Focus Area One will bring business, jobs and revenue to the City. Photo courtesy of City of Ventura
by Gail Field
Action has begun on a project slated to bring business, jobs and revenue to the City of Ventura. The project, called “Focus Area One,” will expand the Auto Center and create space for additional commercial sites by developing the adjacent vacant area and extending Olivas Park Drive.
“This is a project planned to bring jobs and dollars to the City of Ventura,” says Community Development Director, Jeff Lambert. “The development will provide an integrated mix of automobile sales and retail establishments to meet the needs of the residents of the City of Ventura and surrounding communities.”
The project is bounded on the south by vacant land and on the north by US 101 near the Johnson Drive on- and off-ramps with visibility from the freeway. The site will have excellent access when the new freeway ramps are constructed as currently planned.
“In addition,” says Lambert, “we plan to apply a high level of design standards in order to ensure creating an aesthetically pleasing area that will enhance the entry point for the east end of the City.”
City planners face some constraints in developing the Auto Center project.
Some of the challenges have to do with roadways. The area has excellent visibility from the freeway, but access is constrained by the configuration of the Johnson Drive interchange. However, the site will have improved access once the new on-off ramp is constructed as currently planned. Also, overhead utility lines on the north side of Auto Center Drive will be removed to permit road widening. The lines are proposed to be located underground. The plan also includes improving the signage, making it more visible from the freeway and attractive to destination retail.
Ventura city council member Matt LaVere expressed his enthusiasm for the project. “One of my top priorities as a new council member is economic development and ensuring that our City’s economy is strong. Commercial and industrial space is at a premium in Ventura. Bottom line, we need more of it. A lot more.”
LaVere speaks from his perspective as a business attorney who represents many Ventura-based businesses and believes this project will be a boon for the Ventura economy. “A thriving economy not only creates a larger sales tax base, but ideally, it creates the jobs that allow Venturans to live and work here,” he says. “I hate to hear stories about how so many Venturans are forced into long commutes for their jobs. Not only does that create the traffic congestion we all despise, but it means less time for these individuals to spend with their family or giving back to their community.”
“I am particularly excited about the interplay of Ventura’s auto center and Focus Area One,” says LaVere. “The Auto Center is the number one sales tax generator in Ventura and provides close to a thousand jobs. Together, the new Focus Area One and a strong Auto Center have the potential of being the economic center of east Ventura.”
All in all, the project is set to encourage a stable, diversified, and well-balanced economy, to add to the job base within the city and to create a more beautiful shopping area going up according to plans.