Friday, November 18, 2005

Lennar Gets Extension on M.I. Deal

Lennar Gets Extension on M.I. Deal
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Two developers so far have failed to transform Mare Island's north end from a ghost town into a job center for Vallejo.

Now a third firm is up to the task, but city staff needs more time to work on the project because of Vallejo's recent spate of development projects.

The Vallejo City Council on Tuesday gave Lennar Mare Island LLC a 200-day extension to reach an agreement to revamp the former naval shipyard's north end, known as Area 1A.

Lennar is using that extra time to find a way to succeed where others have failed in renewing the 191 acres.

"There remains challenges from a cost-feasibility standpoint," Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian said Thursday. "We are looking very carefully with the city at the numbers, at some of the infrastructure issues associated with the north island."

For example, Lennar may focus on developing more office space or bring in more firms working on research and development. At the same time, the company may focus less on getting companies to occupy warehouses.

"Certainly more office and R&D would bring in a lot of jobs," Councilmember Pamela Pitts said Thursday.

Lennar also may replace old military dorms that housed enlisted personnel who weren't married, with new multi-family housing, or simply add additional units.

"There are always challenges associated with the reuse of a former military base," Keadjian said. "No one is in a better position or has better information on these issues than Lennar, given its long term presence on Mare Island."

The company already is developing 650 acres on the former base's east side.

Lennar sought to revamp the north end after the team of Weston Solutions Inc. and Harvest Properties withdrew from the project last year. The pair cited issues including Mare Island's aging infrastructure and the city's requirement of putting up more than $2.5 million in earnest money.

Before that team, Legacy

Partners Commercial Inc. backed out because of a dispute over district taxes.

Lennar has until April 29 to sign a deal with the city, officials said.

The parties will need to come to terms on matters including a price for the property and a plan for upgrading the infrastructure and developing the land. For example, the Highway 37 interchange at Mare Island's north entrance needs major improvements, city officials said.

"We're still committed to working cooperatively with the city to see if we can reach an agreement," Keadjian said. In recent months, city staff has been busy working on other development deals for the Vallejo mainland. The council recently gave two companies the green light to work on revamping the waterfront and downtown, which combined are still dwarfed by the overall Mare Island project.

Pitts, who's been in office since 1997 and will step down Dec. 6, said it'll be up to the next council to see the project forward.

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