Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Amendment to Nut Tree is adopted

Amendment to Nut Tree is adopted
By Ryan Chalk
Article Launched: 09/24/2008

Tenants of the Nut Tree Village made sure that the Vacaville City Council understood one thing Tuesday night, and that was a need for more foot traffic.

In what may be described as a bittersweet victory for business owners in the upscale retail center, members of the Council and Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously to adopt a fourth amendment to the Nut Tree development agreement to allow a broader mix of service and office uses at the Nut Tree Village and Freeway Commercial parcels.

Previously, members of the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to deny the amendment on the grounds that the proposed changes would compromise the quality of the Nut Tree development and were not in keeping with the high-quality standards originally proposed by the developer and as required by the city.

But a majority of the tenants who spoke on the issue stated sheer economics in asking for the council's support.

"I had high hopes for a high-end Nut Tree," said Jerry Thornton, who owns Thornton & Sons Jewelers. "But I think we're going to have to do whatever it takes. Let's get this thing moving and let's get it done."

As part of the amendment, developer Nut Tree Associates would like to add, among other businesses, banks and credit unions as an option for tenants at the development as well as health and beauty services.

Children's learning centers, adult secondary educational facilities and medical-office uses also are included in the proposed amendments, as well as an improved tenant-approval process.

Also in favor of the plan was Scott Whidden, representing Fentons Creamery and Restaurant.

Whidden said he came to the Nut Tree because he was sold on its magic and wanted to be a part of the tradition.

"Has the economy affected this project? Absolutely. But whether it's a doctor, ... or a firefighter, foot traffic is foot traffic," Whidden said. "We're hopeful."

Plagued by vacancies in the retail center, tenants have struggled to obtain enough shoppers throughout the week to support the high-end rents they have been paying.

Pamela Randall, who operates youth-oriented clothing store Kool Kids, agreed with allowing in a broader mix of stores but asked that rents be adjusted on the grounds that the high-end retail environment was not being delivered.

Vice Mayor Chuck Dimmick agreed with rent adjustments for tenants, along with a call for enhanced marketing.

But most agree that bringing in an adult-education center such as Western Career College and medical offices, the mid-week and daytime population of shoppers would increase significantly.

"I'm a realist. I support this because we need tax revenue to support things such as police and fire services," Councilwoman Pauline Clancy said. "If we can make just one move to assure our quality of life ... I think we should do it."