Monday, May 07, 2007

Touro Moves Quickly on M.I. Village

Touro Moves Quickly on M.I. Village
By J.M. BROWN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

In the world of large-scale developments, patience is a virtue. After decades of planning, ground has yet to be broken on waterfront and downtown revitalization projects.

But when a developer is motivated and well-monied, things tend to move a bit quicker.

Such is the case with Touro University's ambitious scheme for the north end of Mare Island, a ragged chunk of waterfront land that needs a major infrastructure overhaul before the school can build its Oz-like "university village."

The 191-acre site would in-clude biotech firms, classrooms, a conference center, retail outlets, coffee shops and housing for students and faculty.

"This is moving at a very fast pace," said Susan McCue, Vallejo's economic development manager. "We're making good progress on all fronts."

Four months after the city entered into talks with Touro, the City Council will get an update Tuesday on the financing and design plans. The special study session will begin at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at 555 Santa Clara St.

Jim Mitchell, a former Vallejo Main Street director who recently became Touro's spokesman, said it has secured financing for the entire project, which could cost up to $500 million.

Design and infrastructure plans are still in the works, but Touro and its builder will offer updated pictures Tuesday about what they want to build on the land bordered by Azuar Drive, the Mare Island Strait, G Street and Highway 37.

City officials have met weekly with Touro officials, who have submitted plans for demolishing current buildings, establishing infrastructure, and developing future land use. Touro has also agreed to cover costs related to the Navy's clean-up of contaminated property.

It's too early, officials say, to know whether all the issues will be settled by a July deadline, after which the city manager can extend talks. The council will eventually decide whether to award Touro the project.

Councilman Tom Bartee said he supports the plans because biotech businesses want the kind of affordable employee housing and room to expand offered by Mare Island.

But, Bartee said he is concerned whether Touro will seek nonprofit status, a concern repeatedly raised by the island's master developer, home builder Lennar Mare Island LLC.

Bartee said he wants to "ensure that we end up with a good percentage of development out there that will provide additional tax base to the city."

Mitchell said Touro has no current plans to see non-profit status.

E-mail J.M. Brown at or call 553-6834.

If you go:

What: Vallejo City Council, special study session on Touro University's plans for North Mare Island

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Council Chambers, 555 Santa Clara St.

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