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More Tidewater-style lights could be next step for downtown Manteca
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The Tidewater-style street lights could be extended to four more blocks of Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca. - photo by Bulletin file photo

The Tidewater-style street lights along Yosemite Avenue could be extended four more blocks — east to Fremont Avenue and west to the Manteca Historical Society Museum.

It is one of four major new initiatives City Council directed municipal staff to explore and determine their feasibility and bring back to the council in the coming months for further consideration.

The others include:

Assessing the Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive for possible purchase as a homeless resource center. It is where Inner City Action is currently conducting a homeless revival through Feb.4 in the parking lot.

Purchasing the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street for a veteran’s plaza and parking.

Dumping the San Joaquin Partnership and establishing the city’s own economic development effort to aggressively go after new employers for Manteca.

Mayor Ben Cantu advanced the ideas about extending the Tidewater-style street lighting where every other pole has a lower pedestrian light on the sidewalk side as well as the veterans’ plaza.

Council members Gary Singh and Debby Moorhead both voiced support for the street lighting idea noting they both have fielded complaints about how dark it is once you get past the American Legion Hall and head toward Manteca High.

Cantu said extending the lighting would demonstrate the city is moving forward while efforts are underway to revitalize downtown. The lights now in place were installed in 2005. At the time they were envisioned to do further down Yosemite Avenue as well as on Maple and Sycamore avenues and a section of Center Street.

Cantu noted the corner on Yosemite/Main — arguably the most high profile intersection in Manteca — is an “ideal” spot for a town square/veterans’ memorial especially given the high-profile, five war murals, $125,000 marque project of the Manteca Historical Society overlooks the site.

It would assure the murals on the eastern wall of Manteca Bedquarters would never have to be relocated if a building was ever constructed on the space where a gas station once stood. Cantu noted the space is large enough that roughly half could be developed as a parking lot.

It is similar to what the 2020 Task Force envisioned in 1998 for the corner. The plan for downtown at the time called for an effort to either build a store or develop a town square on the corner with half of the space being devoted to parking.

Cantu also advocated the city exploring the possibility of purchasing the 55,000-square-foot building at 555 Industrial Park Drive that once housed Kodak’s Qualex film processing operations for Northern California and several other western states.

Singh noted several organizations that help the homeless have indicated they might try and bid on the building when it is auctioned off along with other assets of the former Manteca Redevelopment Agency that need to be sold under terms of the state shutting down all RDAs.

The city RDA purchased the Qualex building for $3.6 million in 2006 with the intent to convert it into the city’s police department.

It would have allowed the department to easily double its space and possibly even have an indoor shooting range. It was also more centrality located based on future growth patterns that would put 60 percent of the city’s pupation south of the 120 Bypass by 2040. Engineers penciled out the cost of buying and building on vacant land a facility of equal size and remodeling the Qualex building. The cost savings to go with the Qualex building as the new police headquarters was $2 million when renovations were completed.

Within a year of closing escrow, the plan started unraveling.

The state changed its standards for police stations requiring any new facilities that opened that contained holding cells to have correctional officers on duty 24/7. It was estimated at the time it would add almost $700,000 to the annual operating costs of the police department.

It was a cost the city couldn’t avoid building either a new station or remodeling the Qualex structure. Given that, the Qualex remodel was still less expensive.

But then another state standard was issued. This time it was enough to kill the Qualex conversion project. The state was requiring all future police stand even more rigorous earthquake standards. The cost of retrofitting the Qualex building almost overnight significantly exceeded the cost of new construction. 

Move to dump

San Joaquin Partnership

The staff will also explore developing the city’s own economic development operation charged with landing employers for new business parks as well as retailers and such for existing space including in downtown.

The idea of kicking up the effort to attract more employers to Manteca started with Cantu’s suggestion the city consider spending up to $200,000 with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce to take on the task

Moorhead, an adamant critic of the $30,000 the city spends annually with the San Joaquin Partnership to do just that, said the chamber just last year said they weren’t interested in such an undertaking.

That said Moorhead stressed she no longer wanted to send money to the Partnership noting “it does a great job (helping other cities land employers) but just not us.”

Over the past two decades the city has sent more than $600,000 to the Partnership even if they only landed jobs in neighboring Lathrop, Tracy, and Stockton because it would benefit city residents.

Moorhead has never disputed the regional impacts that help benefit Manteca but she has stressed the organization has never delivered in Manteca to help local developers secure employers that depending upon what they do could not just pay property tax but sales tax as well.

Both Moorhead and Singh said they would like to see the effort to aggressively go after employers to be brought “in house.”

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email