Thursday, May 26, 2005

Vallejo residents review ideas for Solano County Fairgrounds redevelopment & respond favorably to arts center

Residents review ideas for fairgrounds, respond favorably to arts center

By GREG MOBERLY, Times-Herald staff writer

Combining retail and fair attractions into a one-of-a-kind destination wasn't the only thing piquing Vallejoans' interest in the potential Solano County Fairgrounds redevelopment Wednesday night.

Possible inclusion of community activities such as facilities for art and performing arts groups captured some people's imaginations. Others expressed concerns how proposed retail development may impact restaurant and retail shops on the other side of the Interstate 80.

More than 30 local residents came out to the Solano County Fairgrounds Wednesday to learn more about the proposal.

Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp. hopes to 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 sounds like an art center could be included in the redevelopment, said Cleven Goudeau, a retired artist. Goudeau's wife, Jeanette McCree Goudeau, is the director of the Vallejo Artist Guild.

Trina Flores said she would love to see a cultural center included in the redevelopment, adding the proposal she'd seen is beautiful.

If the proposal becomes a reality, Flores said: "We're going to be the envy of Solano County. Maybe all of California."

Laylie Mack and Ed Hoffmark wanted to know if their group, the Vallejo Gem and Mineral Society, would have a home in the redeveloped fairgrounds. They said they didn't leave Wednesday's open house reassured.

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

The preliminary master plan concepts, which residents viewed Wednesday, is just one step in a long process, county and Mills officials have said.

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 Mills and county officials have declined to mention any store names or community groups that may be part of the project.

They say they don't want to jeopardize prospects, adding that its premature to know with certainty that the redevelopment will occur.

Judy and Janice Kirkley said they don't want the fairgrounds redevelopment because they fear it will draw business from Gateway Plaza and Target Center businesses across Interstate 80.

"We just built that up (Gateay Plaza and Target Center) and we're going to build this up," Judy Kirkley said.

Redevelopment of the fairgrounds property sounded ideal to Paul Singh, who owns Long John Silver's at 1015 Redwood Street.

Singh said he thought the redevelopment would draw more people to town and that possibility eventually would help all the city's retail businesses.

The concept includes 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.

A gourmet grocery store, hotel-convention center and water park, a book store, and an electronics store are proposed for the redevelopment.

Mills next deadline is Sept. 15 when it is expected to reveal a preliminary master plan including a revised layout, a financial feasibility analysis, a preliminary development and construction schedule, traffic study and construction cost estimates. 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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