Project: Woodland Corporate Center
In With the New, Revitalize the Old
Built in the winter of 2004, the Woodland Corporate Center (WCC) has proven to be a catalyst for downtown infill development. Less than two years after its completion the WCC achieved over a 90% occupancy rate. The success of this project has resulted in the city seeing significant interest for infill development in the downtown area. Despite the recent economic downturn, over three sites surrounding the center are slated for purchase and redevelopment by private developers. Before this active investment of time and money by the Woodland Redevelopment Agency and the Wiseman Company, developers had little incentive to conduct infill projects in the City’s historic.
Residents of Woodland hailed the Woodland Corporate Center as a new step forward in public-private partnerships in their community. The City of Woodland partnered with the Wiseman Company to combat the severe blight that had been creeping in on the heart of Woodlands famous historic downtown, a growing problem among smaller metropolitan cities.
Small Town, Big Challenges
The Woodland Corporate Center symbolizes a new wave of development in the largely agriculture and industrially dominated region. Food processing and agriculture industries, once a staple source of job production in Woodland, have experienced severe declines over the last 20 years and was a major factor in Woodlands high unemployment rate. As a departure from traditional Woodland industries, the 30,000 square foot Class “A,” pedestrian friendly, office building was built with high tech business professionals in mind. The three story building also includes an additional 5,000 square feet of retail space on the bottom level, enabling the building to seamlessly fit into the existing architecture of the historic downtown. The City saw the WCC as a catalyst to local business investment in the downtown with the goal of lowering the high vacancy rate and bringing life back to its vintage downtown
Filling in the Blanks
Replacing an aging and underutilized parking lot located on the gateway into the historic downtown, the Woodland Corporate Center created an appealing atmosphere in the entrance of the downtown. In contrast to a resurgence of new retail construction on the outer edges of the City, the downtown experienced little to no attention. Many longtime businesses located in the downtown were forced to leave or close down as pressures from the local shopping mall and new retail stores drew many customers from the once vibrant downtown. During this period vacant buildings deteriorated and discouraged new investments into the downtown.
In 2002, the Woodland Redevelopment Agency took an active interest in the revitalization of the downtown and transferred the former parking lot site to the Wiseman Company in order to promote the redevelopment goals of infill and rehabilitation. While the majority of the funding for the project was provided by the Wiseman Company, in the form of conventional loans, The Redevelopment Agency wrote down the value of the land and transferred it to the Wiseman Company. It also provided $550,000 for offsite improvements. The Agency was an important partner to the developer as they revitalized the downtown with business diversity while providing an inviting gateway into the historic district.
The redevelopment of the lot encountered serious hurdles to development based on the historic nature of the downtown. As an agriculture and industrial business dominated town, the construction of such an office oriented project raised concern from some residents. However, both the City and the Wiseman Company continued with the project, determined to show the potential for economic diversity and break from the predominant automotive sales businesses downtown.
The City of Woodland attempted to dispel the misgivings of some opponents by holding public hearings during which the scope of the project and the potential benefits and costs were relayed to residents. Residents were encouraged to attend the public hearings as ask questions or voice their concerns to the City Council as to the direction of the project. The Wiseman Company, determined to show its cooperation with Woodland residents, established a tree monitoring program to protect the 200 year old Heritage Oak Trees, a local monument from which the City derives its name, which the entrance to the downtown.
Visions for the Future
This risky project has helped to breathe new life downtown by showing the viability of offices in the historic downtown. There has been renewed interest for more diverse commercial offerings since the completion of the project, reaffirming the City’s vision for a vibrant downtown. Local residents find the new building a much more appealing and inviting structure to the historic downtown. When asked about the success of the project Cynthia Shallit, the Woodland Redevelopment Manager, stated, “The success of the project is due to all parties involved. The cooperation of the Wiseman Company while working with the City and its residents renews hope in our vision for a more vibrant and diverse downtown.”