Developers reach out to residents with Village South block party

The future Village South development project was introduced to the public last weekend with a lively block party.

The specific plan and the environmental review for the project are still months away from being revealed. But that didn’t stop two developers involved—Village Partners and Arteco Partners—from throwing a festive bash to educate Claremonters about the project.

Arteco has experience in Claremont—it’s run by Jerry and Ed Tessier, who developed the Claremont Packing House.

At the block party were a number of local vendors, from newcomer Mexican restaurant Dia de los Puercos to mainstays such as Noren’s Nursery. Live bands kept things festive as residents listened in on talks about transit-oriented development and sustainability.

Kaitlin Morris, the development manager for Village Partners, said the block party was conceived for people “to experience the space in a pedestrian way.”

The centerpiece of the block party was the historic Vortox building, built by the Garner family in 1928 and the subject of increased preservation talk. David Shearer of Claremont Heritage said he had met with the city years ago about preserving the building, and “convinced them it was worth saving.”

Ms. Morris said the initial plan for the building is to turn it into a food hall. Arteco was behind the Riverside Food Lab, a similar food hall that opened recently.

Ms. Morris said the food hall would focus on local restaurants and businesses. She said it was an option that doesn’t currently exist in the Village—a hub for a variety of bites to eat on a small scale.

“That’s the great thing about food halls—you got something for the vegetarians, something for the carnivores, something for someone who wants a drink,” she said.

Sustainable Claremont was also present at the block party, educating residents about the importance of net zero energy, meaning producing as much renewable energy as consumed in a year.

Dick Haskell of Sustainable Claremont said he sat in on a meeting earlier this year about what Arteco and Village Partners envisioned for the Vortox building. He said he was “blown away” by the sketches of what the development would look like.

“It was very consistent with the goals and guiding principles,” he said.

He noted that not only is net zero energy a possibility, it soon will be required by law. Going into effect January 1, 2020, under the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, state guidelines will mandate “all new residential construction must be net zero energy,” Mr. Haskell said.

Transit oriented development, or TOD,  will play a significant role in the creation of Village South, due to the proximity of the Metrolink and possibly the future Gold Line station. Ms. Morris pointed to research that shows TOD reduces vehicle miles traveled and the number of cars per household.

“There’s a lot of demand, and it allows more people to access employment and access their neighborhood and it’s more sort of inclusive type of development,” she said.

The Village South project is still in its beginning stages, but there has already been a considerable amount of buzz surrounding the development. Some have been concerned about the proposed density of the project and how it strays from the goals and guiding principles that have recently been passed.

Others have questioned the timing of the EIR before preliminary plans for the project have been disclosed.

Ms. Morris said the most important thing is to have these conversations. “I think that it’s challenging, but the consensus building process is a long one, and this involves conversations on how we connect jobs with housing, with services,” she said, as well as land use and changing demographics.

“We’re looking forward to more engagement,” Ms. Morris later added. “Claremont’s kind of a dream community to develop in, because people are so informed, they’re so engaged and they’re really passionate about their community. They have lots of great ideas.”

When asked if the project was on the right track, Mr. Haskell said it was “a little premature” to make a judgment call.

“We still don’t have a full draft of the [Village South Specific Plan],” he said. “Until we do and until its open for public comment, it’s a little premature to really complain or praise.”

But, he said, he was determined to stay in touch with all parties involved, including the city, Village Partners, Arteco Partners and Sargent Town Planning.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” he said.

—Matthew Bramlett


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