Mace Innovation Park Does First Public Outreach

Dan Ramos discusses the Mace Innovation Center on Monday night at Community Chambers.
Dan Ramos discusses the Mace Innovation Center on Monday night at Community Chambers.

It was a reasonably-sized gathering for a Monday in late July, and it marked a big starting point for the outreach on the first of the RFEI Innovation Parks to go forward. Dan Ramos of RAMCO, one of the principal land owners for the 200 acre Mace property, would do the bulk of the presentation, but turned it over at critical points to Prakash Pinto.

For them, this is not just a sterile business park, as they presented visions – albeit it raw and undefined as of yet – about much more than just parking lots and buildings. Prakash Pinto spoke of the potential for connectivity to bike paths and alternative transit. He spoke of parking lots with solar panels and trees, so that they look a lot less like parking lots.

There are really two key drivers for this innovation park – (1) fiscal benefits to the city and (2) the expressed need to keep Tyler Schilling and Schilling Robotics in Davis.

Mr. Ramos talked about the economic driver tin terms of high-end use buildings, where the combined property tax and sales tax revenues exceed $4 to $7 million. This, he argued, would be instrumental in generating tax revenue to help fund city services.

“The location of the project is ideal from a standpoint of access and visibility to I-80, and will have a meaningful impact on the perception of the City as a technology-driven, high-value locale,” he stated, noting that the project will play a key role in the Davis real estate market, affecting demand for residen­tial, commercial, and office/R&D property.

He stated, “The real estate markets in Davis will be redefined by the project, as the City historically has been held back by a dearth of clean, developable parcels by sufficient scale to accommodate campus users. The setting of near key ser­vices and amenities addresses the needs that have been well documented by the Brookings Institute and others regarding quality of life factors that are increasingly important in competing for talent.”

The second driver is Schilling Robotics. Dan Ramos laid out, and Community Development Director Mike Webb clarified, an aggressive timeline that he believes is tight, but can succeed in keeping Schilling Robotics in Davis.

Both Dan Ramos and Mike Webb expect that, sometime in September, the project will make a formal application. There will be an extensive outreach process, and the city has recently solicited requests for qualifications from consulting firms or teams, to provide planning project management and CEQA services for multiple development applications proposed for review by the City of Davis. The deadline for that request is August 11.

They talked about, by this time next year, having the project ready for the city council to take action, as there are city, state and county deadlines. For that to happen, Mike Webb explained there needs to be a lot of outreach, even before they get to an application phase. There is scheduled at this time another outreach meeting on August 23.

The goal is to get this to a Measure R vote by November of 2015. If that vote is successful, the city would work with LAFCO to initiate formal annexation proceedings. Mike Webb went on to explain that the city would be engaging LAFCO throughout the process so that once the project is ready, LAFCO is aware of the situation and ready to begin its process expeditiously.

Dan Ramos explained that his goal is to have the site ready for Tyler Schilling as early as winter or spring of 2017 – and he seemed confident, with Tyler Schilling sitting in the audience, that this timeframe would work for Mr. Schilling.

He said that they will do what they can to accommodate the use by Tyler Schilling and make sure they have the Schilling site up and going.

Dan Ramos was asked if he would incentivize marketing to build out the business park. He stated, “Right now we’re working on the entitlement phase, we’re confident about the marketing phase when we’re ready to go.” He added, “We understand that the community wants this input, it’s really important to us so that we get it right and actually build some flexibility into this process as it moves along so that we don’t box ourselves into a corner.”

That was a key point made throughout his presentation, the idea that while they want to be able to present something to the public that is real and concrete, they want the flexibility to be able to adjust to the markets and not stifle innovation.

In the question and answer period, the Vanguard asked Mr. Ramos what the face of the site would look like for people driving on I-80 and on Second Street approaching Mace. He reiterated that, while they do not want to stifle future innovation, they agree that the visual window to the site from the west and from the south is a key. He agreed that not only will this be viewed from I-80 but also coming down off the Mace Overpass.

Prakosh Pinto talks about the innovative and sustainability features of the project
Prakash Pinto talks about the innovative and sustainability features of the project

Prakash Pinto will be a key player in what the window to the site looks like. Mr. Pinto talked about the need to have this not look simply like a business park out on the edge of town. He talked about the need to bring in aspects of agriculture as it will serve as an Ag-Urban transition area. He talked about the use of solar panels and other ways to develop and create energy.

This is still early in the process and they have not gotten to draw up a set of comprehensive design guidelines, but they will set strict guidelines and guiding principles that address issues like sustainability. They are looking at this as a more holistic process of integrating the site into the broader Davis ecosystem.

Mike Webb would address the core issue of the need for specificity for a Measure R vote while remaining open to innovation.  “It really comes down to having the right balance of the project description and baseline project features that provides enough information so that the community at large – the city council and voters – understand what it is their acting – at the same time have enough flexibility that you allow yourself the adaptability over time for the changing market conditions, to changing needs, to changing space needs.”

He added, “I think the key to that is going to be not getting drilled down so much into specifics as to hamstring creativity.”  He said that, at the same time, people need enough substance to understand what the expectations are for the development.

The other question that came up is what the site’s absorption going to look like. City of Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White explained that on average we are looking at 250,000 to 300,000 square feet per year that will come on line. In the last 36 months, Mori Seiki has built 220,000 square feet in a plant. Beyer moved to West Sacramento and took 170,000 square feet.

He said that there are folks looking now that could take up to another 250,000 square feet in the Davis area … if they could find it.

“Just in the normal build out of what’s just happening in Davis,” Mr. White stated, noting all of the efforts underway that could boost that greatly. “So the conversation of building out 250,000 to 300,000 square feet on an annual basis is already happening and we’re not doing strong work yet. So imagine if we amped that up and just increased it by 25 or 50 percent, you can see that would obviously be good for them and good for the community.”

He said we are looking at a build out closer to 15 to 20 years.

Rob White noted that Stanford Research Park, where Prakash Pinto showed that in the 1950s it was bare earth, was in 1980 starting to come out of the ground, and then he showed it in 2014.

“I’d like to highlight that the 1980 to 2014 timeframe is only 34 years,” he said. “And in 34 years they went from mostly dirt to almost 550 acres. So the idea that a university coming into its own and really launching a program forward, could have dramatic impacts to a region is already demonstrated.”

And that, he said, does not include all of the extra building in the surrounding areas of the Silicon Valley.

While he acknowledged that this was far bigger than Davis in terms of the region, it is similar to what could happen in Davis.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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54 Comments

  1. Mr. Toad

    Schilling must be expanding elsewhere while he waits for Davis. I wonder how much of his business is elsewhere that he would have liked to be here?

    1. Davis Progressive

      do you have a basis for it or are you guessing? you understand that the entitlement process even without measure r takes the city to a july 2015 decision point – and from what i have heard, that’s pushing it. so without the measure process you are looking at an august or september approval date instead of a november one. so measure r really costs schilling about three months at most.

      1. Mark West

        “so measure r really costs schilling about three months at most.”

        Assuming it passes that statement is only partially correct because it does not take into account how much earlier this project, or one like it, might have come before the City. Schilling has been looking for new space for a while now so Measure R may have already cost him a year or more.

    2. Rob White

      The comment is misquoted… It should say Mori Seiki, not Schilling. Though there is a small operations and manufacturing plant in El Dorado area, Schilling has not built new buildings recently.

  2. SODA

    1. If Schilling has expanded to 220,000 sq ft, are we confident (or is Rob White) that this could be leased when the new property is ready for Schilling?
    2. We returned to Davis after Mace Ranch (in 1998) so I am not informed about the Ramos role in the Mace Ranch development but I think they were and there was some controversy about the process. If correct could someone fill in the details and how, if at all, this might affect how we view the current project? Note I am trying to be careful if my information/memory is incorrect…

  3. SODA

    Thanks Don, very interesting and complete summary. The last paragraph especially interesting. And the original plans for a Tech Park using the value of UCD is particularly ironic…..
    Assume Dan Ramos is Frank Ramos’ son?

  4. Mr. Toad

    FMC Technologies recently signed an agreement with a consortium of companies to develop a next generation of undersea robotics. I don’t know the time lines but wonder how long Schilling can wait? I’ll take Rob White at his word that Schilling hasn’t made any moves yet but I wonder how much time he has to dither around with our process.

  5. Rob White

    To be clear, I pointed out last night that in the last few years there has been substantial amount of construction in and around Davis for Davis-based companies. I was drawing a comparison to the ability to fill 250,000 to 300,000 square feet per year in a 15-year build out of about 3.75 million square feet (the upper limit of what the Ramco team suggests could be built at their proposed Mace Innovation Park).

    Now that I am at my desk and can actually look the info up, below is some better data (though I would need to do a lot more research to get the most accurate picture). Also note that this is a very quick scan and only takes in to account new construction or more square footage beyond what was previously in Davis, and the companies are/were Davis-based. It is meant to be illustrative and is not compete research.

    2011 – Mori Seiki Office Building = 68,000 sq feet
    2012 – Mori Seiki Manufacturing plant = 221,000 sq feet
    2013 – Bayer Cropscience (formerly Agraquest – ) = 165,000 sq feet
    – Monsanto (opened in Woodland) = 90,000 sq feet
    2014 – Spec commercial development discussions in excess of 300,000 sq feet

    As you can see, we are already averaging construction average in 2012 and 2013 of 238,000 sq feet, and there is growing indication that a series of new spec office/research buildings could get underway in Davis in the coming months, with construction likely to be completed in 2015 (if approved). I didn’t do a full scan with the planning department to see everything that was built in the last 5 years in and around Davis that might have been due to Davis-based companies, but I am working on that.

    If we need an average of 250,000 to 300,000 sq feet per year to fill the Mace Innovation Center in a 15 year period, you can see that we could already be on track to do those kind of numbers by having a place to retain the businesses that are located here and are growing.

    This doesn’t account for new companies moving to Davis due to the activities at the university and shared research areas (which are growing, not shrinking). And the increase in investment by global companies (small and large) that could actually drive demand if there was appropriate space.

    What I am hoping this illustrates is that the actual demand over the last few years without truly recruiting seems to be indicating that at least one innovation center could be successful in Davis.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “What I am hoping this illustrates is that the actual demand over the last few years without truly recruiting seems to be indicating that at least one innovation center could be successful in Davis.”

      is that really a point in question? it seems like that’s pretty obvious or maybe i’m naive.

    1. Davis Progressive

      you understand that there is no formal application yet? they are required for all measure r projects to have mitigation, no?

      the issue of housing has already been discussied.

  6. Mr. Toad

    We lost Agraquest. If we didn’t we might have lost Marrone because space got freed up to house Marrone when Agraquest left. Marrone built a production facility in the corn belt. Lots of incentives to lure the facility there. Its hard to know what might have been if we were ready with a development plan several years ago but we lost a $400,000,000 company when Agraquest left town. Its a big loss. We don’t notice but it probably hurt city finances when they left. Our dithering has had negative fiscal impacts on the city. Measure R costs us time and money. Money that could help with our community liabilities.

    1. Don Shor

      Unless Agraquest leaving increased our commercial vacancy rate, I doubt the city finances were affected. I recall Agraquest found a really good deal in West Sac. No way Davis could have matched that.

      1. Mark West

        Don, you are being silly. The comment clearly referred to the lost opportunity to increase our revenues (by keeping both companies) had the space been available. Losing a growing company does hurt us both in the short term and the long since we lose the existing revenues, and the prospect of greater ones in the future. Even more so, we lose the opportunity to diversify our revenue stream by increasing the number of sources of those revenues.

        Yes, Agraquest found a good deal elsewhere, but they may not have looked elsewhere if staying in town had been a realistic option.

        1. Don Shor

          Mr. Toad said:

          We don’t notice but it probably hurt city finances when they left.

          Mr. West said:

          The comment clearly referred to the lost opportunity to increase our revenues (by keeping both companies)

          The comment clearly did not refer to that. The comment was very clear as to what it said, and that is what I responded to.
          I was not “being silly.”

          1. Mark West

            Forgive me Don, you are right, you were not being silly. It was I who was being silly for assuming that everyone here could understand more than the literal meaning of the words Mr. Toad used. Thank you for correcting me.

            Agraquest leaving town did hurt the City’s finances. A company that has overgrown their space is likely producing far more tax revenues for the City than one that is just now starting to expand to fill that same space (at some point in the future). Even if all of the space subsequently vacated by Marronne was similarly filled with new enterprises (etc.), there will be a lag before we can expect to return to the revenues existing before the first move. The simple truth is that the City would be better off today had the space been available for Agraquest to remain in town.

          2. Don Shor

            Is our commercial space more or less vacant since AgraQuest left? Are our tax revenues from the commercial space up, or down, since AgraQuest left?

            Agraquest leaving town did hurt the City’s finances.

            I doubt you could prove that. Rob White might have some insight on it.
            Your sarcasm would be more useful if you were actually right. But like Mr. Toad, you’re leaping to the most negative possible interpretation of events. We have a certain amount of commercial space in Davis. We have a lot of demand. Somebody could probably actually tell us if there was a significant impact on the city’s finances. But it would have to be someone who actually knows the numbers.

          3. Don Shor

            I really wonder how long you and Mr. Toad and Frankly will keep recycling your “no-growth NIMBY” canards as business park plans go forward.

          4. Frankly

            If the business parks go forward, it will go a long way to proving that the no-growth NIMBYs have lost their political power. No-growth NIMBYs will always exist, it is just that Davis has been dominated by them over the last few decades.

  7. Mr. Toad

    Agraquest would have liked to have stayed in Davis. They didn’t want to go but there wasn’t any place large enough to meet their needs in the Davis city limits. They were a victim of measure R. They would have spent lots more money to stay but the impediments to growing here were too great and much too time consuming. Agraquest was a huge loss for Davis. Deny it all you want but losing a $400,000,000 business is never good for your local economy. The sad part is the total lack of reflection on the part of the nimbys about what we might have done differently to retain that company. You just want to shrug and say it was inevitable instead of asking what should we be doing to prevent it from happening again. We are really lucky Schilling really wants to be here because otherwise we would be relearning about measure R the hard way.

    1. Don Shor

      Companies that want a LOT of space will definitely always find much better deals in West Sac or Dixon. It’s good that they stayed in the region. The space was filled right away, and Davis will be expanding commercial space. Davis is likely to incubate businesses and then watch them outgrow what is available here. Based on recent comments, it sounds as though Davis can fill pretty much any business park that gets built. We won’t provide space for every large corporation that wants lots of land. Davis is an engine for the regional economy.

  8. Mr. Toad

    Meanwhile our budget remains upside down. Our infrastructure is in decline as is our school enrollment. You would think that we would at the very least try to do what is required to right the ship instead of clinging to a failed anti-growth model.

    1. Don Shor

      You may have heard that there are some business park proposals, and an innovation park proposal, and some new housing — all going to be before the city council over the next few months? So what is “anti-growth” about that?

  9. Mr. Toad

    What was it Rochelle said so astutely the first rule of economic development is not to lose what you already have. We didn’t retain Agriquest so now we have farther to climb. Perhaps it was a wake up call to the community. Too bad we let that whopper get away. Hopefully we won’t do the same with Marrone or Schilling. You seem to think that the world will always be willing to put up with Davis. That is a naive view of the world. Still our budget is in worse shape than if we had been more proactive. While we dither our roads decline.

  10. Mr. Toad

    First we need to build them and that requires a process that is longer than any other community and lacks certainty. Chances are one or more will fail at the polls. While all this goes on we continue to run a community in decline with a budget deficit. Our process already cost us one major company, Agriquest. Your complacency is astounding.

    1. Don Shor

      I believe we have a council majority, city staff, and a political mood much more favorable to business and innovation park proposals going forward than at any time in the last few years. There seems to be a consensus developing about a mix of economic development and tax measures that will get the budget issues going back in the right direction. More to the point, I don’t see any council members in denial about the realities of the current fiscal situation. Ideological factions have fallen away, and we have a much more pragmatic political environment than I can remember ever seeing in Davis before. The local influence of the Democratic Party and the unions is waning, which bodes much better for good fiscal decision-making. We don’t have major interest groups controlling the council majority. A majority of the current council members aren’t looking to move up some ladder of local politics. All of that is favorable to finding pragmatic solutions.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Of course you take no responsibility for any of the conditions that have created this mess. Your view has contributed nothing in the way of causation.

  11. Jim Frame

    Regarding the outreach effort, RAMCO and — to the extent that it’s appropriate — the city are going to have to do a whole lot more than hold meetings like they did on Monday. I wasn’t even aware that a presentation had been scheduled, and I’m probably more interested in the business park matter than 90% of the voters in town. It’s true that I was gone all weekend, which mostly kept me away from local news sources, but many (most?) people in Davis don’t read the Enterprise or the Vanguard.

    I’m not criticizing either RAMCO or the city, especially at this early stage, but if a Measure R vote is to succeed the project proponents have to find ways to generate positive buzz about the development that reach into the already-crowded consciousness of the electorate. They don’t have to get everyone engaged at a detailed level, but they have to ensure that people 1) know that a project is being planned; 2) understand the projected benefits; 3) are exposed to the potential downsides; and 4) are comfortable that the benefits outweigh them.

    I hope the RAMCO marketing budget is ample, and that they come up with some innovative ways of spreading the word without turning people off to the message.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Of course this is another reason that ballot box planning is a bad idea. With representative government you have elected officials engaged with the process and the details. With measure R you can spend years working on a proposal while people who pay no attention are given the final word.

      1. Jim Frame

        With representative government you have elected officials engaged with the process and the details. With measure R you can spend years working on a proposal while people who pay no attention are given the final word.

        We had too many years of elected officials engaged with the process and the details and then approving projects that the electorate didn’t want. That gave us Measure J/R, and most of us sleep better for it.

        Your last sentence is the reason RAMCO needs to think outside the box and figure out how to engage those people for whom planning issues are not on the front burner. Find a way to get their attention, and convince them with facts — not hype — that approving the project is in their best interests.

        Covell Village went down, in part, because the developers tried to buy votes for an unwanted project by throwing cheap trinkets at every local feel-good organization it could find. Their candy-store campaign was so blatantly transparent that it would have turned me off even had I found the project otherwise desirable. That’s the kind of junk marketing that RAMCO needs to avoid. Keep it smart, keep it simple, but go to extraordinary lengths to engage the public and sell the real concepts, not the glitz.

    2. Matt Williams

      I concur Jim, and said so at the meeting yesterday. The Cannery process took an immensely long time to come to a conclusion in large part because the Davis community really didn’t know what community amenities were most important to the community, and ConAgra/New Homes had to stand on the sidelines until Davis sorted out what the final package of community amenities was going to be. We, as a community, would be very foolish to allow that meandering process to repeat itself. If we do, then FMC/Schilling will almost surely be following AgraQuest out of town.

      As Pogo said a number of times, “We have met the enemy, and they are us.” Mace Innovation Center and the City and Davis Innovation Center and Nishi/Gateway can all host the community dialogue/collaboration meetings, but the truth is that we citizens need to pay attention, and show up and come to a community consensus about what is most important to us.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Or get rid of measure R and let the engaged popularly elected representatives who sit on the city council make the decisions in the best interest of the community.

        1. Tia Will

          “let the engaged popularly elected representatives who sit on the city council make the decisions in the best interest of the community.”

          There are risks either way. I don’t think many of us believe that the elected representatives fulfilled this mandate when they were deciding to bestow monies intended for other purposes on public employees in the form of inflated benefits.

  12. Mr. Toad

    For someone who has made a career out of complaining about the financial conditions facing the city you seem to be awfully complacent. I’ve watched this process play out over the last 20 years. It has failed us. It has cost us Agriquest, a $400 million dollar company. We have no idea what other opportunities we have lost out on. Meanwhile the fiscal situation continues to get worse while you guys are all about a process that has done nothing but obstruct anything from happening since inception.

    1. Matt Williams

      Jim Frame has made a career out of complaining about the financial conditions facing the career? That is news to me Toad.

      Jim, is Toad right when he says that about you?

    2. David Greenwald

      I’m not complacent, I believe in the process. I believe that the process will work. The process didn’t cost us Agraquest, our inability to plan did.

        1. Matt Williams

          Toad, it is only one of the factors that “impedes the ability to plan.” Planning for the community’s collective future is not something that the citizens of Davis spend a lot of time on. They are too busy managing the affairs of their own personal lives.

    3. Tia Will

      “all about a process that has done nothing but obstruct anything from happening since inception.”

      If what was obstructed was not desired by the city, then that would be a good thing. If what was obstructed would have been a positive….then not so much so. If you like development simply for the sake of development, of course you will hate every outcome. If you believe that some projects have more merit than others, perhaps you will be a little happier with this process.

      “We have no idea what other opportunities we have lost out on”

      Since “we have no idea” what is the point of pressing this statement ? Much time is wasted contemplating “what might have been”.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Sounds like you are not bothered by obstruction even if it results in the loss of a ground breaking biologics company. Who cares about the jobs, commutes or family needs of others as long as you can walk downtown that is all that matters.

        What has been lost is worth contemplation as we face declining infrastructure and budget deficits. Its worth contemplating to help try and figure out how we should deal with our problems going forward and keep other projects from being lost.

  13. Pingback: Proposed Mace Innovation Center Presentation (Video) | .:Davis Vanguard:.

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