WW Developers Carl Renezeder and Forrest Lucas visited Oxnard last week to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Wagon Wheel Family Apartments.

Oxnard's Golden Triangle on its way to fruition

Wagon Wheel development officially breaks ground

By Michael Sullivan 03/28/2013

The third point of Oxnard’s “Golden Triangle” is finally on its way to meeting its potential. After decades of deterioration and dilapidation, the area bordered by Oxnard Boulevard, Ventura Road and Highway 101, known for its famous roadside complex, the Wagon Wheel Motel and Restaurant, is about to undergo a major makeover.

Enthusiastic community members and developers Carl Renezeder of Oakwood Development Inc., based in Irvine, and Forrest Lucas of Lucas Oil Products, out of Corona, came together last week to celebrate the groundbreaking of a 120-unit affordable housing/apartment complex along Cactus Drive in Oxnard. The Wagon Wheel Family Apartments should be finished by September 2014, and will comprise the first phase of the massive 64-acre, $450 million project that will include 1,500 housing units, 50,000 square feet of commercial space and seven acres of parks and open space.

“It’s very positive for the community,” Lucas said.

Renezeder, who also leads a second life as a champion off-road racer, had been looking for a development project for some time when he came across the troubled Wagon Wheel site in 2010. Years before, another developer had tried to get a project going, which would have included two skyscraper apartment buildings, but with the crash of the real estate market and a shrinking economy, the vision crumbled, and eventually the property was put up for sale. Renezeder — already a familiar name in Ventura County, having developed the first phase of the Meadows housing tract in Camarillo — called Lucas, his longtime business partner and sponsor for his off-road racing, about the project. Lucas, formerly a long-haul truck driver until the age of 50, when he created the formula that launched his booming Lucas Oil corporation, knew of the Wagon Wheel Motel — having stayed there years ago — and signed on to develop the area. After years of courtroom drama to save the Wagon Wheel Motel ended and another case, by a disgruntled business partner who had worked with the previous owners of the site, fizzled out, the new vision is now well on its way to becoming a reality. But that reality is a little hard for some.

Along with improvement of the area, there will be some apparent casualties. After the Wagon Wheel Family Apartments are built, residents of the Wagon Wheel Trailer Lodge will have to find another place to live as the next phase will include demolition of that site.

Israel Perez, 32, of Ventura was visiting his father last week at the lodge. His father, a farmworker, has lived at the trailer lodge for the last 21 years — Perez spent six years of his life there as a kid as well.

“They [residents of the trailer lodge] are waiting to see what they end up with,” Perez said. “Most people have been looking for another place to live.”

Residents of the lodge will have first dibs on rentals at the Wagon Wheel Family Apartments, but there seems to be some unrest about such a change. Curtis Cannon, Oxnard’s community development director, said there are about 100 residents left; many have already moved out. The residents were informed about the demolition and redevelopment of the area around seven years ago. Wagon Wheel Bowl and Channel Islands Ice Center will also be demolished, but Lucas stated that he has no intention of shutting down those businesses any time soon, as that phase of the project won’t occur for years. And for those nostalgic about the Wagon Wheel Motel, Lucas said the sign will be refurbished and re-installed on site, as a requirement of the mitigation for the California Environmental Quality Act.

Cannon said that the project will be a big boost for the city and the area. The construction is expected to bring an estimated 7,500 jobs over the duration of the project and to exponentially boost the property value and increase property taxes as well as sales tax revenue as new businesses establish themselves in the area.

The Wagon Wheel redevelopment project, however, is just the last piece of a long-term plan known as Oxnard’s Golden Triangle, which includes the Esplanade mall, formerly an enclosed mall and then redeveloped as an open-air mall in the late 2001, anchored by Home Depot and BJs, and the much-anticipated Collection at RiverPark. While the Esplanade has seen its share of tenants come and go — Staples, Circuit City and, later this year, Ulta — nothing stays shuttered for too long, with Walmart now occupying one of the vacancies. Even the older building formerly occupied by Target at the south end of the Esplanade mall will soon be, at least partially, occupied by Food 4 Less within the next year. Target is now located at The Collection.

The Collection, completely unique among area shopping districts and set apart with its LEED construction and art installations throughout, continues to fill up, a project that seems sure to achieve regional shopping destination distinction. The long-awaited REI, which just opened last weekend, is one of the many businesses opening their doors in The Collection. Slated to open in the next year: Gandolfo’s Deli® New York Delicatessen expected to open by the end of March; Starbucks and Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in April; Gen Korean Barbecue House in May; Whole Foods in June; Yard House Restaurant and the Republic of Couture in July; Famous Dave’s in August; Ulta and H&M in October; and Toby Keith’s bar and grill in November. Besides this mega-shopping district attracting and leasing with some of the most popular chains in the country, it still has 100,000 square feet available for lease with another 200,000 square feet under construction.

With the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in The Collection at RiverPark as well as the The RiverPark apartments and homes, perhaps Oxnard should rename the trifecta $1 billion-plus redevelopment district the Platinum Triangle.  

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