Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vacaville ceremony to mark new Nut Tree's start

Article Launched: 08/25/2005 06:30:07 AM

Ceremony to mark new Nut Tree's start

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Construction crews clear dirt Wednesday morning near Travis Credit Union Park, the site of today's ground-breaking. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

The paperwork apparently still is being ironed out, but dirt will turn nonetheless this morning as work on the new Nut Tree officially gets under way.

Though escrow on the sale of 80 acres at the old Nut Tree site had not closed as of Wednesday evening, work at the site already had begun.

The city, which owns the land, has agreed to allow developer Nut Tree Associates to get started with the project while paperwork is completed. The deadline for escrow to close is Sept. 6.

An invitation-only groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. today to mark the official beginning of work for the $75 million first phase of the project.

That phase includes a family amusement park, a 380,000-square-foot retail and dining complex, a bocce grove and an open-air marketplace.

Nut Tree Associates is a group comprising master developer Roger Snell & Co., retail developer Westrust Ventures and financial backer Rockwood Capital. Snell first approached the city in 2002, and has built the team since.

The Nut Tree, which first opened as a fruit stand in 1921 and as a restaurant in 1922, closed in 1996 after reportedly losing money for several years.

The city purchased 80 acres of the original Nut Tree Ranch in September 2000 for $7.5 million. Terms of the current deal have not been disclosed.

Five anchors for Westrust's Nut Tree Village have been named: book and music retailer Borders, pet supply store PETsMART, speciality sporting goods retailer Sport Chalet, discount home fashion retailer Home Goods and consumer electronics chain Best Buy.

Ricardo Capretta of Westrust said Wednesday that interest in the project is high, and that names of up to seven more tenants for the village will be released in about a month.

Going almost hand-in-hand with the private development of the Nut Tree, work on an ambitious infrastructure project around the historic site continues.

The $15.7 million public-private overhaul of the roads in the Nut Tree area began in June. It includes expansion of the Nut Tree Road overcrossing at Interstate 80, the realignment of a long stretch of East Monte Vista Avenue and the revamp of the Interstate 80-East Monte Vista interchange.

The overcrossing, currently a two-lane undivided road, will become a four-lane overpass with a concrete divider.

East Monte Vista between the Putah South Canal and the Nut Tree Airport will be rebuilt 300 feet to the north of the existing road. The new avenue will be a four-lane road. That stretch of East Monte Vista currently undulates between two and four lanes.

The funding for the infrastructure project comes from three sources, City Manager David Van Kirk said. Contributions from the area landowners, including Nut Tree Associates and Lowe's Home and Garden Warehouse, were made, and funds came from the city's redevelopment agency and from collected traffic impact fees.

Work on both the infrastructure project and the new Nut Tree is expected to be completed early in the summer of 2006.

Tom Hall can be reached at

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