By Daniel Smith
Known to some merely as the place where the Budweiser brewery sign casts a red glow on a clogged interchange en route to Tahoe, Fairfield has emerged in 2016 as an equally glowing real estate hot spot.[contextly_sidebar id=”SQjepRE57Ud6X1VWwLB6pqXeFJGe5Onx”]“That’s something that’s really important to [developers], having access to those thoroughfares and several ports,” said Eric Dakin, senior project manager for the City of Fairfield, speaking of the interchange of the 80, 680 and 12 freeways as well as the ports of Benicia, Stockton and Sacramento.
For those reasons and others in the seat of Solano County government, development is currently underway on two large, attached housing complexes, a 52-acre industrial park, and a pair of food manufacturing plants. Dakin noted that some businesses have moved to Fairfield to escape climbing rents in bigger, more central Bay Area cities.
“They’re kind of being pushed out of the market, which is OK. We’re able to accommodate them,” he promised, noting that San Francisco-based Just Desserts built a 75,000 square-foot plant last year at the freeway interchange to replace the facility it outgrew in Oakland.
The city has also attracted big developers like A.G. Spanos Co. and Panattoni Development Corp. to tackle large projects and take advantage of land that is inexpensive by Bay Area standards.
“We like the site,” said Scott Sullivan, project manager for Spanos at the Verdant at Green Valley luxury apartment complex being built on Business Center Drive not far from Solano Community College. Noting that Spanos built two previous complexes in Fairfield about a decade ago, he said, “We kind of feel it’s a great market to be in.”
Sullivan said the first few of Verdant’s 11 three-story buildings on 13.5 acres will be available for occupancy later this year, with the rest of the 286 units slated to open by spring of 2017. While a clubhouse, swimming pool and spa remain part of the plan, he noted one change in the amenities to be offered.
“It seems to be the vibe now with young people: more bocce, less putting green,” said the project manager, adding with a laugh, “Also, we have a hammock garden.”
The other big new residential project underway in Fairfield is the 148-unit Rockville Terrace Senior Community being built at the interchange by Vacaville-based Blue Mountain Homes. Ground was broken in September for the 107,000 square-foot complex, which is expected to employ 100 people when it opens.
Those residential developments will be populated by workers in Fairfield’s strong and growing industrial sector. Sacramento-based Buzz Oates, whose namesake founder died in December 2013, has built numerous projects of late in Fairfield and is currently building a 92,568 square-foot production plant for Critelli Olive Oil on Chadbourne Road in southwest Fairfield.
Dakin said that despite steady population growth, Fairfield has ample supply of good quality water from Lake Berryessa and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is important to local food and beverage companies like Jelly Belly Candy Co., Heretic Brewing Co., Guittard Chocolate Co., Englehart Gourmet Foods Inc. and of course Anheuser-Busch.
“They’re attracted to Fairfield because they don’t ever have to worry about running out of their main ingredient, and it’s high quality,” Dakin said of the water supply and capacity of the city treatment plants. “A lot of the manufacturing [firms], especially the food companies, are tracking Fairfield for the utilities.”
A former commercial broker with Collier’s International, Dakin said the city has resisted several overtures to add housing on land fronting I-80, noting, “Once you go residential, you rarely ever go back.”
Rather, the city seeks projects like the three-building, 1,039,000 square-foot industrial park being built by Panattoni, right across from a 970,000 square-foot park built by Buzz Oates in 2014 that was “all pre-booked before they started pushing dirt.”
Tim Schaedler, Northern California partner for Newport Beach-based Panattoni, said they bought the 52-acre site in September because “we’ve developed in the area for 30 years, and it’s the last large chunk of developable land.”
Davik and Schaedler both cited the regional vacancy rate for industrial space at 3 percent or less, which the latter said illustrates demand for the new park: “There’s just no new product available.”