STOCKTON — A dollar these days might buy you half a cup of coffee, one-third of a gallon of gas or one quarter of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
But there is at least one exception to the vanishing buying power of a $1 bill.
Consider the city-owned 1.6-acre vacant lot on the east side of Airport Way bordered by Eighth Street to the north and Ninth Street to the south.
Pending approval Tuesday night by the Stockton City Council, STAND Affordable Housing is set to purchase the aforementioned vacant lot — worth at least $175,000 on the open market — for the low, low price of 100 pennies.
And if STAND’s plans for the land become a reality in a few years, it could turn out to be the best dollar anyone has spent in Stockton in a long, long time.
As recently as early 2016, the stretch from Eighth Street south to 10th Street on Airport Way was a barren no-man’s land where the only business being conducted was within the decadent confines of the New Grand Save Market.
That began to change two years ago when city code enforcers shut down a business they referred to as a “cesspool” of illicit activity.
Since then, the new Family Dollar store that replaced New Grand Save has given long-neglected neighborhood residents their first viable shopping venue in decades, and STAND is promising to do much, much more to improve the area.
“Our most critical problem down here is a lack of health care services in southeast Stockton,” Fred Sheil, the administrator of STAND, said last week. “It’s what the community has been asking for, for a long, long time.”
The STAND project includes plans for medical, dental and behavioral health clinics operated by Community Medical Centers, along with a pharmacy.
Beyond that, the STAND plan includes retail, a farmer’s market or fresh produce stands, a coffee shop and as many as 60 affordable residential units.
Sheil said he expects the finished product to look a lot like modernistic plans drawn up last year by Stanford University engineering students.
“The overall structure is still the same” as the Stanford plans, Sheil said. "All the fine details, how many housing units, what kind of housing units, it’s all to be decided.”
Financing still must be finalized. Tax credits are still to be obtained. And there’s a possible environmental cleanup of chemicals left behind by a dry cleaner that formerly occupied part of the land.
And there’s former Councilman Ralph Lee White, who 10 years ago donated to the city a portion of the land STAND intends to acquire and develop.
White said last year he donated the land so it would be used “for public purposes” — namely, a fire station and a police substation. Neither is included in STAND’s plan.
Sheil and city officials have said they are not concerned by White’s claims. But could attorneys hired by White delay STAND’s plans?
“It would be a shame,” Sheil said.
White did not respond to a phone message Friday seeking to learn if his position on the matter has changed in the past 12 months.
If all goes as planned, Sheil said, ground could be broken as soon as late 2019, with a grand opening late the next year or in early 2021.
Between the STAND project and a separate developer’s plan to build retail businesses immediately to the south of the Rancho San Miguel Market less than a mile to the north, change finally appears to be coming to southeast Stockton.
“I think there will be huge changes to this section of Airport Way,” Sheil said. “You’re not going to recognize it in five years.”
Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.