Wednesday, October 12, 2005

City OKs Plan for Downtown

City OKs Plan for Downtown
Triad Says Construction May Begin Next Year

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

After years of waiting, Vallejoans soon may finally see the downtown restored to its former glory.

To applause and cheers, the Vallejo City Council on Tuesday OK'd plans by a developer to revamp the aging district, building high-rises of housing atop stores and offices.

"I think it's outstanding, and I say let's get on with it," Councilmember Gary Cloutier said.

The council gave its unanimous preliminary approval for the project, with Councilmembers Tom Bartee and Gerald Davis abstaining because they own property in downtown.

The council still needs to give final approval but it is considered a formality. The vote was key in setting the project in motion.

More than a dozen speakers told the council how excited they were about the project. Triad Downtown Vallejo LLC hopes to first transform more than a dozen square blocks by bringing more people downtown to live and shop. The company, with roots in Seattle, would invest about $175 million in the project.

"We believe in Vallejo," said Fred Grimm, a founding partner of Triad Downtown Vallejo's parent comany in Seattle.

Grimm's company got its start in Solano County by developing homes in the city's Hiddenbrooke community. Triad has since expanded its reach to Fairfield and Vacaville, where it plans more housing projects.

In Vallejo, city officials hope the project will turn around the downtown, which once was a popular attraction for many Vallejo teens, Councilmember Tony Pearsall said. He said he used to hang out in the area, but it's long since lost its luster. The Triad project should change that, he said.

"What we've seen tonight is an extremely pretty picture," Pearsall said.

Triad isn't taking on the project alone. The city's Redevelopment Agency would invest about $10.7 million to make such improvements as upgrading streets, building a park and marketing the area to businesses. The city too would help, giving Triad a break on about $6.6 million in developer fees.

City officials said the deal is worth it to get Triad to invest in the area.

Triad already is working on revamping Virginia Street's Empress Theatre. The old movie house is being gutted. Triad officials soon hope to resume construction after financing delays.

One after another, Vallejo residents and downtown stakeholders told the council and audience how welcomed the downtown renewal project is. Solano County Supervisor Barbara Kondylis, District 1-Vallejo, even gave Triad an old - and locked - parking meter that once lined a downtown street. The money should benefit the Empress Theatre, she said.

"Triad now has to find a key," she said. "I'm sure there's at least 70 or 80 cents in there."

Some raised concerns about parking. The first part of the downtown project is a new high-rise on a city-owned parking lot on Virginia Street. Once the lot is gone, business owners said there will be less space for visitors to park. The city plans to build parking garages to make up for the lost space.

Business owners said the construction may hurt business. Still, they said they supported the project.

The project initially covers a dozen square blocks bounded by Maine, Santa Clara and Capitol streets and Sonoma Boulevard. Later, plans call for revamping the surrounding area.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

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