Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Filling In

Filling In
Parkway Restaurant Construction Continues
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Construction workers are hammering away toward completion on what will likely be the last of the commercial developments populating Nut Tree Parkway.
Wedged between Chevy's Fresh Mex Restaurant and the Chevron station, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse and a 15,000 square-foot strip center are expected to open in February, according to BJ's Senior Vice President of Brewing Operations, Alex Puchner, and Gwen White, leasing agent for Cornish & Carey Commercial. A T.G.I. Fridays restaurant on the same site is expected to open in mid March, according to Mike Alazada, company spokesman. The later opening for T.G.I. Fridays is because the firm is building the restaurant as one of its new prototypes.

As for the rest of the site, "construction is on schedule and coming along nicely," said White, who represents the site's developer, John McNellis. She explained, however, that T.G.I. Fridays had purchased its parcel of land from McNellis, while the other tenants will lease.

According to McNellis, the strip center will include a 4,000-square-foot credit union, a 3,000-square-foot breakfast and lunch spot, and a host of smaller tenants, which he referred to as "the usual suspects." He was unable to divulge specific company names, as leases are in the process of being signed, but did say he thought T.G.I. Fridays, and particularly BJ's, would create a new, after-work and singles scene for Solano County.

Completion of the projects will mark the end of more than 15 years of development and redevelopment along Nut Tree Parkway, which runs parallel to Interstate 80 before becoming Orange Drive. The stretch of road is home to a plethora of retail establishments and restaurant chains, including the Vacaville Premium Outlets, Target, Mel's Diner, Wal-Mart, Fresh Choice, CompUSA, Old Navy, Applebee's, SportsMart, In-N-Out Burger, Sam's Club, Chili's, Michael's and more.

"Back in '88-'89, there really wasn't anything there," remembered Mike Palombo, Vacaville's economic development manager. He said that while building has taken place through the course of approximately 16 years, much of it occurred in spurts during the '90s.

"Between '89 and '95, a good chunk of the base stuff was built there," Palombo recalled. "The factory stores were first, then Vacaville Commons, then Power Plaza, and just lately we've seen in-fill projects, like Tahoe Joe's and Hometown Buffet."

When asked if the area might see further development in the future, Palombo said there are certainly opportunities for small development further out along Orange Drive, but that there is simply no room left on Nut Tree Parkway.

"It's really pretty much built-out with fairly new stuff," he said, "so I don't expect many changes there." Aside from the site of the old Coffee Tree restaurant, that is, which he said will likely be remodeled or eventually incorporated into a new development.

Chris Gustin, assistant director of the city's Community Development Department, agreed that Nut Tree Parkway was out of room, but was hesitant to call it quits on new development.

"If someone brings in a proposal on any piece of property that conforms to the underlying zoning requirements, we'd talk to them," he explained. "So if someone were to reconfigure a parking lot, for example, or find a way to change things and create a pad out there, we'd talk to them. More power to 'em."

"Especially if it's a restaurant," Gustin continued. "We like restaurants - it's a good land use and a good sales tax generator."

Amanda Janis can be reached at

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