Photo by John Ferritto
Part 1 of 2
By Rebecca Wicks
More than two years ago I wrote an article outlining “10 projects that will change the face of Ventura.” Since then, the publisher of the Breeze has received periodic inquiries about these and other projects in Ventura. Follows is an update on these and other projects in City.
While Ventura has seen significant growth in recent decades, it isn’t a city that shows up on “fastest growing cities” lists. That said, Venturans definitely have an opinion about how our relatively small city grows. From commercial developments aimed at boosting tourism and specific economies, to infill projects and annexing land to build out entire communities – the City has plans to do all of this, and more.
“The City of Ventura needs to move forward on some of these projects,” says resident Lynn Hiller who believes the City should be focused on residential infill construction in midtown and downtown specifically. “There is a real need for new housing in Ventura, which is full of ageing, sub-standard housing, but what seems to happen is that instead of infilling areas in the city where streets and sewers already exist, the building is done on what is probably the most valuable and productive farmland in the world.”
The “Infill First” strategy, which is part of the City’s General Plan adopted in 2005 outlines how Ventura aims to be a city that avoids suburban sprawl. One issue, according to City Planning Manager Dave Ward is many of the projects currently going into construction today were in the City’s planning pipeline before 2005.
“Many projects, especially those on the east end of Ventura were in city planning phases pre 2005,” explained Ward. “Some stalled during the recession and were revived post 2010.”
While the City doesn’t control developers, it can and has made attempts to prioritize infrastructure fixes to help support the type of projects the City would like to see. Recent efforts include waterline and roadway improvements in existing parts of the City. In addition City officials are also working to review the zoning laws in each of the “priority” areas in the General Plan to ensure they line up with the development wanted.
“We want it to make sense for developers,” explained Mayor Cheryl Heitmann. “If the General Plan says we want an area to be residential but it’s currently zoned for industrial, that doesn’t make sense and we’re working to fix that now.”
In 2013, the Breeze outlined 10 projects that had the potential to have a big impact on the City. Here is an update on projects 1 through 5::
Number 1. Sondermann-Ring – Now 15 years in the making, this project which promises a “residential seaside village” at the Ventura Harbor is extremely close to breaking ground according to Ward who estimates the developer could begin construction as early as late spring. This project which includes 300 residential live/work apartments, 21,000 square feet of commercial space and private indoor/outdoor recreational facilities including a 2.4-acre park and waterfront promenade has seen it all in its planning stages from lawsuits and revisions galore, to a recession and even personal crisis. With only a single outstanding landscaping item to get through city planning, it still may face one final hurdle next year– El Nino.
Number 2. County Memorial Hospital – With the hospital itself well under construction and an opening date set for Fall 2016, new construction recently began on the hospital’s parking garage. The 320,000 square foot building is part of what the City is calling its “Wellness District.” And, while a parking garage may not seem exciting, Mayor Heitmann believes it is something to take note of.
“Parking is key to stimulating this wellness corridor,” said Mayor Heitmann. “Prospective merchants and retailers may choose to locate in the area based on this factor alone. “
Once the new hospital opens, the vacated hospital building which represents 121,000 square feet of space will be open for non-essential hospital support services. City officials are hopeful this move will have a catalytic effect on the area, drawing additional restaurants and retailers to support the area.
Number 3. The Ventura Downtown Housing (VDH) project and the Mar-y-cel project are two downtown projects that promise to bring housing to the area. The VDH project includes 257 apartments, while the Mar-y-cel project is a mixed-use project, which proposes 6,800 square feet of commercial space and 138 apartments.
The VDH project was approved on appeal by the City Council in September, while the Mar-y-cel project was approved with no appeals. Both projects sit with the developers now who will need to take their planning documents and work to transform them into construction documents – a process that is expected to take several months. Both developers also have other projects they are working on in Ventura.
Number 4. Parklands – Covering a sizeable 67 acres, which has served as farmland, the 499-units community includes apartments, single-family homes and condominiums as well as commercial space. Located at the southwest corner of Telegraph and Wells Roads in East Ventura, planning for this project began almost 12 years ago. The 173-apartment component of the plan is currently in final plan check and according to Ward could begin construction “any day now,” with the developer needing only to finalize the pulling of their building permits and paying fees.
Number 5. The Grove – Another project that began before the recession, the community includes between 198-250 townhouses, apartments, courtyards and open space. Located on Telephone Road near the 101 and 126 Freeways across the street from Barnes & Noble, the project sits on 25 acres of farmland. The project has finished the planning process and is now about 70 percent done with environmental review, according to Ward. Once this is completed, the report will be made available for public review and comment. Ward expects the City and the developer to work through traffic, water and sewer elements in the summer months, and spend winter 2016 months responding to public and other agency comments. Once this is completed, it will go through the Design Review Committee and the Council before the City will file to annex the land after which time the project will enter phase development.
See the next issue of The Breeze to read Part 2 of State of the state of development in Ventura where you can read the rest of the updates on development projects in Ventura.