When talking infill development in Stockton, Downtown garners the lion’s share of attention, and rightfully so. Downtown Stockton has a perfect street grid structure, strong transit hubs, a plethora of architecturally significant buildings and lots of open lots. These characteristics make the neighborhood the premier spot for infill in Stockton. But the conversation about infill should not stop at Downtown. There’s actually several other sites in the city that would make great infill projects or transit corridors, though they are not quite as obvious to most Stocktonians. Here are my picks for the best areas in Stockton for infill development NOT located in Downtown Stockton. I’ve included maps of potential parcels purely for illustrative purposes to show where development opportunities might lay. Take a look and vote below on which area is most ripe for infill.
Thornton Road Corridor
This heavily traveled corridor between Pershing Avenue and Bear Creek Slough is perfect for infill development. The road already serves as an important hub of commercial activity for the secluded northern portion of the city, home to such classic Stockton institutions as Best Lumpia, Stockton Ballroom and that Dairy Queen I used to go to in high school. But more importantly, Thornton boasts numerous large, empty lots begging for development. Take a look:
As you can see, there’s a lot to pick from. One can easily envision mid-rise apartments with ground floor retail sprouting along this route on any of the various empty lots. The downside is that the road itself is incredibly inadequate, as SCL pointed out last year in our “five worst streets in Stockton” feature. The road shrinks down to one lane in each direction and there are literally no sidewalks and next to no street lighting, turning a simple walk to 7-11 into a harrowing endeavor. This area is technically part of the county at the moment (which explains the terrible road conditions), so there would have to be major upgrades to make this corridor attractive to developers. However, the city has in the past identified the corridor for future improvement. And RTD’s Bus Rapid Transit Route 40 terminates just to the south at Hammer Lane, which raises the prospect of extending this popular service to the residents of this neighborhood. Let’s hope Thornton Road is reborn as a true “complete street” with bike lanes, easy pedestrian access, and, yes, more car lanes—everyone wins!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can you do infill development on a site that is already developed? My answer is that while the malls themselves are there, they are surrounded by a sea of surface parking that could easily be developed into mixed-use projects incorporating housing. Think about it: Sherwood and Weberstown have an overabundance of parking that sits completely empty for the vast majority of the year. Why not use this space for something more productive? By building on this glut of unnecessary parking, property owners get more rentable space and the city would benefit from higher property and sales tax revenues. Here are some areas where this could work:
This is not a new concept. Known as “gray field development,” many malls across the country are undergoing transformations similar to what I’ve laid out above. As part of the New Urbanism movement, vast parking lots serving underutilized retail centers are now considered prime territory for redevelopment, and the best part is, no farmland has to be sacrificed!
Our malls are perfect sites for gray field development especially given the transit connections that already exist along Pacific Avenue. In the last General Plan workshop, city staff eluded to this topic, stating that there is room for development in these areas, and perhaps these land owners just needed a cue from the city to get the ball rolling. Let’s hope this is true because gray field development would be an exciting and progressive step forward for Stockton
That area north of the Deep Water Channel
People always lament the lack of development on the Downtown waterfront, and with good cause. The Downtown Waterfront is the most visible, glaring opportunity for mixed-use, high density development that could truly transform our city. But just as enticing, if not more so, is a huge swath of empty waterfront land just to the west, past Interstate 5:
This roughly 60 acre piece of land offers a blank waterfront canvass for an intrepid developer. The location is ideal for many reasons: It’s relatively secluded, offers access to the water, and already has a major corporate headquarters (Duraflame’s head offices are located on the Klamath Ferry, moored at the mouth of that small bay). The site is also situated along the city’s future “Waterways Connection” project which will hopefully one-day link Downtown Stockton to Louis Park via a waterfront promenade.
But there are some serious obstacles that a developer would have to overcome to truly turn this into a thriving Stockton neighborhood on the water. First and foremost, the site is almost certainly contaminated from whatever industrial activity used to be housed on the site. This would require costly environmental remediation. But there are federal and state programs to help cover these costs. In fact, these “brownfields” grant programs were used by the city years ago to create Dean DeCarli Square. Another obstacle would be the Port of Stockton which would most likely object to any development so close to their operations. Large ships many times arrive in the middle of the night which can be loud for neighbors, and the port probably doesn’t want to deal with any more noise complaints. Still the potential of a site like this in any other city would be very intriguing to the development community, I would hope there would be similar interest here.
Airport Way Corridor
If Thornton Road represents the best opportunity for infill in North Stockton, Airport Way offers the same for South Stockton. And much like its northern counterpart, Airport Way is bursting with development potential. Check out all of these empty sites:
Unlike Thorntorn Road, a lot of the infrastructure is already in place. The streetscape has already been spruced up and is now quite inviting. More importantly, RTD’s Route 44 BRT already travels along this corridor. The lack of investment in South Stockton has always been a sore subject, but the opportunity is there. In fact, Financial Center Credit Union is building a new branch on Airport and 10th. Hopefully this is just the beginning of new investment along this vital south side corridor.
So there you have it. What areas do you think are best for development? Take our poll below.