Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Vallejo Planning University Village

Vallejo Planning University Village
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald, Vallejo

Plans for a university village on Mare Island's north end will be unveiled next week. Touro University and a consortium of "private, well-known developers" will present the project to the Vallejo City Council, officials said Monday.

Touro Vice President Richard Hassel said the project includes student housing and more, but declined to give specifics. "It's what was promised 10 years ago - jobs and sales tax related to the resources we have," he said. "It's a huge turning point in the economic recovery of the area."

Already, Touro generates $27.5 million for Solano County's economy and supports 229 jobs, according to an economic impact study released Tuesday. The osteopathic medical school - which expects to triple in size in the next few years - had 761 students enrolled this year.

Lennar Mare Island, Mare Island's main developer, and Touro, its anchor tenant, had been working together since June on development possibilities, said Craig Whittom, Vallejo's community development director.

Though Lennar's exclusive rights to negotiate north end development expired in April and Touro recently partnered with others, Whittom said city staff still thinks the university should work with Lennar.

Hassel said he couldn't yet disclose why Touro ceased working with Lennar.

Lennar Spokesman Jason Keadjian said Lennar officials question the wherewithal and expertise of other developers in dealing with the Navy parcels.

"We also believe having a single developer and master plan for the whole island is more efficient," Keadjian said. "And we continue to believe the best course is cooperation between the entities."

Lennar has already developed much of the island's 650 acres, mostly with homes and businesses on the island's east side. It wants to transform 191 more acres on the north end.

Some city officials, however, are frustrated with the pace of the island's business development, and hope a new developer might shake things up.

"I like the idea of mixing it up with developers out there," said City Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes.

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