Mike Atherton — one of the visionary architects behind deals that gave Manteca Spreckels Park, The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley, Del Webb at Woodbridge, and Woodward Park among others — has his sights set on helping transform the corridor that carries his family’s name.
His vision for Atherton Drive centers on transforming Orchard Valley on Atherton Drive and Union Road from a traditional lifestyle mall to Manteca’s entertainment center.
“I can see people living nearby and using Orchard Valley for dining out and for entertainment much like Santana Row in San Jose,” Atherton said. “The fitness center that just opened is a good fit.”
For his part, Atherton and his partners that own land to the east of Orchard Valley where two office buildings — one five stories and the other 10 stories — were once proposed by outside investors, would like to pursue upwards of 1,000 apartments with a mixture of restaurants and other commercial venture that cater to the weekly needs and wants of residents.
Orchard Valley, that’s anchored by Bass Pro Shops, first opened in 2008 just as the Great Recession hit and online ventures such as Amazon started hammering brick and mortar retailers. It has unfinished store space that has never been filled as well as at least six restaurant pads and areas for additional commercial space or hotels yet to be developed.
Poag & McEwen has
put Orchard Valley
up for sale
Orchard Valley was originally rolled out as a lifestyle mall with stores facing interior streets in a bid to recreate a downtown feeling and encourage community style gatherings. After switching gears to try to convert it into a hybrid outlet center married with traditional retail represented by JC Penny and so-called destination retail such as Bass Pro Shops, Poag & McEwen earlier this year decided to put the center up for sale.
Commercial brokers have indicated there are several interested parties but declined to elaborate.
The retail center with a 16-screen movie theater that regularly pulls in customers from as far away as Stockton as well as a hotel that is booked solid most weekends and has low vacancy rates the rest of the week, has had more success as a dining and entertainment complex married with Bass Pro Shops as opposed to traditional retail that is flourishing a little more than a mile away at the Stadium Retail Center.
Atherton’s plan envisions a pseudo downtown of sorts at Orchard Valley for Manteca south of the 120 Bypass where planners expect 60 percent plus of the city’s residents will live when growth pushes the municipal population to 125,700 by 2040. It would be a place with restaurants, outdoor dining, and entertainment venues that are all relatively immune from being replaced by online commerce.
The Union Road and Atherton Drive location of Orchard Valley is just as important — if not more so — than the center being at Union Road and the 120 Bypass.
That’s because of what Union Road and Atherton Drive represent.
Union Road is the only four-lane road that runs from the 120 Bypass to beyond Lathrop Road and has the ability to keep going north. Main Street not only has issues with being funneled down to two lanes for now through four blocks of the central district, but it ends at Lathrop Road.
Airport Way is planned as a four-way corridor but due to the number of small parcels with mostly homes on them it will be a long, drawn out process before much of it is widened. That said, Union Road is more central to residential areas north of the 120 Bypass than Airport Way or Main Street.
Atherton Drive could end
up being first cross street
accessed by traffic from
six freeway interchanges
Atherton Drive is designed as a four-lane corridor that will be directly accessed by four interchanges off of the 120 Bypass once the McKinley Avenue interchange is in place. It also will be the first street the proposed Austin Road replacement interchange would connect with and possibly a proposed interchange dubbed the Raymus Expressway that could be built on Highway 99 midway between Austin Road and the Jack Tone Road interchange in Ripon.
As Atherton Drive is extended south of Woodward Avenue it will eventually head into an area known as the Austin Road Business Park project that was annexed several years ago. It could support homes for as many as an additional 10,000 residents as well as a business park and commercial areas. That is in addition to more than 9,000 housing units in various stages of approval throughout Manteca with the bulk being south of the 120 Bypass.
“I can see people living along Atherton (in multiple family housing such as apartments) and nearby neighborhoods walking, bicycling or driving to places to do their grocery shopping and entertainment,” Atherton said.
To that end, the Atherton Drive corridor between Van Ryn Avenue and McKinley Avenue would be an elongated and not as dense version of the housing, retail, and entertainment area along Interstate 580 in Dublin near the BART station.
There are signs that the overall vision for the corridor is starting to take shape. One concern is currently trying to cobble together a traditional shopping center on the southwest corner of Atherton Drive at Main Street that would be anchored by a supermarket. And earlier this week Atherton and his partner Al Boyce broke ground on 164 apartment units on the northeast corner of Atherton Drive and Van Ryn Avenue.
Atherton sees a trend in Manteca for more multiple family housing as the cost of traditional free-standing housing keeps escalating out of more and more people’s price range.
Bypass location makes Orchard Valley solid draw for regional residents seeking entertainment venues
The fact Orchard Valley fronts the 120 Bypass — a key commuter route connecting communities along the Highway 99 corridor with jobs in the Bay Area and Tracy — enhances what Atherton sees as a hub for community and regional entertainment.
It sits on the Union Road interchange that Manteca is within two years of breaking ground to widen it and enhance traffic movements with new ramps by putting in place California’s first diverging diamond interchange. The project, at the council’s directive, will include a separate bicycle and pedestrian bridge to not just enhance safety but to entice more people to get out of their cars to cross the 120 Bypass to get from their homes to destinations in Manteca.
The council back at the dawn of the 21st century opted to name the street after Atherton’s grandfather — Warren Atherton — who is widely credited as the designer of the GI Bill when he served as national commander of the American Legion in 1943. He also served as a consultant to the Secretary of War.
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