With 1,400 acres of Vacaville considered suitable for industrial real estate, officials at the northern Solano County city are “paying it forward” to entice developers and large employers to put shovels into that ground.
As construction is set to begin this fall on East Main District, the first city-sponsored development project in two decades, Vacaville officials also are working to clear obstacles in the three main industrial business parks: Vacaville–Golden Hills, Vaca Valley and Interchange, according to Donald Burrus, economic development manager.
Part of the city’s economic-vitality strategy, first hatched in the doldrums just after the Great Recession, is to preinstall public infrastructure and complete ahead of time the California Environmental Quality Act analysis for the types of projects allowed in a given area. A sizable infrastructure project is underway in part of the 670-acre Interchange park, and public-works upgrades for Golden Hills and Vaca Valley are in progress, Burrus said.
The goal of the city’s funding the installation of water, sewer and other necessary utilities before project applications come in is to make the developable areas, “more than shovel-ready.”
“All of these activities make your city more attractive for investment and development,” Burrus said. “Many developers do not want to wait for public infrastructure to be in place.”
Last year, the City Council approved a $2.5 million loan from development impact fees to extend the water system in Interchange Business Park, bordered by Interstate 505, Vaca Valley Parkway and Midway Road. Completing the project will allow 258 acres in the park to be developed. Developers would pay for their share of the infrastructure as their projects were in progress.
Another area of the city made project-ready was 6 acres of downtown, an area originally known as Opportunity Hill and now called East Main District. It includes 30 parcels acquired by the city’s former redevelopment agency between 1992 and 2007. In 2016, the City Council voted to work with Bay Area Urban Developers, one of three involved in the request for proposals. The original plan under a different developer fizzled with the Great Recession, Burrus said.
The economic-vitality strategy has been updated over the past six months, and the City Council is set to get its first look at it next month, Burrus said. The strategy has focused on four industries suitable for boosting in Vacaville: biotechnology, logistics, advanced manufacturing and food processing. Because logistics tends to involve large warehouses with relatively few employees, lower-paying jobs and not as much taxable sales, the city has worked to flex its location at junctions of major Northern California interstates mid-way between Sacramento and the Bay Area, Burrus said.