Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
For as long as anyone can remember, Grantville has been considered an industrial area, and justifiably so.
City planner Lisa Lind says Grantville, “is the place for infill and redevelopment anywhere in the Navajo areas. San Carlos, Del Cerro and Allied Gardens are pretty much built out — aside from a very small project alongside College Avenue in Del Cerro, there’s really nowhere else.”
To quote the city’s Community Plan implementation document, Grantville is a “mix of mostly older, underutilized commercial and industrial buildings containing a variety of auto-dependent commercial service uses. Industrial zoning has not adequately accomplished the objective of the previous zoning, which was to encourage development and redevelopment to capitalize on the area’s central location within the metropolitan area.”
Harsh words, but true nonetheless.
When the Grantville Trolley Station came into being in 2005, city planners and developers saw it as a possible trigger for serious redevelopment, keyed to the city’s desire to build a “City of Villages” based along mass transit lines.
In 2015, Grantville was rezoned to become a vehicle for “a mix of uses, including employment, commercial, higher-density residential and civic uses.”
So, how is that going?
It’s going, but slowly.
There are projects underway for a good deal of mixed-use construction, with an emphasis on residential, wherever possible.
There are also projects in the pipeline that will greatly increase the availability of residential units.
One such project is about halfway through. The Hanover development, which used to be called Centerpoint at Grantville, is finishing up phase 1 of a two-phase project that will include about 750 housing units, with offices, shops and open space in a self-contained community. It’s west of Mission Gorge Road, between Vandever and Twain avenues.
A small project at Mission Gorge and Glacier Avenue will provide about 75 units for medically-frail senior citizens. It’ll go where Good Guys Auto Sales is now, at Mission Gorge and Glacier.
One of the new projects is already open and operating — the Verge at Mission Gorge and Greenbrier Avenue — providing several wings of apartments, with some shops and garden areas. (You’ll remember that as the place where Mission Gorge Road started sinking for about 600 feet right in front of it. That’s fixed.)
There are two projects that will cater to homeless veterans and their families. One is the former Motel 6 just off the freeway on Alvarado Canyon Road, and another project similar in nature that will be built at Mission Gorge Road and Twain Avenue.
These projects concern a lot of people, most notably Dan and David Smith of El Dorado Properties.
“We understand there is a big need for low-income and special designation projects, and we’re very much in favor of them, but Grantville residents and businesses are worried that Grantville could be in danger of becoming sort of a dumping ground for those type of projects. What we really need is commercial and regular residential housing, so that families can move here and live here. Grantville needs to become a community with homes, schools, stores and all the things communities need.”
That’s David’s feeling.
Dan Smith has been watching this for decades, and he’s not currently optimistic.
“We can talk all we want about what we’d like to see here, but we need to realize that not much is going to be done until the streets and roads are expanded and rerouted and that’s not going to happen until Caltrans and the city start doing something about the Interstate 8 exchange at Fairmount and Mission Gorge, and until everyone signs off on fixing the Alvarado Creek problem once and for all. Until all that’s done, it’s hard to see how we get to the Grantville Trolley Station and the land around there that could and should be redeveloped.”
There’s another proposed development that might fit into the picture. In 2012, the City Council approved a big development called Riverbend. It’s supposed to be built on 23 acres of the old quarry and sand mining operation west of Mission Gorge Road at Old Cliff Road.
It would add over 1,000 new homes and apartments, with the attendant stores, offices, businesses and open space provisions the city wants to see.
Riverbend would be the biggest of the projects, but there is considerable doubt it will ever be built. The city just granted an extension of time for whoever the developer turns out to be. The problem there is that city planner Sarah Hatinen, the project manager, said she’s not allowed to tell us who the developer is. And, that project is a few miles from the Grantville Trolley Station, which is supposed to be the impetus for this whole redevelopment plan.
Mass transit is supposed to be key to all this. The problem there is, getting to the Grantville Trolley Station from any of these developments, except the Motel 6, is a cross-country trek.
A long, long walk.
—Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.