Orchard Valley could become a model for incorporating high density residential housing into existing commercial complexes throughout California.
A large segment of the 1,592-space parking lot could be torn up and replaced with upwards of 650 apartment and/or condo units
In doing so, it has the potential to create a second “downtown” for Manteca.
That’s because the added housing would place upwards of 1,500 people within walking distance of existing venues such as a movie theater and health club as well as future business and dining spots in spaces along the interior street in the middle of the complex that is flanked by mostly empty inline space.
That coupled with 1,800 or so apartment dwellers that will be within a block of Orchard Valley when projects currently under construction are completed.
The apartments plus nearby homes means there would be a “built in” population of 4,000 people within walking distance that could support neighborhood-style stores, restaurants, and services.
Given converting existing commercial property such as a shopping center that still has flourishing businesses into a mixed use project is new territory when it comes to zoning in California, the state awarded the City of Manteca a $260,000 planning grant to conduct the laborious writing of development rules from scratch.
The Local Early Assistance Planning (LEAP) Grant allowed the city to retain the Los Angeles-based firm of AECOM. The firm has an international reputation for developing complex urban planning strategies and construction services.
The firm has been tasked with creating development standards and municipal code changes needed to make the Orchard Valley transformation work. It would be used a template of sorts for other commercial areas in the city — as well as throughout California — to add high density housing to increase foot traffic, reduce vehicle movement, and strength community cohesiveness.
The Manteca Planning Commission when they meet Thursday. Sept. 15, at 6 p.m., will receive a progress report from Manteca’s Deputy Director of Planning J.D. Hightower on the mixed-use accelerator project as the endeavor is being called.
The commission meets in the council chambers at the Manteca Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
Glut of commercial created
by speculative projects fueled
by favorable federal tax policies
In his staff report, Hightower noted, “many commercial corridors and individual properties were developed in part due to favorable historic (federal) tax policies such as short term depreciation.
“This led to speculative development and ultimately more retail and commercial service properties with inappropriate zoning designations to support the surrounding communities' needs. These properties would have been better suited for mixed-use development, including compact residential uses that could help address California's housing crisis.”
If done right, the 72-acre Orchard Valley would become a town center of sorts not just for its residents but those of the greater Manteca community. It would borrow from the Santana Row model in San Jose where a designated area has been developed with robust residential and commercial with strong community gathering elements.
Orchard Valley was originally envisioned as a 786,000-square-foot lifestyle center where in-line stores between major anchors faced an internal street and not the freeway to create a Main Street feel.
That was in 2005 before the Great Recession hit, online shopping started taking off, and the pandemic all combined to change the dynamics of retailing.
The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley is being re-imagined as a vibrant mixed use endeavor with up to 650 multiple family housing units along with potential complementary uses such as a grocery store, medical offices, and civic offices along with existing retail, 16-screen theater, restaurants, hotel, health club, and Bass Pro Shops.
Such a transformation of a major shopping center has never taken place in California without first tearing it down.
Orchard Valley’s initial design to replicate a Main Street retail experience with spaces for community events by a manmade lake that hosted wine tastings, farmers markets, non-profit benefits, and art shows during the past 14 years after Bass Pro Shop opened in 2008 dovetails well into the new direction.
There is plenty of space to deal with. The 1,592-space parking lot even on heavy shopping days such as Black Friday has never come close to being filled with one exception. That’s when Bass Pro staged its grand opening in 2008 drawing close to 40,000 people during a three-day period. Many of them had to be bused in from various parking lots around Manteca.
There is ample vacant in-line store space that has never been occupied. Seven of the eight free-standing restaurant pads were never developed as well as a commercial pad south of Bass Pro Shops and east of the Hampton Inn that In Shape Health Clubs once considered establishing a premier health club complex.
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