Will politically connected Pappas be favored developer of Elk Grove's new 'Project Elevate' downtown area?

One of the possible new downtown concepts being promoted by the City of Elk Grove. | 

In their ongoing efforts to shake its reputation that there is no there there, the City of Elk Grove announced plans yesterday to develop a new downtown in the civic center area, which was recently branded as District56.

The announcement came from the city's economic development director Darrell Doan. The plans call to use a 20-acre parcel in the District56 area to develop a four-block area that will resemble high-density areas developed in places like San Jose with their Santana Row or Market Common Claredon in Arlington, Va. The program has been dubbed Project Elevate by the city. 

The plan is ambitious and will likely stir extensive community conversation. There are several things that are likely to be discussed from varying points of view.

Will Old Town Elk Grove merchants and supporters view this as an abandonment of efforts to keep the struggling area relevant? What will residents who live in neighborhoods adjacent to the planned downtown and District56 have to say about this?

Will those homeowners have quality of life issues like vagrancy, traffic, and crime from high-density development. Or will they be supportive of having features like shopping and entertainment venues within walking distances of their homes?

Should this plan pass muster with residents and be approved by the Elk Grove City Council, one aspect that will be interesting to watch is who will develop the facilities.

As suggested by our report on October 16, 2017, the city has been working on this plan for some time. The documents showing this were revealed in a public record act request of correspondence between Doan and his then retail consultant group, Birmingham, Ala.-based Retail Strategies.

In an email from Doan to Retail Strategies dated June 25, 2017.

As you may know, staff has been evaluating the possibility of issuing an RFP for the City‐owned 20‐acre parcel north of the Civic Center property, for development of a lifestyle shopping, dining, and entrainment center. This effort would further several of the Council’s economic development and lifestyle Goals that were recently established at the Council Retreat. The project, if successful, would provide great amenities for our residents and act as a regional visitor draw for Elk Grove.

The link below will take you to a draft of the RFP. Please feel free to review the document and offer any and all feedback you may have. I would be glad to meet with you individually to discuss this effort and review the document.

Please note, this document has not been released publicly and is still in draft form. For that reason, I would ask that you please not disseminate it any further than those people included on this e‐mail and that we not yet discuss this effort in a public setting.

Thanks, Darrell

Also, an email on May 10, 2017 with Retail Strategies, Doan discussed a request for a proposal for the development. Doan signaled his preference for a developer, San Rafael, Calif.-based Sywest Development. 

Ashton thank you so much. This will help us. We met with Pappas today. As expected, polically [sic] we have to give them first crack at being our developer/partner but I think there will be a way to bring in another group (Sywest) that can help get it right. We are going to perfect the RFP/RFQ for a week or so and then ask Pappas to develop their proposal for our consideration. Stay tuned…

Interestingly, Doan painted an accurate picture of how things work at Elk Grove City Hall. While Sywest, which owns one shopping center in Elk Grove, Pappas Investments through its extensive and long-term campaign contributions to all Elk Grove City Council members, is politically powerful at city hall.

Readers undoubtedly know that Pappas recently received a multi-year multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded incentive for the recently opened Costco store, which is adjacent to District56. Several years ago Pappas received millions of taxpayer dollars for the California Correctional Healthcare Services.

As the plans progress, it will be noteworthy to see how various stakeholders in the city respond to the proposed new downtown. More important though will be to see if Pappas will be the developer selected to build the new downtown, and how much taxpayers will have to pay for the privilege.

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

First issue first: I can understand (but not necessarily accept) why Pappas has the inside track with the City Council. After all, money talks. But what is more troublesome to me is why a city staff person would be showing favoritism to a particular developer? In this case, Sywest out of San Rafael. When paid city staff start going rogue and dabble in the politics of contract awarding, it makes me wonder whose palms are getting greased.

Second, when government spews the mantra of "build-it and they will come", grab your pocket book and be very, very alarmed. In a free-market society, if there is a profitable venture to be had, the private sector will jump in and fill the void, no incentives needed.

When the City of Elk Grove jumps into the land development business, subsidies fly and other existing businesses playing by the rules are hurt. Our topography might be flat as a pancake, but the economic playing field is far from level. And in this case, "Project Elevate" will tilt the playing field even more.

Discounted rents, sweetheart deals, and fancy press releases might hype the District56 project, but make no mistake--even in the Grove, customers forking over cash will still be needed to make any project succeed in the long run.

When this family-oriented town rolls up the carpet at night, I wonder who will be jumping into their cars to head to Elevated District56? Meanwhile, Mello-Roos taxpayers, keep making your payments or the tax man will be coming for you!

Spoons and Forks said...

If they find tenants, good ones at that, I'll just say I am glad I don't live near there because traffic will be one big hassle.

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