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.
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