Perhaps nothing is as important for Stockton to realize its potential as long-overdue downtown and waterfront redevelopment. This month brough hallelujah-level news.

The City Council voted 6-0, with Mayor Kevin Lincoln recused, to approve the South Pointe Village housing project, a minimum of 520 housing units on the inner harbor’s south bank.

“We look across that river, we see so much opportunity in this downtown,” said Ron Beit, CEO of RBH Group, a Newark, N.J., based development group. “And we really, really want to be a part of the city’s future and this downtown’s future.”

Five hundred twenty units equals roughly 1,040 people — equals waterfront revival — equals the start of a broader downtown comeback.

The great thing about this project is that most of the housing will be, at long last, market rate in price. Yes, at least 15% of South Pointe’s units must be affordable. That is fine. But 85%, the lion’s share, will be priced for working-, middle-, and upper-class residents. That is so important.

“Everybody wants us to have downtown and an entertainment district as an active, livable area,” said Councilmember Dan Wright. “That doesn’t happen if you don’t have a market rate. People (in affordable housing) aren’t going to be spending disposable income because they don’t have disposable income. So this is big.”

This is indeed big, even historic, the most important capital improvement project since the Events Center 20 years ago. Not counting the Open Window Project, the east-downtown redevelopment project, which suffered a heartbreaking collapse.

This accomplishment derives from a level of competence and ambition all too often missing in City Hall. Stockton residents might want to appreciate it, especially since a certain misinformation site relentlessly attacks City Manager Harry Black. Because, you know, strong leaders that do good things for the city should be smeared so greedheads and charlatans can take over.

Rendering of RBH Group's Teachers Village project in Newark, NJ. RBH has been approved to build 520-plus housing units on Stockton's waterfront. (Images courtesy of RBH)

Black, who boasts extensive capital project experience (see paragraph 4 of his city bio), saw why Stockton redevelopment wasn’t moving forward, despite a General Plan that swapped sprawl for infill: the city had not retooled its policies to make infill easier, said Stockton Economic Development Director Carrie Wright.

“The economic development tools, incentives, the economic development work, did not follow and change to adapt to the General Plan until City Manager Harry Black came here,” she said.

The ground on the 9.2-acre site on Weber Avenue west of the new City Hall was contaminated from decades of industrial use. Previous city administrations waited around for a developer willing to clean it up. This staff realized the need for a brownfields program. Economic Development Manager Jordan Peterson obtained millions in grant money to clean up the ground, which made the site more attractive.

Developer Beit praised staff to the Council: “Really you should know they well-represent you. They run this team efficiently and effectively. Quite frankly, we’re still here today because of them.”

RBH agrees to build, according to city documents, “market rate, workforce, and independent living senior residential units; retail space; community/civic space; parking; and ancillary site improvements …”

“Educational space” derives from RBH’s earlier model, Teachers Village, a Newark housing project similar in some respects to South Pointe. Teachers Village carved out space for teachers and schools. The educational and retail space — in fact, the design for the entire Southe Pointe project — is yet to be determined.

But the outlines are clear: at least 300 housing units by 2028, the rest by 2030. Modern housing with river views over retail shops and cafes open to the Waterfront Promenade, umbrella tables, a district teeming with people. Add the USS Lucid, the minesweeper being restored near Louis Park, moving as planned to a vacant spot west of the Waterfront Warehouse and opening for tourism: all clearly a huge boost to downtown revival.

“We believe that the project will be a catalyst for additional development in the downtown,” Carrie Wright said. “People need to see it to believe it to see the investment value there. So I believe that it should be proof of concept for others that are thinking about investing in the downtown core.”

Still, there are concerns. Homeless tent encampments are strung along Stockton’s waterfront. The area has suffered from vandalism for years. A marina management company pulled out because its local manager was assaulted. The main shelter complex is a block south of the project site.

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Obviously, police will play a role. Also, 2024 will see completion of numerous projects addressing homelessness: housing projects, the Pathway project, a navigation center.

Carrie Wright also channeled urbanist Jane Jacobs, who wrote that when there are “eyes on the street” from area buildings, ground-floor shops, and pedestrians, the bad actors behave.

“The best way to reinvigorate an area is to have a thriving neighborhood,” she said. “So you’re going to have more eyes on that space, more activation, more everyday utilization.”

Hundreds of city workers soon will move into the adjacent Waterfront Towers, further populating the area, she added.

Mayor Lincoln, by the way, recused himself because the law prevents officials from voting on projects when they’ve taken developer money. Lincoln accepted a $3,300 political contribution from attorney Michael D. Hakeem, who represents RBH.

No city can be healthy if its heart is sick. If South Pointe Village becomes a reality, it’ll amount to Stanford-class cardiology on Stockton’s downtown. Congratulations to city staff on a job well done.

Fitzgerald’s column runs on Wednesdays. On Twitter and Instagram as Stocktonopolis. Email:mfitzgeraldstockton@gmail.com

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4 Comments

  1. Redevelopment in Stockton very much needed, so let's get the ball rolling. What can I do to help. L King

  2. You really want to get downtown rolling? Then do like nearly every other surrounding county.... Let someone build a casino, a waterfront casino. Please don't give me any of the “it would attract the wrong element or it would attract crime” arguments.... please, it couldn't get much worse. And talk about attracting people and bars and restaurants and lots of much needed revenue. What a setting, waterfront marina, ballpark, arena and Casino! Bam!

  3. This is great news! I wish the city could figure out what to do with West Fremont street, along side the river. Just west of the Stockton ballpark are very old docks and warehouse buildings made of wood. A few of them caught fire over the years. If downtown was extended west of Fremont along the river, it would be remarkable.

    Imagine having restaurants along the downtown river, sports bars, karaoke, café shops, breakfast and brunch while you enjoy a nice cup of coffee looking at a view of the river.

    I don’t know who owns the property alongside the river of west Fremont street. But it’s obviously been neglected for so many years and the city needs to attend to it.

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