Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Vallejo Waterfront developer waits for OK from council

October 22, 2005

Waterfront developer waits for OK from council

By CHRIS G. DENINA/Times-Herald staff writer

Pending city approval, Vallejo's waterfront developer may break ground as early as spring on the controversial project to revamp 92 acres overlooking the Mare Island Strait.

The Vallejo City Council plans to vote Tuesday on the general project - which includes housing, shops and a hotel - that has been years in the making and fraught with debate.

Developer Joe Callahan of Callahan DeSilva Vallejo LLC said he's eager to move forward. The waterfront project, along with efforts to renew the downtown and Mare Island, will help revitalize Vallejo's west side, he said.

"I think that's really what's been needed for a long time," Callahan said Friday.

The waterfront, however, plan's approval, however, is not a sure thing.

While the Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the project, it's unclear how the seven-member council will vote. Two may be unable to vote because they own property in the affected area, and one member - Gary Cloutier - says he opposes the plan.

That means the plan would need the support of the four remaining members: Mayor Tony Intintoli, Jr. and Councilmembers Tom Bartee, Pamela Pitts and Joanne Schivley.

Meanwhile, members of a group calling itself the Vallejo Waterfront Coalition, said if the waterfront plan is passed they will sue to stop the development and try to take the issue to voters on a ballot next year.

If the council OKs the project, the first step is to develop a parcel known as Mariner's Cove at the waterfront's north end, Callahan said. The site, near the Mare Island causeway and Mare Island Way, is slated for about 173 townhomes and 3.5 acres of parks.

The first homes could go on sale as early as spring 2007, he said.

In recent weeks, Callahan DeSilva officials said they've compromised on some elements of the project design with the coalition. For example, the company changed the location of a proposed hotel.

"It's an inch better when it should be a mile longer," coalition member Diana Lang said Friday.

The band of residents is continuing to lobby for changes to the plans, Lang said Friday. Mariner's Cove, for instance, should be revamped to add more housing in a smaller area - 140 units on a 4-acre site, she said. The coalition's recommendations also include building a children's museum nearby.

Lang called the developer's plans for Mariner's Cove "typical suburban sprawl that's not appropriate use of our waterfront."

The council should hold off on voting on the project and continue discussion about the plans, she said.

"Where this project goes will affect our future," Lang said. "If it takes a little bit more time to do the best plan, let's do that."

After Mariner's Cove, Callahan DeSilva next aims to revamp the waterfront's south end, near Curtola Parkway and Mare Island Way. That includes developing housing and stores, plus about 11 acres of parkland and open space.

Lastly, plans call for developing the central waterfront, near Georgia Street and Mare Island Way. The project includes housing, shops, open space, a hotel, a building with shops and office space, and a parking garage.

Those plans, however, hinge on moving the U.S. Postal Service's downtown branch, which would be the site of a proposed $53 million parking public garage and transit center. Vallejo Station is the main reason the waterfront project's taken eight years to reach the council for a vote next week, Callahan said.

"In my opinion we're there, period, today," Callahan said. "We're ready to go."

The waterfront renewal project could be a boon to the area, said Tony LoForte, owner of a waterfront restaurant called Zio Fraedo's Restaurant. The eatery, formerly known as the WaterBarge Restaurant & Tavern, is slated to open next month, he said.

"It would be good for me as a business owner to have more residents here," LoForte said. "There would be people who could basically walk to the restaurant."

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

By the numbers

The 92-acre waterfront project includes:

- About 25 acres of parks and open space

- As many as 1,090 residential units

- As much as 562,000 square feet of retail space

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