Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Council moves ahead with innovation park ideas

From page A1 | July 16, 2014 |

The Davis City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday to create a council subcommittee to refine the goals of the innovation park process, a further step toward choosing one or two of three idea submittals to go to the ballot under Measure R. Councilman Brett Lee was absent.

Innovation parks are groupings of high-technology companies that could bring thousands of jobs to Davis. Three proposals have been submitted so far to the council.

One is for the potential Mace Innovation Center, a 185- to 230-acre site located around 26295 Mace Blvd. promoted by Ramco Enterprises, The Buzz Oates Group of Companies and Barbara Bruner.

The second is a submission for the Davis Innovation Center, a T-shaped 207-acre site abutting Sutter Davis Hospital in West Davis, by Hines and SKK Developments.

The third is a 200-acre concept at Davis Ranch, a bit east of El Macero and on the south side of Interstate 80, submitted by Capital Corridor Ventures and AKT Investments Inc. In that proposal, the family of Angelo Tsakopoulos would donate 200 acres to the city of Davis for the purposes of developing an innovation center.

The Mace Innovation Center developers and the Davis Innovation Center developers soon will be conducting public outreach meetings with the community, city staff said.

The council’s action is crucial to narrowing the focus on projects that could prove worthy of a vote of the people. The council voted to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis and Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson to the subcommittee. Their task is to define the process further but not be so limiting that it hinders productive outcomes.

“We shouldn’t say what it is, but we know what it isn’t,” Swanson said, echoing Davis’ contention that the process is more of an art than a science.

Councilman Lucas Frerichs agreed.

“I see this frankly as an extension of the Innovation Task Force,” he said.

Davis saw things differently, saying the subcommittee’s work is not the same as the task force’s, which Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White said was to bring forward developers interested in proposing sites for innovation parks.

One thing moving in the council’s favor Tuesday night that made its deliberations easier was that Ramco Enterprises removed its request to have an advisory vote before a Measure R vote. The request made at an earlier meeting caused consternation among the council members, who were struggling with how, when and whether to allow the vote.

Davis Nishi Gateway

The council voted 4-0 Tuesday to have city staff continue working to get a better project description and hire a consultant to do an environmental review of the Davis Nishi Gateway, proposed for a wedge-shaped parcel between Interstate 80 and UC Davis, southwest of downtown. Staff would return with an update by fall.

Yet the big news coming out of the discussion was more along the lines of public outreach.

Swanson called for one or more outreach meetings to take place on the Nishi site, complete with wooden 2-by-4 markers to show where various aspects of the project could be and help the public figure out the scale of the project.

The idea won over the rest of the council.

“We learn in different ways,” Davis said. “Being out there on the site will help.”

One other thing that will help is a $591,000 grant awarded to the city that will cover the cost of the environmental review, which will start later this year.

In the meantime, the council directed city staff to improve the Davis Nishi Gateway website, www.nishigatweway.org. Staff said a new FAQ and interactive web tools will be added in coming days.

— Reach Dave Ryan at dryan@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews








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