The luncheon at Bridges drew a record Chamber crowd to hear developers and property owners talk about what is happening in downtown Danville. It was a good chance to get your arms around all the plans as old buildings face the wrecking ball and new complexes rise from the dust on five different properties.
Dreyfuss noted that her property, Danville Square, has completed the Trader Joe's portion on the south, the Starbucks area on the north, and the new enlarged post office. Ten retail spaces are under construction, and she plans to attract businesses that will build upon the "spirit" of Trader Joe's, she said. Hmmm. A yoga studio, perhaps? Hemp clothing? She wants Danville Square to be a legacy to her father - without the McDonald's.
Thomas Baldacci, present of Castle Companies, spoke about the property behind the historic Danville Hotel. This area became a funky Hollywood-set-like frontier town in the 1950s as Danville revisited its Old West roots, but the false-fronted structures and the old gingerbread restaurant are looking mighty neglected these days. Baldacci said he's been working on the project since 2001, and the town changed the block's zoning so the new project could have mixed uses. Plans call for retail, offices and 10 residential units, with parking underground for tenants. Baldacci hopes to get started sometime in the spring.
"This is a complete departure for downtown Danville," he said. "It will be a center point for the whole downtown." He said he is still talking to town officials and residents as he finetunes the plans.
Brad Blake, CEO of Blake Hunt Ventures, spoke about the Rose Garden project, adjacent to Navlet's Garden Center on Sycamore Valley Road, which is being developed with Baldacci's Castle Companies. Rose Garden has been under way for 12 years, Blake said, noting it has "complicated construction," but tenants will start moving in from March to June. It will have four restaurants and 15-20 retailers, and Blake was excited to have attracted businesses from Santana Row in San Jose, Mill Valley and the Peninsula. He is also wooing some from Walnut Creek, convincing them the Rose Garden right off the freeway has better access, and said he's drawing on the downtown Danville ambience. The Rose Garden's 56 apartments will take another year or so to complete.
Blake also recently purchased 522 Hartz Ave., which was home to the old Valley Pioneer and, more recently, the San Ramon Valley Times. He has made the site available to the Alamo Danville Artists' Association for an art gallery for six months until he replaces it with another two-story building with retail on the ground floor and high end office space upstairs.
Trish Wilkalis, general manager of Blackhawk Plaza, spoke enthusiastically on its revamping, which should be completed by next summer. Already, things are looking up since Draeger's Market opened last month, and she was excited about its 15 new tenants, including Anthropologie, Banana Republic, White House Black Market, G.R. Doodlebug and a large Starbucks.
Kathy Chiverton, executive director of the San Ramon Valley YMCA, said approvals are in place for the new 12-acre facility on the Alamo/Danville border, and it should be ready in summer 2009. People are happy to hear it will be a place for teens to gather on Friday and Saturday nights, she said, plus it will create 50 to 200 jobs, from lifeguards to front desk workers, with a $1.3 million yearly payroll. Next on the agenda for the Y: completing and bringing to life the theater on El Cerro Boulevard.
Danville has a distinct sense of place, noted Danville Transportation Manager Tai Williams at the luncheon, and it strives to preserve and enhance what it has. The plans all point in that direction.
I wonder just how many stores and restaurants and offices the town can use, but I trust the developers did demographic studies before launching their projects. And the good news is, we'll still have to drive out to Blackhawk or down to San Ramon for a Big Mac.
--Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.