A source late last week laid out to the Vanguard a doomsday scenario suggesting that the regional leaders and investors will keep a close eye on what Davis does in terms of the innovation park proposals laid out last week in the RFEI.
“If this goes down, regardless of reason, we are done in investment by others in Davis,” the source warned.
Looking at regional coverage may bear that out. The Sacramento Business Journal on Tuesday afternoon wrote, “A who’s who of prominent developers in the region have submitted ideas to the city of Davis for developing a research and development park that could capitalize on the nearby University of California campus.”
The article notes, “The proposal on the eastern side of the city, titled ‘Mace Innovation Center,’ involves Buzz Oates Group of Cos., Ramco Enterprises and Barbara Brunner. That proposal would be on 186 acres east of Mace Boulevard and north of Interstate 80 and calls for a business park of both office and industrial buildings and parks, also including complementary land uses such as recreational facilities, lodging, gyms and day care sites.
“A second proposal for the northwestern side of the city by Hines and SKK Development also includes The Hodgson Co., AECOM and Pioneer Law Group. That idea calls for the ‘Davis Innovation Center’ on 207 acres near Highway 113 and Covell Boulevard, with such features as outdoor gathering spaces, a mix of building heights and types, relative proximity to University of California Davis and alternative transit integrated into project design.
“Though not as fleshed out as the other two, the final proposal suggests the Tsakopoulos family of AKT Investments would donate 200 acres of its Davis Ranch property to be developed into an innovation center with partners Capital Corridor Ventures, based in Davis, land entitlement guru George Phillips and Panattoni Development Co.”
Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise were slow to get the stories out, each waiting until their Sunday publications.
Writes the Bee, “Davis came a bit closer to becoming a mini-Silicon Valley last week when it received responses from three developers seeking to build an ‘innovation center’ to bolster the city’s research and technology sectors.
“It’s the first step in a long path. But supporters, such as the city’s chief innovation officer, Rob White, say the innovation center could harness the research power of the University of California, Davis, to lure new technology and research companies and persuade existing ones to stay, creating jobs and much-needed revenue for the city’s beleaguered budget.”
Dan Wolk takes over as mayor on Tuesday, and he said, “The goal is to attract forward-thinking companies that could help transform Davis’ economy.”
“It’s one thing to have a new restaurant open up in your downtown or a new small business,” Mr. Wolk told the Bee. “That’s great, but this is really huge. These proposals would be the kind of big economic development measures that we need, the kind of thing where we could really have large companies either relocate to Davis or stay in Davis and grow.”
“The city envisions more than a typical office park,” the Bee notes. “The ‘request for expressions of interest’ issued last month asked for preliminary proposals that would include a mix of building heights and types, ‘net-zero’ energy goals and the integration of alternative transit such as biking and public transportation. The city said it was ‘not looking for general warehousing or processing plants’ but rather space for research, labs and commercial services, as well as potential corporate headquarter buildings. It likened the proposed business campus to the 700-acre Stanford Research Park, near Stanford University in Palo Alto, or the NASA Ames Research Center near San Jose.”
“Our intent is to create an office campus where people have chances to get together, whether that’s in coffee shops, cafeterias or recreational facilities,” said John Hodgson, president of The Hodgson Company, a Sacramento developer. “Think of what you see in Silicon Valley or Mission Bay, San Francisco: cutting edge design, attractive buildings.”
Rob White told the Bee that the third proposal, submitted by Capitol Corridor Ventures CEO David Morris, was “the only to come as a surprise.”
He told the Bee, “While the latter proposal doesn’t address all of the city’s proposed criteria, what’s intriguing about this is the idea of the gift of 200 acres to the city and putting it completely in city control.”
However, the Bee also interjects uncertainty. They write, “It’s unclear, however, whether voters would support the innovation center project. Davis voters recently rejected two large-scale residential development projects after builders expended millions of dollars during the planning stages; the Ramco, Oates and Brunner group wants to hold the ballot vote in November partly to avoid that fate.”
Dan Wolk told the Bee that “he thinks voters will distinguish between the earlier projects, which were entirely residential, and the new plans for a business center.”
“I think that we’ve really reached a tipping point in our community,” Mr. Wolk said. “I think folks recognize we need to be doing more in the area of economic development.”
Meanwhile, Rob White said “that quick action on the project is imperative, as Davis is home to a number of growing tech, research and manufacturing companies in need of space, leased or owned, that an innovation center could provide.”
One of those companies is Schilling Robotics, founded in 1985 by Davis-born Tyler Schilling.
“The business is going to continue to grow and we’re going to need space and we’ve got to find it somewhere,” Mr. Schilling said. “I dearly hope that Davis can move expeditiously on an innovation park and we can move a mile, rather than 20 or 30 or 50 miles.”
All of this reminds us of comments made by Councilmember Rochelle Swanson, who urged the council to action in mid-May following her Cap-to-Cap trip.
Councilmember Swanson said of her trip to DC, “This year I was lobbied. This year I was pressured. This year the region is wanting to know what are we doing and why aren’t we moving forward because they’re getting really worried because we have assets that nobody else has.”
“It’s not Davis versus West Sac, it’s not Davis versus Woodland or Folsom or Roseville,” she continued. “It’s Davis versus Austin. It’s Davis versus Chicago. It’s Davis versus cities in China. We’re losing and our region loses if we don’t step up.”
“There’s a lot of criticism in the community from certain pockets about things like the Cap-to-Cap trip and some of the investments we’re doing,” she said. “Usually when you go to these meetings, you thank them for the time and you tell them how you need help. Congressman Garamendi was very generous in that he gave us time to talk about Davis.”
“It was really unique in all the meetings, he sat back and he turned to me and he said, there are things I need from you,” she explained. “That was a very different tone and I asked him to please write me a letter so I could share it with the community.”
Councilmember Swanson said, “The reason why I share this, and maybe there is a sense of frustration, is that we have been talking for a long time about what we’re going to do. The innovation task force has been talking for a number of years. We’ve talked about waiting for proposals… I do worry that this search for the perfect is going to kill the good.”
“We have support like no other,” she continued. “I was not an hour there at a reception and had at least six to ten people, many I didn’t know, who looked at my badge and said, ‘What’s up with the innovation center? What’s going on? How come this hasn’t moved forward? You know that we need you. We have companies asking us when things are coming on line.’”
“Other communities around us are very literate, whether it’s their staff or their councilmembers on we have to work with these companies,” she said. “It was telling people were asking why we just have a handful here, why is it just you. I applaud Sarah (Worley) coming out of her own pocket. Other communities they walk the walk, they don’t just talk the talk.”
“We don’t have to change the character of our community,” she said. “I just want to make sure that people are aware that now is the time, we are going to have to work together.”
Rochelle Swanson referenced Paul Tsongas in 1992. “He talked about how there are people on canoes and they’re rowing, and other countries are rowing and they’re all in step. And we’re standing up hitting each other over the head with paddles. When I see what the other communities are doing, they’re in lock step. They get it. They’re rowing in order. And I think we still tend to beat each other up over certain things. I want to encourage us to really move forward.”
–David M. Greenwald reporting