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Projects moving forward in Chula Vista

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Although the building industry has been hit hard by the nationwide economic slowdown, there are signs of life in Chula Vista as builders and developers eye the city's potential and make preparations for the near future.

In eastern Chula Vista, developers are gearing up for the real estate rebound. They're laying the groundwork for construction of up to 16,383 units on the Otay Ranch, including McMillin's 215-acre Eastern Urban Center (EUC), the University Park and Research Center and South Otay Ranch Villages, proposed by the Otay Land Co. and JPB Development.

While the city continues to process entitlements for the EUC, the Planning and Building department has just finished soliciting Requests for Qualifications from land use consultants for the university and South Otay Ranch Villages, described by planners as the largest single chunk of development in Chula Vista since the mid-1990s. Developers are mobilizing in anticipation of a significant turnaround in the housing market.

City leaders are working toward attracting a four-year university to Chula Vista and developing a technology and business park on the same site. Just a few months ago, the city wrapped up negotiations to acquire land that's valued between $250 million to $300 million for the University Park and Research Center (UPRC) site. Council members unanimously approved the transfer of 160 acres from JPB Development and 50 acres from the Otay Land Co. to the city, bringing the total university acreage to approximately 375 acres -- a footprint that's larger than the San Diego State University campus. The addition of the final acreage marks the end of land negotiations and the beginning of an intensive period of university and college recruitment.

"We're on our way," said Mayor Cheryl Cox. "With the completion of the land acquisition, discussions with established universities and colleges can shift into high gear. This is a milestone in our efforts to offer the people of South County new educational opportunities. We're also excited about the high paying jobs a university and a technology park will create in our city."

Sharing the university site will be High Tech High Chula Vista, a prestigious charter school that will focus on environmental education when it opens on the site in January 2009. School construction started last spring at the corner of Hunte Parkway and Discovery Falls Road.

Students will find the emphasis on the environment in Chula Vista extends well beyond the classroom.

The city of Chula Vista is at the forefront of environmental policy. This spring, the City Council adopted seven precedent-setting measures that, when fully implemented, are expected to bring residents cleaner air, less congested streets and lower energy bills. The measures are recommendations of the Climate Change Working Group, community volunteers tasked with exploring ways the city can combat global warming.

One of the most innovative and ambitious measures is the recommendation to adopt green building standards throughout the city, a move that would surpass the state's toughest regulations for energy efficiency. Some of the other measures call for replacing city fleet vehicles with alternative fuel or hybrid substitutes; offering no cost energy assessments for businesses; and creating a cost effective opportunity to install solar or other renewable energy systems.

Along the waterfront, the city is moving forward in partnership with the Unified Port of San Diego on the implementation of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan. In addition to extensive parks and environmental open space, two projects will anchor the development of the Bayfront -- Gaylord Entertainment's resort hotel and conference center and Pacifica's 1,750-unit condominium project. In addition to acting as catalysts for the redevelopment of the bay front, both projects will showcase energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction. The Environmental Impact Report for the bay front development is in its final stages of review and will be presented to the Port's board of commissioners for certification before the end of the year.

Chula Vista was the hardest hit city in the region when new construction came to a virtual standstill. But with an abundance of developable land and an enviable quality of life, observers predict the city of 225,000 residents will lead San Diego County out of today's recession.

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