The Black Voice News recently published a commentary critical of the City of Moreno Valley’s efforts to fund infrastructure improvements in the “City Center” area of our community. The commentary opined that the City Council “voted to push through a proposal to improve the value of 200 acres of land owned by developer Iddo Benzeevi by shifting $75 million of the city’s street improvement funds to improve street for a large medical complex on his undeveloped land.”
I appreciate the opportunity to address the opinions stated in the commentary.
Yes, the City is committing a total of approximately $75 million for the following infrastructure improvements:
• New ramps and bridge: Nason/State Route 60 interchange ($30 million)
• New southerly ramps: Moreno Beach/State Route 60 interchange and construction of the connection of Eucalyptus to Moreno Beach ($10 million)
• Cactus Avenue widening from Nason to Lasselle and Nason extension to Iris ($20 million)
• Ultimate improvements on Nason from Eucalyptus to Cactus ($15 million)
We are not shifting all $75 million from street maintenance projects in order to fund these improvements, as was implied in the commentary. In fact, nearly half of these funds were planned long ago for Nason and Moreno Beach interchange projects. Interchange projects take years of design and approvals prior to construction and Nason is currently under construction. Moreno Beach is currently being designed and is scheduled for bid for construction in June 2012. All of the projects noted above have been included in the City’s capital Improvement Program and Traffic Circulation Plan for years.
Moreno Valley adopted a medical overlay planning zone in this area over 4 years ago with a vision to develop a medical and health services corridor serving Moreno Valley and the region. Essentially, the City wanted to capitalize on the presence of the Riverside County Regional Medical Center and Kaiser Community Hospital, the emergence of Moreno Valley College with its emphasis on allied health services, and the planned UCR School of Medicine to bring quality health care and jobs to the region.
In February of this year, as City Manager I asked developer Iddo Benzeevi to reconsider the land use for 200 acres of his Aqua Bella housing development to advance the City’s medical overlay concept.
In just a matter of a few weeks, conceptual plans were prepared by the developer depicting a wellness campus with medical offices, retail stores, a hotel, office space, and classrooms.
The Black Voice News commentary was critical that the developer would benefit from Moreno Valley’s capital investments. I don’t disagree with that statement, but it must also be noted that other entities that will benefit include Kaiser, RCRMC, Moreno Valley College and other properties located in what is essentially the geographical center of Moreno Valley. More importantly, Moreno Valley residents will benefit as all of the following will be vastly improved: emergency vehicle access; access to the expanding Auto Mall and the shopping opportunities at Stoneridge Towne Centre and the Moreno Beach Plaza; residents’ commutes will become significantly safer and shorter. Additionally, the safety of the residents and shoppers that use Nason, Cactus, and the freeway interchanges will improve.
In the past capital improvement projects have been spread out by Council District, however through this commitment of funding we are concentrating these expenditures in one District to solve traffic problems experienced by all our residents. This strategic capital investment makes sense for all residents, as half of Moreno Valley’s top 20 sales tax producers are situated in this area of the community. Committing funds to preserve and increase this revenue, which goes into the General Fund and pays for citywide services such as public safety, is particularly critical for our community as we have seen our revenues tumble.
The medical corridor is a key element in an aggressive economic development action plan focused on creating much-needed jobs. With an unemployment rate of 16%, Moreno Valley cannot continue to wait around for development to bring the jobs. Strategically investing capital improvement funds in this critical area is our best opportunity to do so.
Henry T. Garcia is the City Manager of Moreno Valley
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