Orchard Valley was once envisioned as a lifestyle mall until the Great Recession arrived just as the doors to Bass Pro Shops, Best Buy and JC Penney opened in 2008.
Developers — reeling from a shift in shopping strategies caused by the epic mortgage collapse — were scrambling to find new angles to snag shopping center tenants. Orchard Valley developers Poag & McEwen thought they had the answer when they teamed up with one of the nation’s top tier factory outlet mall operators in a bid to fill empty space using the drawing power of 2 million plus annual Bass Pro Shop customers.
That effort landed a total of four new tenants a few years after the Lathrop Outlet Mall became a business park and the Tracy Outlet Mall went on life support as brick and mortar came under increasing attack by online shopping.
Now Josh Poag, who bought out his partner, is pursuing a new option that has caught the attention of the State of California. Poag wants to add high density housing such as condos and apartments to the shopping center on the southeast corner of Union Road and the 120 Bypass as the pandemic further erodes the traditional retail model.
Tonight when the council meets at 7 p.m. they are expected to seek a $300,000 state grant to do the necessary footwork needed to allow high density residential zoning wedded with an existing shopping center. The finished product not only would allow Poag to proceed with building anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 high density housing units and perhaps more but it would provide a case study of development issues with existing shopping centers that can be shared with other California cities as well as give Manteca planning standards that could be applied to other commercial areas in the city.
In essence, Orchard Valley could become a Northern San Joaquin Valley version of San Jose’s Santana Row where shops, restaurants, entertainment such as movie theaters, and services such as a fitness center are all combined in one location.
The addition of high density housing at Orchard Valley along with the 428 apartments Mike Atherton and his partners have broken ground on immediately east of Bass Pro Shops means the existing line-space that is mostly vacant would be within walking distance of more than 3,000 people who would not have to cross any public street such as Atherton Drive or Union Road. As such it could create a built in consumer space for restaurants, shops, and services. That is in addition to others who would travel to Orchard Valley.
Fitting into that puzzle are current city negotiations with Poag to lease space for the Manteca Library at Orchard Valley.
Such a move would give the city space they can design from scratch for cutting edge learning and library spaces without being anchored to a $30 million structure that would likely cost closer to $40 million when financing is taken into account. It would allow the city at a future date decades or so down the road to adapt library services — including the location — without having sunk $40 million into a building that would be hard to justify abandoning or converting to other uses.
The addition of high density housing in a number of downtowns creating 24/7 population has helped trigger retail and dining revivals.
The Orchard Valley plan could go a step further and essentially create a second downtown for Manteca.
Orchard Valley — before the pandemic hit — was hosting weekly farmers markets and vendor fairs. That is in addition to events such as the San Joaquin Valley Brewfest, the Great Valley Bookfest, and a host of smaller endeavors. The basic design of a lifestyle mall mimics a downtown with in-line stores facing each other instead of open to passing freeway traffic.
As an added bonus given it is private property Orchard Valley can sidestep issues such as homeless encampments.
The council meeting is being livestreamed at 7 p.m. over the city’s website or can be seen on Comcast Channel 97.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org