Even as a concept that lacks any concrete plans or cost estimates, the somewhat out-of-the-blue proposal to redevelop about 45 acres of riverfront land is causing fits for many in the community, including some Redding City Council members.
Granted, it’s not just a barren field or a blighted tenement building but a pristine piece of land along the Sacramento River that’s currently home to the Civic Center and the Redding Rodeo Arena.
Populous, a Missouri-based design firm that specializes in large public venues, has joined with the McConnell Foundation, K2 Development Co. and Turtle Bay Exploration Park in a “dream big” proposition to draft a master plan to redevelop the land around the Civic and rodeo arena.
In its letter of intent, the group envisions possibilities including “a top-tier conference center, multi-use sporting venues, outdoor entertainment destinations, as well as mixed-use residential, restaurants, and public space opportunities.”
To get the process started, the city would have to declare the property as surplus and, under a new state law, provide a 60-day window for prospective affordable housing developers to submit offers. Given the cost-prohibitive nature of the site, no offers are expected.
After that 60-day period, the city could then hammer out an exclusive negotiating agreement that could lead, eventually, to a sale.
Last week, at the conclusion of the fourth public workshop dedicated to the offer, the Redding City Council agreed to proceed, albeit ever so cautiously. With a 3-2 vote, the council directed City Manager Barry Tippin to do some additional research on the surplus property process as well as a possible public-private joint venture.
The council could vote on whether to declare the property as surplus at its Dec. 21 meeting.
At Thursday’s workshop, Tippin sought to address a couple areas of concern that surfaced during the workshops.
First, he said, the city has no intent or interest in any redevelopment plans that would involve the 200-acre Redding Arboretum, the riparian corridor along the river or the Posse Grounds boat ramp. Secondly, if the council does declare the property as surplus, it is under no obligation to sell it.
In a show of support for the proposal, officials with the Redding Rodeo Association, Asphalt Cowboys, Advance Redding (the nonprofit organization leasing the Civic), Turtle Bay and the Sheraton Redding signed a letter expressing “our full-fledged support of the proposed master planning and development effort set forth by Populous, The McConnell Foundation, and K2 Development Company, Inc.
“Our organizations understand that this is the beginning of what could be a decade-long journey and we are proud to have been invited into the long-term community planning effort that will affect generations to come. We make this showing of support trusting the development team’s commitment to our organizations that we will be invited as a key stakeholder in the process.”
Shannon Phillips, McConnell Foundation’s chief operating officer, said the most important partner in any master plan will be the stakeholders, specifically the community members. “It’s more than a plan; we’re constructing the community’s vision, Redding’s vision for Redding.”
Redding native Michael Lockwood, a principal architect with Populous, said he’s looking forward to helping define that vision through a series of “very inclusive” design workshops where community members can brainstorm ideas while working with models, diagrams, maps and other visual aids.
Bennett Gooch, president of the Redding Rodeo Association, urged the council to proceed and said his group is looking forward to producing the Redding Rodeo in an arena with improved access. “We want improvement and we need improvement down there. We’re looking to make it better for the community and for us,” added Rick Boudro, top puncher/president of the Asphalt Cowboys.
A sizable contingent of Native Americans, representing a handful of north state tribes, used the public comment period of the workshop to either speak in opposition to the proposal or demand to be included as stakeholders. Several noted that the Sacramento River and the land around the Civic Center and Sundial Bridge were home to Native Americans for centuries.
City Councilman Michael Dacquisto, calling it “the hardest decision since I’ve been on the council,” said he’s opposed to the redevelopment idea. “The entire process seems rushed,” he said, calling the group’s offer “smoke and mirrors.” “What is the plan?” he asked. “They want site control on a wish and a promise. Show us something.”
His motion to take no action failed by the same 3-2 margin with Councilman Mark Mezzano joining him. Council members Erin Resner, Kristen Schreder and Julie Winter cast the “no” votes.
Resner, Redding’s mayor, said the group’s offer is “an opportunity to dream” and urged others to consider the “community we’ll leave to our children’s children.”
For more on the proposal and a recap of the workshops, visit https://cityofredding.civilspace.io/en/projects/redding-civic-auditorium-rodeo-grounds-workshops