Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Face of Vallejo

New Face of Vallejo
Triad Appoints New Director For City's Redevelopment Project
By J.M. BROWN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

By the end of the year, retail traffic will pick up in downtown Vallejo as crews plug away at the new mixed-use redevelopment project on Virginia Street.

That's a prediction Chris Austin, outgoing project manager for Triad Communities in Vallejo, is making just weeks before breaking ground on the highly anticipated downtown project and handing over the reins to a new leader, Mark C. Ruebsamen.

The key will be finding retailers willing to take a risk downtown while the project is getting under way, Austin said Monday.

"You have to have seeding for the downtown, a core group of retailers have to come in and create the seeding," Austin said.

Jim Mitchell, executive director of Vallejo Main Street, said "once construction begins, it definitely will" draw some initial retailers. Several companies have expressed interest in opening downtown but are leery until they see Triad actually break ground.

"We get asked that all the time," Mitchell said about whether the project will start in the spring as pledged. "There is a lot of doubt out there."

Triad's construction partner pulled out last year, causing months of delay. But Austin said construction is still expected to begin in weeks.

After the groundbreaking, Austin will turn the project over to its new leader, Ruebsamen, a former development official for several South Bay cities.

On Monday, Ruebsamen said delays in development projects are common, but "the good news is, it will be very soon" that crews will start on the first of seven parcels to be tackled over the next 12 to 15 years downtown.

"We are very close. The citizens of Vallejo are going to see things happening," Ruebsamen said. "There are no obstacles at this point that can't be overcome," he said.

Vallejo's project will include 158 housing units over 11,000 square feet of commercial space. The first homeowners are expected to move in January 2009.

"I've watched as Vallejo has been passed over while other cities in the Bay Area have enjoyed tremendous growth and success," Ruebsamen had said in an earlier statement. "But Triad and I share the belief that it is now Vallejo's turn to enjoy the prosperity that this Bay Area has provided to other communities."

Before taking the Vallejo job, the 47-year-old Ruebsamen was vice president of JSM Enterprises, a multi-family housing developer, and oversaw development projects in Morgan Hill and Mountain View. He has experience with senior and affordable housing ventures.

"He has a profound understanding of the redevelopment process and the challenges faced by both the public and private sector, including the ability to successfully promote downtown retail development," Triad co-founder Fred Grimm in a statement.

E-mail J.M. Brown at jmbrown@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6834.

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