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‘Big Four’ may play’ role in making FEZ succeed on their dime & not city’s
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Call them “The Big Four” — Mike Atherton, Toni Raymus, Bill Filios, and Art Nunes.

They have played key roles in shaping Manteca.  

Atherton was pivotal in taking the lemon that the shuttered Spreckels Sugar refinery became when every other developer the city approached ran in the other direction in fear of demolition and possible toxic issues and turned into lemonade what was shaping up to be a 362-acre albatross around Manteca’s neck at its proverbial front door. Not only was the closed sugar refinery transformed into the city’s marquee employment center creating more than 2,000 jobs but it leveraged redevelopment agency investments.

Atherton teamed up with Filios and Nunes to engineer deals that led to Bass Pro Shops and The Promenade Shops being built in Manteca, brought the 1,450-home Del Webb at Woodbridge project, and have been able to make to possible for the majority of the apartments to be built in Manteca since 2000 — 610 units — to be built.

Atherton and his partners made Manteca arguably its sweetest deal ever — the selling of 52 acres for $1 to created Woodward Park. And then instead of asking for park fee credits for the value of the land insisted the city increase the growth fees on the homes they were building so Manteca would have money to develop the park. They also played a key role in getting Big League Dreams located where it is today instead of Woodward Park.

And 15 years ago they started the ball rolling on the city bringing back waterslides that eventually morphed into the 500-room hotel and indoor waterpark that Great Wolf is now building.’

Raymus — along with her brother Bob — has continued in their late father’s footsteps of building the lowest priced new homes in Manteca so those employed in the local job market have a shot at buying a new home. They also have continued Antone Raymus’ vision of not just simply building homes but building a community. The Raymus family has been a major player in helping at least a half dozen churches being built, the establishment and ongoing support of the Boys & Girls Club, founding and providing critical seed money for the Give Every Child a Chance free tutoring that involves more than 2,000 youth each year, and significantly supporting the HOPE Ministries through the gift of properties and ongoing support.

Now they are teaming for the next big thing — to help Manteca develop the 115-acre family entertainment zone anchored by Big League Dreams and Great Wolf Resort.

So far — at the city’s request — Manteca Development Group that consisted of Atherton, Filios and Nunes — spent more than $150,000 out of their own pockets to develop masterplans and marketing strategies for the city owned properties as part of an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with the group. The city paid for environmental studies required under state law.

What made the ENA unique is that unlike when the city hires consultants, they incurred no upfront costs to get masterplan work done as they have with a wide variety of other endeavors including four downtown plans that went nowhere.

The ENA essentially has the local developers with ties going back two generations in the case of Nunes and Raymus assuming the risk with their payday coming as part of land transaction much like a real estate agent if and only they succeed  at securing concerns to open  dining and entertainment style ventures.

Raymus has recently joined the group seeking to make the FEZ pay dividends for the city.

The City Council when they meet tonight will discuss the next steps they will want to take with the FEZ and whether it continues building on an ENA-style approach that has local developers shouldering the risk and only getting paid if they produce results or going with requests for proposals that typically carry six-figure price tags.

Staff is planning a presentation they have indicated will share 15 key updates while seeking council direction on land use decisions, timing and an updated vision for the FEZ.

That will cover, among other things, the construction of the Great Wolf Lodge, possible expansion of the Big League Dreams sports complex, extending Daniels Street to McKinley Avenue, extending Milo Candini Drive to Yosemite Avenue, the McKinley Avenue/120 Bypass interchange, annexation of parcels to the city, South San Joaquin Irrigation District canal relocation, and the land disposal at the wastewater treatment plant of water used to wash peppers at Eckert’s Cold Storage.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email