Vallejo a college town?
Council to consider university village concept for M.I.
By CHRIS G. DENINA/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched:11/04/2006 07:33:19 AM PST
Bookstores and coffee shops full of sleep-deprived medical students cramming for exams could someday be the first sight to greet visitors to Mare Island's north end.
Touro University is a step closer to getting its shot at convincing Vallejo officials that a university village idea is the right approach for renewing Mare Island's north end. And that's not sitting right with the former military base's main developer.
The Vallejo City Council on Tuesday plans to consider giving the university, which already has a campus farther south on the old shipyard, an exclusive shot at negotiating to revamp 191 acres known as Area 1A. The council is expected to vote Nov. 28, on the agreement's business terms.
Lennar Mare Island LLC, which is developing about 650 acres on the base's east side, was in exclusive talks with the city over developing Area 1A, but time ran out earlier this year, opening the way for the city to entertain Touro's proposal.
"Lennar wants what's best for the Mare Island reuse and we continue to believe we're in the best position to expedite the reuse of the north (end) of Mare Island," spokesman Jason Keadjian said.
Touro's university village proposal also includes a research-and-development park with biotechnology firms. When the Navy ran the base, the north end included an old supermarket, department store and gas station.
The idea was enough to convince the council to at least hear Touro's proposal.
Mare Island's north end has sat vacant for too long, said Richard Hassel, Touro vice president of administration.
"It's a great opportunity to capitalize on the biotech corridor and use the resources that are here, which is the health care field and education," Hassel said.
The concept is exciting but raises some concerns, Mayor Tony Intintoli, Jr. said. For instance, the city wouldn't collect property taxes from educational or nonprofit groups, Intintoli said. That would leave the city with money to fund such needs as police and fire services on Mare Island.
"There'd have to be some agreement in lieu of property tax, some kind of income that would provide for the infrastructure," Intintoli said.
Touro this summer submitted its proposal to develop the north end. That put a wrinkle in Lennar's plans. The developer is in talks with the Navy to take control of the remaining Navy-owned land on Mare Island that's contaminated with such pollutants as lead and PCBs left by the Navy.
Intintoli said the city, Touro and Lennar should work together to make sure the Navy still transfers the rest of its Mare Island property so the land can be reused. Lennar has been working on the land issue, he said.
"I think to change leadership at this point with respect to carrying out that effort would be a mistake because I think it would involve delay," Intintoli said.
The city has sought a developer to renew the north end for years, but two previous firms backed out over financial issues. Lennar had to prove it had the capability, experience and finances to get the job done when it negotiated to develop the north end, Lennar's Keadjian said.
"We don't believe a departure from that process is in the best (interest) for Mare Island," Keadjian said.
If given the job, Touro can get buildings up within two years, the university's Hassel said. Mare Island's north end is the front door to Vallejo from Marin County and is the first thing visitors see, he said.
"It really makes a statement and sends a signal coming to those from outside coming to Vallejo," Hassel said. "We want to make sure that statement is a positive statement that this is a university town and thriving financially stable town."
A year after the base close din 1996, Touro opened its doors on Mare Island with 60 students and today has nearly 900 enrolled, university officials said.
E-mail Chris G. Denina at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 553-6835.
Monday, November 06, 2006
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