MODESTO -- Friday's meeting on the second go-round for an ambitious job-creation project in western Stanislaus County attracted mostly construction firms and consultants, some of whom said they were looking for work in a slow economy.
But a few prospective bidders were represented at the table. Besides county staff members, about 15 people attended the meeting at Tenth Street Place, which was mandatory for prospective developers.
Two vocal participants were Fresno real estate brokers who said they represented the Texas-based Matthews Southwest development company. Donald Hatch of Grubb & Ellis Pearson Commercial said he expected Matthews Southwest will bring a proposal for developing the 1,531-acre site near Crows Landing into a regional job center.
The Kamilos Cos. also was represented at the meeting, even though the Sacramento firm lost its role as master developer for the project in August. Representative Ken Allred said Kamilos would consider making a bid.
A participant from Florida asked if the county would entertain proposals from investors outside the country. County staff said no problem, the request for proposals had gone out internationally. The woman declined to talk with The Bee after the meeting.
The county returned to square one this fall after supervisors gave up on developer Gerry Kamilos' dream for an inland transportation hub to employ 13,000 people and include a rail link to the Port of Oakland.
The county wants to see fresh ideas for developing the former Navy airfield into an industrial center with thousands of good-paying jobs.
Formal proposals from developers are due by Feb. 1. The schedule calls for the county to choose a developer by April 16.
The Web site for Matthews Southwest, based in Lewisville, Texas, says the company has acquired, built and managed development of hotel, office, retail, residential and industrial projects. The site shows an array of sleek hotels and commercial buildings in Texas and cities in Canada, including a 58-story office tower in Calgary, Alberta, that's slated to be finished this year.
Hatch said he had no details on what the Texas firm might propose. But he called the Crows Landing site "a diamond in the rough," noting its proximity to Interstate 5 and the county's urgency to restart the project.
Lou Ginise, also of Grubb & Ellis, was less optimistic than county officials about how fast the site would breed distribution centers and other businesses. Citing the sluggish economic conditions in the San Joaquin Valley, Ginise said after the meeting that he predicts a 30- to 40-year "buildout" for the center.
Keith Boggs, a county assistant executive officer, said a large amount of development should occur over 10 years based on Patterson's success with its industrial complex near I-5. "It's a gorgeous opportunity," Boggs enthused. "It's no secret the project has had its struggles. ... We know we have the staff and commitment to make this go."
No repeating mistakes
County staff outlined the expectations for the project and the ground rules for potential bidders. Boggs said the county doesn't intend to repeat mistakes the second time around.
Kamilos' plan, approved by county leaders in 2007, was for 4,800 acres and included a large number of homes, which stirred up opposition from groups on the West Side. This time, the county will not entertain any residential component or proposals spilling outside the 1,531 acres, Boggs said.
Plans for developing the center are supposed to incorporate an aircraft runway. Officials haven't talked about how revenues from an airport would be shared between the county and the developer.
The county will verify the financial stability of prospective developers as a pass-or-fail requirement. The bidders must demonstrate their solvency before their proposals are evaluated and scored, staff said.
The county will require the chosen developer to put down $2.75 million, most of it in an escrow account to pay for required studies. Kamilos' failure this year to come through with the deposit, which he suggested, was the last straw for supervisors.
Boggs heard silence after asking the participants what they thought of the requirement. Then Hatch said the deposit would be a minuscule part of a project likely to involve a $300 million to $400 million investment.
Ginise asked whether the county was flexible on long-term lease terms for the site. He asked if a 99-year lease would be considered, instead of the three 30-year terms and a nine-year term mentioned in project documents.
Boggs said the county would negotiate lease terms with the winning developer.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.