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Manteca builds during recession
Five municipal building projects valued at $18.1M
Architect Eric Wohle was shown last year checking on the progress of the new animal shelter. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca since the depth of the Great Recession has been able to build or start five municipal buildings with a combined value of $18.1 million.

The completed project list includes the new animal shelter, the new vehicle maintenance facility, and the renovated homeless shelter on Yosemite Avenue. The projects now moving forward are the transit station and the fourth fire station.

Contrast that with Stockton. During the same time frame that city has had four municipal buildings seized by Wells Fargo Bank - three parking structures and the former Washington Mutual Bank headquarters building Stockton has purchased to turn into the next city hall.

Mayor Willie Weatherford believes the surge in municipal building construction during the economic downturn underscores Manteca’s prudent financial approach to running the city.

“The city had saved up money in various accounts and the timing was right,” Weatherford said.

The money - fees levied on growth that can only be used for the purpose they are collected for - have or are being used on four of the projects. The fifth project - the shelter renovation - was done with redevelopment agency funds.

Weatherford noted that the city avoided mistakes some other cities have by not using borrowed money on the open market to fund the bulk of the projects. The city had a good chunk of the needed funds already on hand. And what they didn’t have they borrowed from other growth fee accounts with a mandate that the loan be paid back with interest. Fees coming in from construction are paying back the various accounts.

The mayor also pointed out the city was able to take advantage of construction rates that are between 20 and 30 percent what they were prior to the start of the housing crisis.

“It has allowed us to get more bang for the buck,” Weatherford said.

The mayor also believes the building projects have - or will - upgrade the aesthetics of the general neighborhoods they are located.

The five structures have a common thread. They were designed by East Union High graduate Eric Wohle who is a partner with the Stockton-based architectural firm of LDA Partners and is a Ripon resident. Four of the five will have be built by Diede Construction. Mid-Cal Constructors did the $1.2 million family shelter upgrade and makeover.

Weatherford believes the most impressive of the lot will be the transit station at South Main Street and Moffat Boulevard when it is completed in May.

The mayor noted the city has been criticized for proceeding with the station when train service has yet to be established. Altamont Commuter Express trains will stop there when service is extended into Modesto at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, Weatherford pointed out the transit center is designed to serve as a community gathering place and meeting facility plus as a park and ride commuter lot. It will open as the hub for Manteca Transit buses and is expected to do the same for San Joaquin Regional Transit service.

• The transit center is more than just about function. Its modern brick look with expansive glass accented with arches inside and out will come complete with a clock tower visible to both South Main and Moffat traffic.

• The fire station breaking ground next month on Lathrop Road at Madison Grove is designed to blend in with the adjoining Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood. It will employ a cement plaster and stone veneer for the exterior walls and use warm earth tones. The elevations will also include aluminum windows and a tile roof.

• The family shelter was designed to mirror the look when the building was new in 1919.

• The animal shelter encompasses steel, metal, glass and block to create a modernistic look.

• Directly across the street from the animal shelter at Wetmore Street and South Main Street, is the new vehicle maintenance facility. The most Unitarian of the five in terms of looks, it was designed to blend in with the colors and materials used at the animal shelter as much as possible.