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Manteca: Ready for next round?
Atherton believes city well positioned to ride rebound
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Mike Atherton has a word for Manteca - “amazing.”

“Look at what’s going on here,” Atherton said in his office in the former Spreckels Sugar plant office that will soon be history to make way for an $8 million state-of-the-art  cancer treatment center. “Manteca has more housing construction going on than anywhere else in San Joaquin County. We’ve got an apartment complex going in and infrastructure going in the ground for new subdivision (lots). The CenterPoint (Business Park) is coming fast down the tracks. They’re talking about a Great Wolf deal. This town of 67,000 has more activity going on than a community 10 times its size even though we’re in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression. Manteca is amazing.”

Atherton - arguably the biggest mover in the Manteca development community - has been spending most of his time for the past two years on developing a 1,500-home planned community wedded with agricultural tourism via a working plantation - in Maui.

He’s back in town to help usher the 412 housing units of Terra Ranch through the planning process.

“Manteca is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the economy when it comes back,” Atherton said. “Manteca has it all even business park space built and ready to go.”

Atherton and his business partners cut their teeth on housing. It was their venture that virtually everyone in the development business considered too risky to touch at the end of the last recession in 1996 to convert Spreckels Sugar into a 362-acre multi-use development complete with business park and retail that broke them out of the housing mold and set in motion other projects that are signature AKF deals.

AKF signature development deals

Among those projects with the AKF touch:

•Spreckels Park that brought Manteca mega-distribution with firms such as Ford Motor Co. and retailers like Target and Home Depot has just one 15-acre parcel left plus a small office site next to the Spreckels Historical Plaza that have yet to sell.

•Del Webb at Woodbridge: AKF secured the land, hooked up with Pulte Homes, and got the project through the entitlement process.

•The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley: Atherton quietly bought up small parcels one-by-one - 20 in all - and was then approached by Poag McEwen that was aiming to find a place for a 100-mile radius retailer in the form of Bass Pro Shops.

•Great Wolf Resorts: The city contracted with AKF to shop around for a water park developer and they brought Manteca municipal officials and Great Wolf Resort hotel and indoor water park into contact with each other.

“Great Wolf would be big for Manteca but you’ve still got to see the deal they (the city and developer) come up with to see if it makes sense,” Atherton said.

AKF is also one of the principals in the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park - the largest planned development ever envisioned Manteca. It is expected to generate up to 13,000 jobs and create housing for 10,200 more residents generally southwest of Austin Road and Highway 99.

The firm also has the Yosemite Square project approved for 314,000 square feet of office space, 414 condos plus 312 apartments, and 361 single family homes on the northeast corner of the 120 Bypass and Highway 99. Atherton noted is that all it will take is one initial deal - similar to ADPS Packaging in Spreckels Park  - to get things rolling to extend infrastructure to either development.

“Manteca is in the game when the economy rebounds,” Atherton noted adding that the city has put in place wastewater treatment capacity as well as secured an adequate water supply to snag opportunities that will bolster the local economy when things pick up steam.

Atherton isn’t waiting around, though, for the “recovery.”

Atherton homes has built and sold 100 homes in the past two years at Union Ranch in north Manteca with additional lots being improved for building. It’ll be enough to keep the builder going for perhaps two years at the current pace and then he’ll head back south of the 120 Bypass to Terra Park that was just approved by the Planning Commission for 212 single family homes and a 200-unit apartment complex.

Atherton noted there are three developers - Florsheim Homes, Pulte Homes (Del Webb), and his company - that are either ready to work ground to trun it into developable lots or are doing so now.

Manteca has now led the Northern San Joaquin Valley for three consecutive years with new housing starts with an average of 300 plus units being build a year. It is more than double Stockton, the nearest city in terms of new homes.