Monday, December 18, 2006

School Village Being Planned at Mare Island

School Village Being Planned at Mare Island
Touro University may soon cut a deal with Vallejo to redevelop 191 acres at the former shipyard.
By Chris G. Denina/Times-Herald, Vallejo

As early as next month, Vallejo officials could give Touro University a shot at building a university village at Mare Island's north end, ending confusion over who would revamp the 191 acres and clean up the contamin-ated land.

City staff plan to update the Vallejo City Council on Tuesday about the proposal to enter talks with Touro over the project. The deal could signal the end of master developer Lennar Mare Island LLC's lead role in taking early transfer of the remaining Navy-owned land on the old shipbuilding base.

University officials, who only made a play for the project this summer, are anxious to launch the development project, said Richard Hassel, university vice president of administration.

"All I can tell you is it's been a long time coming from our point of view," Hassel said. "I think the community's going to be very excited as we roll out our plans. It's really going to paint a bright economic future for the entire community."

Under the proposal, Touro would be the fourth company to try to renew the site.

Weston Solution Inc., which a year ago dropped its plans to reopen dredge ponds on Mare Island's west side, will handle the environmental cleanup.

And Lennar, which is developing housing on the east side, will bow out of the project, after nearly two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the city to do the north end project.

The city has been seeking a developer since the base closed in 1996.

Ironically, Weston was the second company to back out of the development project, citing financial issues. Lennar is now the third, after time ran out on its exclusive right to negotiate for the deal.

City officials were considering working with Touro to develop the north end and Lennar to continue working on a deal for the Navy to transfer its remaining property. The Navy still owns about half of Area 1A, which must be transferred before the land can be developed.

The pairing of Touro and Weston erases confusion over who would work with the Navy to take control of the land and oversee the cleanup of such contaminants as lead.

"We think that this approach after that experience is one that is in some ways simpler and that's what we're pursuing," said assistant city manager Craig Whittom, who's also in charge of community development.

Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said he's looking forward to hearing the details of the proposal between Touro, Weston and the city on Tuesday. The university village concept is good, he said. "I think it brings to the table something different in terms of a vision."

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