This is going to sound absurd, but the City of Manteca needs to buy land from itself. If not, they will be missing out on what will be the deal of the century.
The land in question is 8.07 acres along South Main Street just north of the Funstein flooring distribution center that the city’s now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency bought 15 years ago for a proposed South County courthouse-Manteca Police Department complex. The RDA paid $2.6 million for the parcel that was once owned by American Modular.
The state is requiring all excess RDA property that isn’t used by various agencies up and down the state to be sold. The state will be getting the bulk of the proceeds based on property tax splits, Manteca somewhere between 10 and 18 percent and the rest will go to agencies such as Delta College and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.
That said, it is doubtful the property will fetch what Manteca RDA paid for it. And to be clear property owners within the RDA boundaries in Manteca will be paying off the bonds the purchase money was taken from for almost another 15 years.
For light industrial uses the land is slightly problematic. For retail, you are dreaming given the fact Amazon et al has changed the landscape. There is enough land zoned retail in much better locations in Manteca to handle all the future development that growth will still support even with a large shift to on-line sales.
When the court system pulled the plug on the South County satellite court complex and went with building a new downtown Stockton courthouse, the nearby Qualex building with 57,000 square feet came up for sale. Manteca looked at it, decided it was more cost effective to renovate into new police headquarters than building from scratch on South Main, determined the location near the 120 Bypass and Main Street would put it at the population center of Manteca in the coming years as south of the Bypass developed, and went ahead and bought it for $2.6 million. Then the state upped its earthquake standards for public safety buildings significantly sending the retrofit costs through the roof. That building is also on the RDA property sales list moving toward an auction sale later this year.
So why should the city buy the South Main property from the successor agency to the RDA? There are three reasons.
As a future home for a new police headquarters.
To provide land to expand the adjoining corporation yard to the north as the city grows.
To provide transit/downtown parking.
The city has already astutely made note of the location. The location has quick access to the 120 Bypass that means police — if need be — can get up to freeway speeds to access what will eventually be as many as six other interchanges to potentially reduce response times for backup.
The location on South Main Street is high profile. The city should make it as easy for residents to find the police station as they do the animal shelter.
The solid waste division will be moving to the wastewater treatment plant so the collection trucks will be adjacent to the pumps that will disperse the compressed gas made from converting food waste to fuel. While that will be creating some space to grow the corporation yard as the city moves toward 125,700 people by 2040, it likely won’t be enough. Part of the 8.4 acres can be dedicated to future corporation yard needs.
That would leave the city-owned land north of Wetmore Street — and possibly some south of it — open for parking.
While it may sound absurd today, once Altamont Corridor Express trains start stopping at the transit center on Moffat Boulevard in 2025 the city is going to have an acute parking problem. The forecast initially is for 1,500 boardings each weekday. If only half of those riders drove and parked cars the transit center would still be about 600 or so spaces short. Going after private land across the street to the north of the station for a parking structure would be expensive and constructing the parking structure itself would be expensive.
It also would remove prime land for redevelopment for retail, restaurants and housing directly across from the transit center and less than two blocks from the center of downtown. Manteca won’t be 77,000 people for very long. Downtown will in the not too distant future have problems of not having enough space.
The land north of Wetmore that the city owns could easily by converted to a parking lot. It would require putting in place a pedestrian bridge across the railroad line that will be double tracked to accommodate ACE trains in order to reach the station.
It would also provide additional parking for weekend events but more importantly it would give Manteca an option to build a parking structure 20, 30 or 40 years down the road if the city pushes toward 150,000 residents and beyond that would not only serve ACE commuters but downtown as well.
Buying the South Main Street property can lay the foundation to solving three problems the city needs to deal with in the coming years.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.