Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Solano County supervisors, fair board get first look at developer's plan

Article Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fairgrounds proposal unveiled

County supervisors, fair board get first look at developer's plan

By GREG MOBERLY, Times-Herald staff writer

With talk of attracting Interstate 80 commuters who typically wouldn't stop in Vallejo, and of creating new minifairs, an East Coast developer unveiled plans Tuesday night to revitalize the Solano County Fairgrounds and turn them into a year-round attraction.

Arlington Va.-based Mills Corp. would start from the ground up, melding a new arena exhibition hall, a temporary livestock building and fair administration buildings with unique destination retail stores, a hotel-convention center and specific community attractions, including a county welcome center.

It was all part of the preliminary master plan concepts that Brian Clark, Mills development consultant, revealed for the fairgrounds nestled at the corner of Highway 37 and Interstate 80.
He showed the plans at a joint meeting of the Solano County Board of Supervisors and the Solano County Fair Association Board of Directors at McCormack Hall.

"I'm excited with what we've put together," Clark said. "Now it's time to hear from the people of Solano County."

Even though Clark said he wanted residents to suggest special attributes or design characteristics to give the project a local feel, at least a couple skeptical fair board members said they feared the fair could lose its individuality.

"We don't want to lose our identity with a shopping center mall," said Don Heinitz, fair board treasurer.

Ray Simonds said he was concerned that the fair would be broken up into separate units, but Clark said most fair elements would be together in a central location on the fairgrounds.

The concepts included plans for 252,000 square feet of fair commercial space, 57,800 of restaurants on the outer edges, 230,700 of entertainment-hotel space, 400,0000 of destination retail space and 200,000 of specialty retail stores.

It would all be spread out on the fairgrounds with wide pedestrian walkways.

Fairgrounds Drive landscaping would be spruced up and the entrance across from Six Flags Marine World would be improved as well. The entrance could feature a bridge or small tower theme, Clark said.

A gourmet grocery store, hotel-convention center and water park, a book store, and an electronics store are proposed for the redevelopment.
Bikers, walkers and hikers could enjoy an added benefit with a 1.63-mile trail planned around the perimeter of the fairgrounds.

Supervisor Barbara Kondylis, District 1-Vallejo, said she generally favored what she heard but wanted plenty of trees to provide shade on hot days.

Tuesday's unveiling is still the early part of a long process.

For years, county supervisors have worked toward changing the fairgrounds into a destination-retail development.

Many of the same developments, once mentioned, including a Cabela's, a store for hunting, camping and fishing enthusiasts could be part of the project. But Clark declined to mention any store names that could be a part of the project.

Mills will begin holding its open house meetings tonight.

The first meeting is set for 6:30 tonight at the USA World Classics car museum on Sonoma Boulevard. Other presentations are set for 7 p.m. at the May 17 Vallejo City Council meeting, 7 p.m. at the May 24 Dixon City Council meeting and 6:30 p.m. May 25 at the Solano County Fairgrounds.

Specifics of the concepts revealed Tuesday will be available at beginning May 16.

Mills will reveal a preliminary master plan including a a revised layout, a financial feasibility analysis, a preliminary development and construction schedule, traffic study and construction cost estimates by Sept. 15. By the end of the year, the board of supervisors will decide whether they want to proceed with the plans.

- E-mail Greg Moberly at or call 553-6833.

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