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Davis, Calif., Reviews 45-Acre Innovation District

Davis is looking to replace fields of wheat with homes and work spaces for a new generation of technologists.

by / January 16, 2015
The Nishi Gateway is a 45-acre swath of unirrigated wheat that grows between the University of California, Davis, and Interstate 80. Photo via Davis Vanguard

Watch out Sacramento – Davis, Calif., is growing. Its City Council reviewed a proposal years in the making on Jan. 13 that could bring a new innovation district near the city’s downtown area. Most recently dubbed the Downtown University Gateway District, and also known as the Nishi Gateway, the new district would contain housing, and commercial and research space, replacing a 45-acre swath of unirrigated wheat growing between UC Davis and Interstate 80.

Mayor Dan Wolk said the project, which can be traced back to a 2010 housing development steering committee report, would assist the development local startups. The logistics and business relationships aren’t all sorted out, not everyone in the community is in favor of the project, but the most recent city council meeting was more of an update than a moment of truth for the project, said Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White.
 
Ultimately the city will get three big benefits out of the project, White said. Those benefits are the economic fruit of $500,000 to $700,000 in commercial real estate, 15 acres of which would be deeded to the city, an increase in housing availability for students and young technologists, and a mechanism for university research projects to spin out of academia and into the private sector.
 
“This creates energy and new development and interest,” White said. “As we know from the past, if you do a good catalyst project, things around it change. The sense here is that there would be other things in close proximity, including downtown, that would see additional investment. … It’s exciting times.”
 
White estimated that a council decision on the project would happen sometime in November or December of 2015, and a public vote would happen sometime in 2016. Construction would begin in 2017. In the meantime, the public is responding well to the project, White said, and many seem to be excited, along with the detractors.
 
A gathering of public comments on various aspects of the project can be found online at nishigateway.org, where users were able to submit comments, see the project’s timeline and current status. 
 
Some remark favorably on the project, citing the benefit of new businesses and housing within walking distance of the university, while others find fault with the many of the projects yet unresolved logistical, regulatory or financial issues. White said the project bodes well not just for Davis, but also for the entire Sacramento region.

 

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.