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Santee's success story continues to unfold

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Santee has checked a number of significant projects off its development to-do list in the last couple years. Examples include the highly successful Trolley Square mall and the 80,000-square-foot regional office for the Hartford Insurance Co. There's no denying Santee is gaining ground in its quest to transform Town Center, its downtown district, into a diverse and vibrant focal point that will lure people to live, work and play. But there's more work to be done. In the coming months, Santee will forge ahead with a variety of key commercial, residential, mixed-use and other projects.

Making the vision for RiverView a reality

The second phase of RiverView, a mixed-use project on 100 acres south of the San Diego River, is expected to be approved by the city this fall and break ground before the end of the year. The master-planned community is being developed by Ryan Cos. U.S. Inc., which recently opened an office in San Diego. The first phase of the project was completed two years ago with the opening of the upscale Hartford corporate complex. The next phase will include approximately 62,000 square feet of office space, a megaplex movie theater and 240 condominiums.

The second phase of RiverView will include approximately 62,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater and condominiums. The master-planned community is being developed by Ryan Cos. U.S. Inc.

"The city has always been supportive of our plan," said Matt Reid, vice president of development of Ryan's West Division. "They have always wanted a movie theater and higher-end office complexes on the property. Our development agreement is very specific in that this is what we're providing."

Pacific Cornerstone Architects (PCA) has been working closely with Ryan Companies and the city on the designs for RiverView's master plan. PCA's role includes designing six office condominiums that businesses can purchase for a 21-acre portion of the mixed-use area being developed in phase two.

"RiverView is where the trolley line ends, so it's a transit-oriented development and a perfect place for distributing people around town," said Kevin Perry, a principal with PCA. "It ties in the with the city's overall goal of making the area a lively, active place to live and work. The trolley has helped generate a lot of the changes that the city is making."

Ryan Companies' Matt Reid agreed with Perry that the trolley plays an important role in Santee's development strategy. He called the trolley "the spine of RiverView" and added that it and other improvements to the area's transportation infrastructure, such as the pending completion of state Route 125 from Otay Mesa, will help Santee make its vision of creating a corporate campus a reality.

"Santee's time to be the next UTC has come," Reid explained. "The remaining 780-plus acres of RiverView will be devoted to upscale corporate offices for high tech, biotech, life sciences and other companies. The city has the amenities, services and transportation logistics to support them. There aren't many opportunities to provide these types of corporate headquarters in the county, but we can help Santee do it, and do it in a way that's economically advantageous."

Transforming more of Town Center

Riverwalk, a new residential community from Priest Development Corp., was approved by the city last year and is due to begin construction soon. The 21-acre community will bring 218 single and attached homes to Town Center. It will also feature a 30,000-square-foot park and paths for walking and biking.

The city is continuing to develop Town Center Community Park, the largest park development project in its history. It will ultimately encompass 55 acres. The project is being funded with $12 million in redevelopment bonds and $5 million in developer-paid park fees.

"We completed the first phase, which included the aquatic complex and the YMCA, two and a half years ago," said Doug Williford, director of the city's development services department and deputy city manager. "The next phase will include adding a variety of sports fields and facilities, kids' play areas and new parking lots. It will also include major improvements to the southern portion of Woodglen Vista Creek, such as adding trails and enhancing the area with native plants."

Under construction in the northeastern section of Town Center is the new Edgemoor Hospital, a county-run nursing home specializing in long-term care for elderly patients and the chronically ill. Located on 12 acres, the 15,000-square-foot complex with 200 beds will replace the existing aging and dilapidated facility. It is scheduled to open in 2007.

Another new health care facility -- the 11,500-square-foot Naval Medical Center -- is being built on the west side of Town Center Parkway. The Department of Defense and Department of the Navy selected the site for its desirable central East County location.

North of Trolley Square, Cuyamaca Town Commons will be completed in about two months said Bill Strocco, the project's developer. The 39,500-square-foot office condominium project enables small businesses to own office space rather than lease it.

"We are completely sold out," Strocco said. "The project has been very successful, and the city of Santee has been excellent to work with."

Living large on the hill

Not all of Santee's development projects are focused on Town Center. Located above the city on Rattlesnake Mountain is Sky Ranch, a high-end residential community being developed by Lennar Homes, which was approved by the City Council June 8. Construction is expected to begin early in 2006 and be completed in three or four years.

Described by Lennar as a "Tuscan Village on the Hill," Sky Ranch will include a total of 371 homes and condominiums, some boasting views of the Pacific Ocean. According to Williford, the project is being designed to preserve much of the area's open space.

"Sky Ranch includes 377 acres," he explained. "Sixty percent of the entire site has been set aside as permanent open space, which will account for about 225 acres for the Santee Open Space Preserve."


O'Donnell is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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