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The mother of all teardowns?
Hat Mansion would be demolished under new housing plan
Work is underway on homes in a subdivision next to the 184 acres that are part of the Hat Mansion property owned by Richland Communities. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca’s highest profile home — the opulent 30,000-square-foot mansion built by grape broker Michael Hat — could become a high priced teardown.

Richland Communities, which owns the mansion and surrounding vineyards just south of Woodward Avenue, is covering its bets on future housing demand in Manteca.

They have been working with the city to possibly annex the 184-acre site that borders Sedan Avenue on the south and east, plus the Woodward Park neighborhoods near where Pillsbury Avenue dead-ends to the north to develop the site as an age-restricted community similar to Del Webb at Woodbridge. The plan called for converting the mansion into a clubhouse and building 800 age-restricted homes similar

Such a move could fast track sewer allocation under a council policy adopted nearly 11 years ago that exempted age-restricted housing and affordable housing from Manteca’s 3.9 percent annual sewer allocation cap for residential projects.

But Richland doesn’t want to put all their eggs in one basket. They now want the environmental impact report being done to address a possible at-market subdivision with no age-restrictions for buyers as well as the active senior living community proposal.

The Manteca City Council on Tuesday approved spending another $26,322 with Raney Planning & Associates that has already been retained to do a $240,565 environmental report. That means both project scenarios will be studied at the same time. Richland has agreed to reimburse Manteca for all EIR expenses.

When Richland gets the project to the point it can move forward to actual construction, it would then proceed with the version of the project most suitable for the housing market at that time.

If they drop the age-restricted housing the mansion is history.

Going with traditional single family homes would mean more traffic as families tend to have more vehicle trips per day than older couples.

It also would mean more students for both Manteca and Ripon unified school districts. Most of the 184 acres are in the Manteca Unified district while a portion on the eastern part of the property is in the Ripon Unified boundaries. 

The Hat Mansion is the largest single family residence in the South County. It is visible from Highway 99 as well as from the Altamont Pass on a clear day. The proposed subdivision is among 1,156 homes envisioned for South Manteca in the area generally southeast of Pillsbury Road and Woodward Avenue.

The three-story mansion has a wine cellar, elevator, a 25-seat theater, tennis court and 20- by-80 foot swimming pool. Completed in 1995, the home also has a 36-car parking garage underneath it. Material used in the interior design includes Brazilian cherry wood, Douglas fir, limestone, granite, marble and custom made stainless steel doors. It has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

Michael Hat, a 1972 Ripon High graduate, is a grape grower and broker. Just as the house was completed the wine market went into a nosedive. Hat at the time was considered to rank among the top five grape brokers in California.

Hat filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The home was put up for sale and was listed for $12.2 million in 2003.

When the home didn’t sell, it went the way of many other foreclosures — an auction on the courthouse steps in Stockton.

There were two serious bidders — AKF Development and Richland Communities. AKF was toying with the idea of building an 18-hole golf course around the mansion and converting it into a clubhouse and events center. The rest of the land was envisioned for single family homes.

A bidding war ensued with Richland prevailing at $8 million.

After discovering sewer allocations were years away and the housing market cooling, Richland tried to sell the home and 184 acres for $9.9 million in 2009.