You may have noticed that a new fence has gone up around the future home of Scotts Valley’s town center off Mt. Hermon Road. In November 1,400 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the site, and with it, one of the reasons the town center hasn’t happened was resolved. The fence serves to protect this investment in the future of our city. The investment is part of a fresh approach to making the town center happen, an effort led by the Town Center Subcommittee, composed of Vice Mayor Randy Johnson and Council Member Derek Timm, along with City Manager Mali LaGoe.
Town Center History
Since the mid-1990s, various proposals have not produced a Scotts Valley town center, despite major efforts. Various challenges, like changes in the economy, the state takeaway of local redevelopment funding, unknown costs related to soil contamination, and mixed ownership of essential properties, have impeded progress.
In 2008, the city adopted a Town Center Specific Plan to guide the development of a mixed-use downtown, which would become the heart of the city. The Specific Plan includes 58 acres along Mt. Hermon Road. It focused on the creation of 310,000 square feet of commercial space and construction of 300 homes within that area. Fifty of those homes have been built off Bluebonnet Lane. The Specific Plan also describes a portion of land as the Town Center Core, which includes mostly vacant land of the former Skypark Airport.
Over the years, the city acquired some parcels of land in the Town Center Core with redevelopment funds and grant monies. A portion was sold to the developer who built Faultline Brewing Company, Home by Zinnia’s, MADabolic, Penny Ice Creamery and Starbucks, kickstarting more economic activity along Mt. Hermon Road. Another parcel has been leased for RV storage; however that lease expires in March 2024, opening the opportunity for redevelopment.
Over time, the city has assembled key complementary pieces of our future town center, including Skypark, the Senior Center, the Scotts Valley Library, Metro station and the Scotts Valley Cultural and Performing Arts Center.
Recent Town Center Progress
After K-Mart closed in 2020, then Mayor Derek Timm contacted Target and encouraged them to fill this space. And Target did come in 2022, bringing sales tax dollars to the city and inspiring major upgrades to the entire Scotts Valley Square Shopping Center.
In 2021, a retail study from national retail expert Robert Gibbs was completed. According to the study, the city should anticipate 82,000 square feet of retail space in the town center, much less than the 310,000 square feet planned in 2008. The COVID-19 pandemic also shifted how people shop and has impacted the retail economy from order-online and drive-up services to outdoor dining, smaller storefronts and experience offerings. These changes have to be accounted for as we move ahead with our town center planning.
More recently, the city has been taking a proactive role to remove barriers to the town center’s development, and to address housing demands. As market conditions have shifted and state mandated housing planning has ramped up, the 2008 Town Center Specific Plan is no longer viable. In 2022, the city hired Good City Company to assess how to update the Specific Plan for today’s conditions. As the strategy developed, an architecture firm, Urban Field Studio, was brought on to bring this new reality to a new vision of the Town Center Core layout. In addition, the city was “assigned” 1,220 homes to plan for, with 803 being affordable over the next eight years. This shifted 657 homes to be planned for the Town Center Specific Plan area, including 466 affordable units. This number is substantially higher than the 300 planned back in 2008. The increase in homes is the direct result of the statewide shortage of affordable housing and state housing mandates.
Many people don’t realize that 8 of the 14 acres of the old airport site are owned by the City of Santa Cruz. This has posed another barrier to past development efforts. Scotts Valley requested Congressional Earmark funding from Congressman Panetta to help the city acquire this land. This funding request is recommended at $1 million, pending congress passing a FY24 budget. Owning this land will enable Scotts Valley to work directly with a future developer to build the 14-acre core area including commercial, public and residential uses.
An Exciting Future
By taking these steps, Scotts Valley is working to make the future town center a reality. Removing obstacles and unknowns will enable the city to bring more affordable housing, retail businesses, outdoor experiences and a gathering place for residents and visitors to the heart of Scotts Valley. Stay tuned for further developments by visiting ScottsValley.gov/towncenter.