Fifteen years in the making, the Manabe-Ow Business Park could be functional sometime next year.
That's what Watsonville City Manager Carlos Palacios told the city council as a best-case scenario for the long-awaited project that some have built up to be a job-creating savior for the chronically unemployed city.
George Ow Jr., whose family is one of the property owners of the planned business park, spoke enthusiastically about moving forward on the project.
“I’m invested in Watsonville," said Ow. "I have a lot of optimism. … People are down about the economy; I’m not discouraged.”
The city will pay Devcon Construction, Inc., up to $406,212 to design the infrastructure for the business park on the west edge of town, the city council voted Tuesday. The work is due no later than Sept. 12.
The decision to design the first phase of the business park—130,000 square feet of space, as well as roads, utilities and a bridge to access the area—came after quite a bit of discussion.
Sea View Ranch residents, the housing development closest to the planned business park, raised concerns about traffic and quality-of-life issues. Colleen Walo, a Sea View Ranch resident speaking on behalf of her community, said they want to be involved in the planning process.
"I am not against the Manabe Ow project, nor are most of the residents of Sea View Ranch.”
Protecting the slough area and bidding out the design work to get the best quote was also brought up but Walo and other Watsonville residents.
Jenn Laskin, a Renaissance High teacher and Brown Berets mentor, said she’s supportive of how the project has developed and hopes it will bring jobs and hope to young people.
“This project supports the Green Technology Academy that’s opening at Cabrillo and it’s very exciting to have the laboratory where students can develop their skills," Laskin said.
She encourage the city to create eco-tourism jobs in the area.
But City Council Member Emilio Martinez said he's ready to build anything on the site, especially if it will create jobs quickly.
“My dream is to have a casino," he said. "Don’t laugh. Destination Watsonville.”
Palacios said it's possible to have businesses open at the site in late 2013 if the project gets rolling.
"This is a great project," he said.
Ow—a contributor to the , sending sends college-bound high school students to visit prestigious East Coast universities—said he's putting his best effort forth to benefit the community.
“I think it’s exciting to work with the city of Watsonville to try to provide jobs and economic activity," Ow said.
Mayor Eduardo Montesino recused himself from the discussion and decision because of a conflict of interest.
In other city council business:
- The liquor license to sell beer and wine at the Union 76 station on East Lake Avenue was renewed.
- said the city is in good shape during his mid-year budget review. There are positive projections for the $33 million general fund is, despite looming threats. "This fiscal year, we're balanced," he said.