On Feb. 11, the idea of development of the Downtown University Gateway District was presented to the Davis City Council. The project combines the development of three different properties totaling approximately 100 acres.
While planning of the project is not yet complete, the three different properties will most likely make up some combination of high-density housing, research facilities for UC Davis and shopping and entertainment for citizens of the City of Davis.
“One of the things that is special about this project is the big desirable trend in city planning,” said Bob Segar, assistant vice-chancellor of Campus Planning and Community Resources. “It’s walkable. People live close to where they work, their grocery stores and to entertainment. It’s walkable to downtown and walkable to campus.”
The project combines the 45-acre Nishi Property, owned by Tim Ruff, which runs along the University near the Mondavi Center, the 42-acre UC Davis East Village along the southeastern most edge of campus and the 11 acres of property on Olive Drive.
Currently, the UC Davis East Village area is occupied by the Solano Park housing development, but there are plans to close the area in 2016 and to redevelop it, according to Segar.
“This neighborhood has historically been housing with Solano Park, and is on the edge of main academic neighborhoods,” Segar said. “But we have flexibility for the future. The city is also thinking about bringing developments to private property, so we’ve launched a collaborative planning effort to create an integrated idea.”
This push for development is a culmination of a couple of factors: the UC Davis 2020 initiative in which the University hopes to add 5,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students to the campus by 2020, as well as a push for economic development in the City of Davis.
“The timing is a good mesh between the economic needs of the University and the campus,” said Mike Webb, director of Davis Community Development. “Either site could develop independent of each other, but we want to create a framework for the development of the two properties for a seamless district.”
The Nishi Property had been under consideration for development for several years prior to the recent developments that have been made.
“In 2008, the City looked at all of the sites in the city for potential housing developments, and ranked them in order of preference,” said Tim Ruff, owner of the Nishi Property. “This site was identified back then as a green light (highly desirable) site.”
So far, the pre-development costs of the sites have been shared between all three parties: the property owner, the City of Davis and UC Davis.
Architecture company Perkins+Will was brought in to develop the concept master plans of the project and to develop the Feb. 11 presentation to the Davis City Council, but their contract expired after the presentation was completed.
According to Webb, the next steps in the project include public outreach and submitting a grant application to the strategic growth council, which will hopefully secure grant funds for some of the technical planning, such as a greenhouse gas reduction plan and a water conservation plan for the project.
“We also want to embark on community engagement,” Webb said. “We need to make sure that what is being put forward will resonate with the voters, and we hope to get some valuable input on the project.”
Moving forward, Ruff and Webb both agree that one of the biggest challenges that the project will face is mitigating traffic.
“There are existing traffic issues, so that’s a big thing,” Ruff said. “But the best way to mitigate it is to have people live where they work so that they’re less likely to need a car.”
While the predevelopment costs have been split throughout the various involved parties, revenue sharing will need to be negotiated.
“We need to have a better understanding of what exactly the development will look like and a better understanding of the land use,” Webb said.
According to Dennis Dornan, project manager from Perkins+Will, communication between the involved parties has been exceptional so far.
“The spirit of cooperation and mutual respect of each other’s agendas among the steering committee has been truly inspiring,” Dornan said in an email. “It was noted by the Mayor last week at the City Council hearing as ‘truly historic.’”