Ten Space Reimagines Downtown Stockton

By Elizabeth Stevens
Central Valley Business Journal

Now that Stockton’s bankruptcy is resolved, and the economy is shifting out of neutral, community leaders are starting to think about the future.

Ten Space, a development company formerly known as the Cort Group, has set its sights on revitalizing the eastern part of downtown Stockton. On March 23, the City Council awarded it  the exclusive right to negotiate to buy city-owned parcels in a 15-acre section of the downtown area bordered by Miner Street to the north, Main Street on the south, Aurora Avenue on the east side and Sutter Street on the west. Its eastern edge is adjacent to the Robert J. Cabral train station.

Dubbed the Open Window Project, Ten Space wants to refurbish buildings in the area to add retail, restaurants, art studios and up to 1,400 units of market-rate housing. There are also plans for new buildings.

“Old, forgotten buildings will be given new life wherever possible, and new buildings will finally grace Stockton’s long stagnant skyline,” Ten Space Director of Community Development David Garcia wrote on his blog Stockton City Limits.

The Ten Space team is made up of Garcia, President and CEO, Zac Cort; and Chief Brand Officer, Tim Egkan.

To learn more about Ten Space and its vision for downtown, Central Valley Business Journal editor Elizabeth Stevens talked with Zac Cort.

CVBJ: If things go the way you want, what will downtown Stockton look like 10 years from now?

Cort:  Downtown will be transformed into a vibrant, walkable, sustainable area. It will be a dense area with mixed-use housing. It will have flex-space retail, restaurants, creative studio, urban ag, green space.

We’re talking about a 15-acre footprint here. It’s a tight footprint, so it will be very dense. It will be very walkable. We hope to have some streets vacated that are underutilized and have an area where people can have a convenient lifestyle.

You’re very close to transit. You know, Stockton has an enviable multi-modal transportation infrastructure. It includes our port. It has great rail systems, freeway access, our transportation down here is just incredible — very underutilized, and we hope that if we can build around that and build good infrastructure with housing and commercial.

CVBJ – Is there support in Stockton for more focus on downtown — both among residents and city staff?

Cort: The answer to that is ‘yes.’ Absolutely. I think one of the gripes people have had is everybody wants downtown, but how do you do it?  How do you implement it? For us it was one step at a time to take big bites out of it.

There’s always going to be people who are going to say, ‘We don’t believe in downtown. Or it’s dicey down there.’ We’ve taken it upon ourselves to prove that’s not the case.

In all honesty, the city’s been great. They’ve shown a lot of support. Everybody wants a vibrant downtown, but it’s really the implementation and how to do you do it. So, we just continue to peel back the layers of the onion and try to figure it out. The support’s been wonderful.

CVBJ: Are you modeling this after other cities?

Cort:  Absolutely. We’ve taken models from places we’ve visited in Australia, to Sacramento to Long Beach to San Diego. Downtowns across the country, across the world that have completely been rejuvenated. Some people have never left their downtowns.

Yes, we take bits and pieces from other areas, but at the same time we feel like we have our own niche market here, and we have our own creative space.

CVBJ: What particularly drew you to wanting to build out downtown?

Cort: I wholeheartedly believe in this. I was born here. I would come back and visit, and I would always wonder how you had such a really creative, unique downtown. You had old structures, but you had gaps in the downtown that allowed for new construction. You had water, you had freeways, you had rail.

You had good barriers that gave you comfort and boundaries so you could actually design and have a footprint of a downtown, and I thought the opportunity was great to come back to my city and try and implement the rebirth.

Sprawl has been an issue in many cities, but especially in Stockton. It’s sustainable growth. It’s proper planning, and it’s important for our community.

People want an alternative way of living. In many Valley cities you have one option, and we found through an immense amount of studies by ourselves and consultants that there is a large — I would say a majority of the population in the Valley and Stockton proper that are urbanites.

They want to live in an area where it’s convenient, where they can walk, they can live and shop and work all in a short area. It’s a convenience factor.

I saw a great opportunity here and I wanted to give back. This is my passion.

CVBJ: How much do you think this is going to cost?

Cort: That’s a difficult question. There’s a lot of different avenues. There’s cash. There’s debt. There’s different types of transit-oriented development subsidies. It depends on what public entities might play a part in here.

All in all I think you’re looking at anywhere between $150 million and $200 million project if it was completely built out.

We would like to develop it ourselves. We’re open for other investment and folks that can help expedite the development of downtown. We by no means think we’re the only ones that can and will do this. We would like to have partners, specific partners who can help get this product out to market, so we can actually have a vibrant downtown.

CVBJ: You just changed your name to Ten Space. Was that a name change or was that the creation of a new company?

Cort: Both. It was a name change. We wanted something fresh. We wanted something new. We’re mavericks downtown, and we wanted something to say, ‘OK, we’re moving to the next stage of evolution for our company.’

Tenspace does complete community development practices that don’t just focus on constructing buildings, but we also develop community. So, we develop the arts, culture and entertainment that stimulates local economies.

For us, we don’t want to think of ourselves just as builders. We want to develop community. We want to develop a real sense of pride and ownership, and it starts from a small music venue to housing.

So that’s a very, very important part of us as people and as what we stand behind as a company.

This story originally appeared in the Central Valley Business Journal. View the article here.