Tuesday, October 18, 2005

High Rise Work OK'd

High Rise Work OK'd
Several Buildings Downtown Planned
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

By spring, the city's downtown developer aims to begin work on the first of several new high-rises designed to infuse life into the aging district.

After a brief public hearing Monday, the Vallejo Planning Commission OK'd one of the remaining steps in the process of approving the first building. The project is slated for a roughly 1-acre city-owned parking lot at Virginia Street and Sacramento Street.

The move was largely a formality, since city officials last month gave Triad Downtown Vallejo LLC the green light to move forward with its plans for renewing about a dozen square blocks.

"There's a lot of moving pieces, but I think this first project will really launch the downtown and we're very excited about it," said Len Johnson, director of the downtown project for Triad.

The commission approved a tentative map that says Triad can build as many as seven stories with about 150 condos above shops and restaurants. Triad also intends to build a 221-space parking garage and a public paseo where visitors can stroll.

The developer already has begun work on its larger plan to revamp the area. Triad is renovating The Empress Theatre, an old movie house across the street from the high-rise project.

In 2003, city officials approved loaning about $2.8 million for the project, which later was put on hold because of budgeting issues. Johnson said he expects construction to wrap next year.

As a performing arts center, the Empress would be a venue for such attractions as plays, concerts and movies. The goal is to create an arts and entertainment district to attract more people downtown, Johnson said.

"It's all very synergistic," Johnson said.

The Virginia Street project is expected to take nearly two years to build and may open by 2008, he said.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at cdenina@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6835.

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