Redding Moves Ahead on a Pair of Downtown Projects, Names an Interim Police Chief and Rebuts a Stinging Stillwater Report

Public safety, downtown Redding’s future, the moribund Stillwater Business Park and a junior bike park in Caldwell Park were the topics of interest at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Downtown

The council made a pair of related moves: it voted unanimously to OK a $4.8 million loan to the group redeveloping the old Dicker’s department store into a four-story mixed-use project and it voted 4-0 to accept the “preferred alternative” in the Downtown Redding Specific Plan update.

Mayor Brent Weaver, a downtown Redding property owner, recused himself from both votes.

Dicker’s was one of the anchors of the now-defunct downtown mall and it’s now ground zero for an ambitious plan that promises to transform downtown Redding. K2 Land & Investments bought the 60,000-square-foot former store and last year unveiled its plans to demolish it and replace it with an E-shaped building that would feature retail and office space on the ground floor and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments on the top three floors.

Some 56 of the project’s 79 units would be classified as affordable housing and the remainder would be market-rate. The project would also reopen Market, Butte and Yuba streets to vehicle traffic. The redesigned 80-foot-wide streets would be showcases of contemporary urban planning with defined pedestrian corridors, shade trees, bike parking areas and room for sidewalk seating and parklets.

K2, in partnership with the Shasta Regional Transportation Planning Agency, applied for and was awarded a $20 million state grant through the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. The grant includes funding for the Diestlehorst-to-Downtown trail project that is expected to attract more pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the downtown area.

Redding’s $4.8 million loan will be funded by a combination of federal housing dollars, according to Steve Bade, Redding’s housing and redevelopment manager.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $37.5 million.

Updating of the Downtown Redding Specific Plan started last October and Bruce Brubaker with PlaceWorks, the consultant hired to draft the plan, said the project is about 75 percent complete. When completed and adopted by the council, the plan will serve as a blueprint of sorts to guide development and revitalization efforts for the next 10 to 15 years.

Bruce Brubaker of PlaceWorks with the preferred alternative for the Downtown Redding Specific Plan.

Bruce Brubaker of PlaceWorks with the preferred alternative for the Downtown Redding Specific Plan. Photos by Jon Lewis.

The preferred alternative, created with input gathered at stakeholder meetings and an online survey that was completed by more than 1,900 residents, calls for a public town plaza and several smaller open spaces with appropriate lighting, seating and other amenities.

The plan also emphasizes improvements to the pedestrian environment in the downtown area and land use and urban design visions highlighted by mixed-use developments that blend residential, office, retail, dining, cultural and entertainment uses.

“I’m pretty excited about the direction the city of Redding is going,” said Anne Thomas, director of Shasta Living Streets. “This plan builds on the assets we have downtown and addresses safety,” she added, noting that a recent six-year study indicates that out of California’s 58 counties, Shasta is ranked sixth in the number of pedestrian fatalities. “This plan will help us address that,” she said.

Public Safety

On the public safety front, the council voted 5-0 to appoint Peter Hansen as the interim police chief. Hansen, who retired as police chief in November 2011 to end a 28-year career, returns in his official capacity on Wednesday.

Hansen’s interim term will last until Nov. 19 at the latest. He will be paid $13,166 a month, which matches what his salary was when he retired, according to Sheri DeMaagd, Redding’s personnel director.

Hansen replaces Robert Paoletti, who “separated from employment” on June 13, DeMaagd said. Paoletti had been police chief since Hansen’s retirement. Paoletti’s departure came a week after Barry Tippin was promoted from his assistant city manager position to fill retired City Manager Kurt Starman’s position. In a press release, Tippin said Redding was at a point in time where “we need to find a new pathway to work on the public safety issues we are facing as a community.”

The interim appointment will take some strain off of an “already lean-staffed department,” DeMaagd said.

The recruitment for a permanent chief closed Sunday, Tippin said, and he expects a new chief to be named by the end of November if not sooner. Police Capt. Eric Wallace had been serving as acting police chief.

Stillwater

The council OK’d a formal response to the Shasta County Grand Jury’s withering report which was titled “Stillwater Business Park – Still Spending; Still Waiting.”

The 14-page Grand Jury report questioned the ongoing expense–$40 million and climbing—and the lack of any jobs or industry to show for it in the last seven years. The report recommended the city formally investigate whether the 700-acre park is even viable and to come up with other uses for the property.

Grand jurors contend proceeds from lot sales be used exclusively to cover Stillwater’s debts and that a formal protocol be developed to guide all sales decisions. The latter is apparently a reference to Emerald Kingdom, a greenhouse manufacturer whose bid for a Stillwater parcel was rejected. The Redding company opted instead to relocate to Red Bluff.

Mayor Weaver’s letter, which was approved with a 5-0 vote, questions the grand jury’s cost estimate and defends the city’s ongoing marketing efforts.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Julie Winter, who is the council’s liaison to the Shasta County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), said that although “we haven’t landed that big fish yet, I believe we will.”

Winter and Weaver both said the city, the EDC, Development Services Director Larry Vaupel and Tippin enjoy a solid working relationship and one that will bear fruit soon. “We have a great team,” Weaver said, while adding that the council is acutely aware of the pressure the $650,000 annual interest payments are placing on the city.

Pat Corey, chair of the EDC board, said the city just missed on a potential buyer that would have brought as many as 4,000 jobs to the city. He said the level of interest in Stillwater over the past 30 months has been the highest ever.

Junior Bike Park

The council enthusiastically supported a plan by the Redding Trail Alliance to develop and maintain a junior bike park on the east side of Caldwell Park near the Redding Aquatic Center and Jump River Playground.

Nate Knudsen, president of the Redding Trail Alliance, said the bike park will be designed for cyclists between 2 and 12 years of age and will feature a paved pump track, a skills feature and a bike “playground” with mock streets and intersections that will provide the young bike riders with education and safety skills.

Nate Knudsen points out features of the Junior Bike Park.

Nate Knudsen points out features of the Junior Bike Park.

A “dirt jump line” made up of small tabletop-style jumps will allow the thrill seekers to get a little bit of air.

Travis Menne with the Community Services Department said the bike park will be landscaped, use sustainable building materials and will not require the removal of any trees.

“I’m very excited about this project,” Weaver said. “This will make it an area that you’ll want to go to after this project gets going.”

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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