By Jim Tortolano
Who will plan and develop the historic renovation of the Civic Center in Westminster? The first hurdle toward being awarded that assignment was cleared Wednesday night by the Sheldon Group of Newport Beach.
On a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Sergio Contreras abstaining, the council approved a nine-month exclusive negotiating agreement with Sheldon. While it’s possible that the agreement to negotiate won’t lead to a development deal, the ENA gives Sheldon the inside track.
The approval of the firm, headed by Steve Sheldon, followed tributes to Amanda Jensen, 35, the city clerk who was fatally shot in Seal Beach on Sunday in an incident which police are still investigating. A Los Alamitos police captain was also dead at the scene.
“Most importantly, Amanda was a beloved daughter and loving mother of three beautiful children,” said City Manager Eddie Manfro, after praising her professional accomplishments. “Let us remember now and always, that the decisions we make now and in the future are insignificant compared to the fragility and sanctity of human life.”
Three developers were invited to address the council on their qualifications to conceive and execute a plan for a thoroughly renovated complex on the 8.32-acre site on Westminster Boulevard at All American Way.
Olson Group, City Ventures and Sheldon each made 10-minute presentations, but it was the latter that won approval for a nine-month exclusive negotiating agreement with the city for the project.
“The vision in its totality is a benefit without burden,” said Sheldon. “I believe we can have a purpose-built Westminster civic center complex without the citizens of Westminster having to shoulder the financial burden.”
In re-thinking the campus, which includes not only several municipal buildings, but also the West Justice Center court complex and the Westminster branch of the Orange County Public Library, all three candidates spoke of the need to reconfigure parking, and possibly consolidate the existing city hall, senior center, community service center and library into one building, freeing up space for other uses, including – potentially – housing, office and commercial uses.
Sheldon is best known in Garden Grove for the development of the 220-unit Chapman Commons condominium development on Chapman Avenue east of Harbor Boulevard, and an unsuccessful effort to build a housing complex on a city-owned parking lot west of the historic Main Street.
Contreras explained his abstention not on his opposition to Sheldon, but on a desire to have more information before awarding the ENA.