Friday, July 14, 2006

Nut Tree Stores Set to Open

Nut Tree Stores Set to Open
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

A steam roller flattens the area of the new Nut Tree Family Park on Wednesday that will serve as bocce ball courts. The park is scheduled to open in September. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

Work continues on much of the long-awaited Nut Tree development as one of the project's anchor tenants becomes the first to opens its doors today.
Best Buy - and the high-end electronics boutique, Magnolia, located within - is the first retail store of its kind in Vacaville, offering a dizzying array of electronics, appliances, home-office products, and entertainment software.

The big-box's public grand opening is today, following special approval by the City Council enabling it to open and operate on what is essentially still an active construction site.

"We worked hard with the city to prepare the project to allow a safe opening, while not interfering with our construction efforts," said Sean Whiskeman in an e-mail to The Reporter.

Whiskeman is a partner with Westrust, the San Francisco-based firm that has teamed with Rockwood Capital Corporation and master developer Snell & Co. on the $100 million project that will mix restaurants, shops, and office space with an amusement park, bocce ball grove, two hotels, a conference center, and 180 town houses.

"Best Buy was fortunate to be in a position to open ahead of the others," Whiskeman said. The balance of the large-format retail anchors - including Borders, PetsMart, BevMo, SportsChalet and HomeGoods - are scheduled to open throughout August, he said.

"We expect to have the remaining buildings completed in late August with additional tenant openings in the fall and early winter," he added.

Heavy spring rains are the primary reason the first phase of the mixed-use project is still under construction.

"We've been constantly playing catch up," said Ilana Minkoff, marketing director for the project's family entertainment component, the Nut Tree Family Park.

The 3.7-acre park is scheduled to install its rides by mid-August and open to the public some time after Labor Day, Minkoff confirmed.

Approximately 85 percent of the track has been laid that will be traversed by the original, restored Nut Tree train, Engine No. 5.

The skeleton of the original ice cream pavilion, to be used as a ticket booth, awaits refurbishment. As does the exterior of the Harbison House - the Nut Tree founders' original 1907 home, which will grace the center of the park and serve as a museum focused on Nut Tree and California history. Refurbishment of its interior is estimated to be finished in two to three years.

Redevelopment of the historic 80-acre site began late last year - nearly 10 years after the closure of the Nut Tree, a Vacaville icon that operated for eight decades.

Amanda Janis can be reached at

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