In what might have seemed like “State of the City: Future Edition,” Riverbank City Planner John Anderson recently previewed for Chamber of Commerce members the direction development and growth appears to be moving for the City of Action.
The recent edition of ‘Lunch and Learn’ found members of the Riverbank Chamber listening to Anderson describe upcoming plans for changes coming to Riverbank, including expansion of the city to the east and the west. Expansion north and south is constrained by the Stanislaus River and the upcoming North County Corridor at or near Claribel Road, respectively.
Speaking of the corridor, he said he expected its completion to bring the realignment of State Highway 108 from McHenry Avenue north of Modesto to the current highway, east of Oakdale.
Also, he expressed concern with access to the route on the east side of Riverbank. He said an urban interchange is necessary at Eleanor Avenue to allow a connection to the thoroughfare for commercial and industrial properties on that side of town.
Anderson said the Riverbank Industrial Complex, formerly the Army Ammo Plant, on Claus Road is near full occupancy as the transfer from the Army to the city progresses. He foresees a bright future for additional tenants as currently unused space is made available.
He described an upcoming series of projects designed to improve travel on Patterson Road, from Roselle Avenue to Riverbank High School on Claus Road. Anderson said he expects most of the improvements to be funded by various grants, with a stop light at Roselle, an improved vehicle and pedestrian crossing at the BNSF tracks, and another light at First Street.
The planned widening of Patterson Road will be made more difficult by the varying street widths, block to block, and will require creative lane designs, and possibly, elimination of some parking. Parking is already prohibited along the railroad right of way on the north side, next to the railroad right of way. He said he’s expecting the plan to go to the council in the next month and a half.
With the moving forward of the Downtown Specific Plan, Anderson noted, proposals for utilizing the former cannery area, west of the railroad tracks, can progress as well. The plan has been a long time receiving approval, since the economy, and thus demand for the improvements, has ebbed and flowed over the many years since it was first undertaken. The most recent version, moving forward, will make mixed-use proposals more feasible under current economic conditions.
To the west, Anderson described proposals to annex and develop a 380-acre area bounded by Claribel and the MID canal, south and north, and Oakdale and Coffee roads east and west. He said a ‘Crossroads West’ project would include multi-use residential/commercial projects. Also, it might include a Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Station and a potential middle school campus of the Sylvan School District. He said the city hopes to be able to continue phase two of the Sports Complex and increase parking there.
To the east, he talked about what’s become known as ‘Bruinville,’ a series of developments in the area surrounding Riverbank High School.
Some of these, he said, had been approved before the financial crisis and are just now being revised to meet current need for housing, as demand and the economy improve.
Anderson said the departure of Rizo Lopez Cheese from its Santa Fe Street facility has left an opportunity for a small specialty cheese company, made from sheep and goats, to get a start in its place.
As it was recently approved by the Planning Commission, Anderson indicated he expected to see construction drawings soon for the IMAX addition to the Galaxy Theatre complex.
Also under way, he said, is the preparation of what is known as ‘Pad C’ at the current Crossroads Shopping Center, on the northwest corner of Claribel and Oakdale roads. He said a 9,500 square-foot foundation is being constructed, big enough for two or three storefronts. Anderson said he was expecting there to be at least one new food outlet there, one that is not yet seen in Riverbank, with some speculating that it could be a Panda Express.
Anderson is president of J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning, a company that presently contracts with the City of Riverbank to provide planning services. For a period of time at the beginning of the economic downturn, the city closed its planning department, with the departure of J.D. Hightower. As demand for construction planning has returned to the area, the city hired the firm to serve on a consultant basis.
Anderson indicated, however, that the city is hiring a new Planning Director and she is expected to be starting the new position soon.