the snappiest in the city as it is bordered by a strip of wider than normal pavers.
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