Monday, October 01, 2007

Officials Approve M.I. Map

Officials Approve M.I. Map
Affirmation Pushes Island's Commercial Development Ahead
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer

The long-awaited commercial development of Mare Island took a giant stride forward with the recent approval of a tentative map, the island's main developer and city officials said Friday.

At 83 acres, it's the largest commercial development areas the city's approved in nearly two decades, and will produce about 800,000 square feet of commercial space, said Lennar Mare Island spokesman Jason Keadjian. Lennar and city officials have been working on this for five years, and their efforts should begin to bear fruit by the middle of 2008, Keadjian said.

"It's great" said Vallejo economic development manager Susan McCue. "It means significant commercial development for the island."

Keadjian and LNR Property Corporation spokesman David Garland said the state is expected to sign off on the parcel's environmental clean-up next year, clearing the way for infrastructure improvements and the dividing of the land into 23 smaller parcels for sale. LNR is Lennar Mare Island's commercial development arm. Meanwhile, Lennar is discussing specific parcels and buildings with interested buyers and preparing to demolish structures deemed superfluous, they said.

The land in question, referred to as the Town Center, is a roughly rectangular area encompassing about 12 percent of Lennar's 650 Mare Island acres. It's bordered by

G Street to the north, Railroad Avenue to the east, Azuar Drive to the west and Connolly Street at its southern end, Keadjian said.

The parcel contains some 50 historic buildings, including the ones now occupied by the Vallejo City Unified School District, the Rodman Center and Lennar Mare Island's headquarters. Some old buildings likely will be demolished to make development possible, the men said. The historic assets have been reviewed by various city departments and commissions, which helped determine which ones could be torn down, they added.

"We worked with the city on cataloging all the buildings and making guidelines for commercial development with historic resources in mind," Keadjian said.

More than a dozen old buildings, including former latrines, sheds and warehouses with no particular architectural or historical significance, will likely come down once final city approval is granted, the men said. No buildings designated important historical assets can be razed.

"There's an agreed-upon list of buildings that can be demolished and ones that must be retained, so there's no question, there," McCue said.

For instance, building 259, a former munitions warehouse built in 1911, is on the demo list because its space is needed for parking," Gardner said.

"The area was created for people to bicycle in," he said. But the buildings are too close together to permit parking, so the significant historic building being preserved on the site is unsellable as is, he added.

The corner of G Street and Railroad Avenue is zoned for a small shopping center, hopefully to include businesses like a grocery store, cafe, bank and dry-cleaner, Keadjian said. The idea is to bring business and create jobs, he said.

Lennar has not, as some have claimed, been dragging its feet in commercial development since gaining ownership of much of the island in 2002, Keadjian said. Lennar has made strides in a difficult process for which few models exist, he said. Plus, he added, the former Naval base has environmental and aging infrastructure issues not faced by typical developers.

"It's a balancing act between historic preservation and economic development," he said. "Lennar Mare Island is hugely motivated to expedite Mare Island's development."

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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