Downtown Manteca’s future is looking up — literally.
Council members earlier this month made it clear that they don’t want to place caps on building heights in downtown Manteca that are any lower than allowed in other commercial zones. They want staff to change city ordinances to reflect that sentiment.
It is part of an effort “to get ahead of the curve” to work toward a transformation of downtown into a vibrant city hub as Manteca grows toward 100,000 people and beyond.
The idea is to leverage the coming of Altamont Corridor Express service to the transit center starting in 2023 to work toward creating a transit village within the heart of the city that also happens to overlay on the heart of downtown.
Higher building heights along with fee reductions recently approved are designed to help developers pencil out projects in the city’s core to develop more housing where occupants can take advantage of literally being able to walk to the transit center to catch trains to take them to jobs in San Jose, Livermore, and Sacramento via ACE.
They can also get bus service to Modesto and Stockton as well as Manteca Transit for destinations within the community.
And when Valley Link service starts in 2028 hopping aboard a train at the Manteca Transit Center will connect them to commuter rail lines they can take to Pleasanton, Oakland, and San Francisco.
“The goal is not to be Livermore, Lodi, or Tracy,” noted Councilman Gary Singh. “It is to be the best downtown Manteca can be.”
And that includes a unique opportunity to combine the drawing power of a transit village to pump up downtown and vice versa.
Singh noted such a vision is a long-term strategy that can move forward as Manteca grows and the city makes it more and more appealing for development in the city’s core.
The discussion of height came up regarding ordinances encouraging residential units above floor commercial and office space in the downtown core.
The council believes that making sure that developers can go beyond just a second floor that it would increase the appeal of investing in downtown housing.
“I’d like to see it go as high as our fire department equipment can handle,” Singh said.
The city’s aerial truck — and a replacement engine on the way with a 100-foot ladder — are able to effectively address emergencies at the 5-story Great Wolf with its 500-room hotel and indoor waterpark resort.
At the same time Singh sees areas adjacent to downtown such as the neighborhood west of Manteca High eventually having 3-story townhomes such as are going up around downtown Livermore.
As for a traditional transit village housing/commercial combination he sees the vacant lot across from the transit station on Moffat along with nearby property that a developer could cobble together as an idea site for high density housing with commercial on the ground floor.
Singh noted it’s a vision that likely won’t start showing results for 10 years or more down the road. He added that to make it happen, the council needs to start laying the groundwork now.
He believes the demand for housing near rail transit stations will create enough synergy and seven-day-a-week residents in downtown that it would lure investments in dining and entertainment especially when coupled with citywide growth that would make downtown a true community gathering place.
Singh said it is a much better strategy than locating city hall offices downtown. That’s because the staff not only doesn’t have long lunch hours anymore, but they go home at night and aren’t there on weekends.
A surge in downtown housing triggered by a transit village approach could generate a population of more than 2,000 people that literally live within walking distance of not just the transit station but venues where entertainment and other businesses could thrive when wedded with Manteca growth.
“We also have visitors to Great Wolf, Big League Dreams and (in the future) the family entertainment zone who are looking for other places to try (when they visit Manteca)”, Singh said.
As Singh sees it, Manteca instead of viewing the railroad as a negative factor for downtown the city can instead embrace it’s bringing commuter train service to downtown and turn what some see as a problem into a big advantage for downtown and the community as a whole.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com