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By Michael Forster, San Juan Capistrano

The proposed River Street Market Place development has been getting a lot of attention lately. Negative exaggerations and bullying tactics are hampering the ability to have reasonable, fact-based reviews and discussions. Recent hyperbole claiming the development of River Street would have the same negative impact on the city as building a shopping center in the middle of the Mission grounds is completely over-the-top. No doubt distilling differing opinions with respectful discussion can lead the way to a better project. However, misrepresenting the facts and stoking emotions to a fevered pitch does no one any good.

The Ito family has been a part of our town for a long time, responsibly tending to their land on the southwest perimeter of the Historic Los Rios District. They now would like to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Developers have been interested in their property in the past, but the Ito’s didn’t believe those developers had the same appreciation and vision that they have found with Frontier Real Estate Investments.

The importance of having the right developer for a project, especially in the historically sensitive Los Rios District, cannot be overstated. I’ve had unsavory dealings with developers solely bottom-line focused that have come in, moved dirt, slapped up buildings, collected the cash and left town. We should give the Ito family credit for thoughtfully choosing Frontier for this project. Frontier is a class act with the highest level of integrity and a track record of successful, award-winning historically sensitive projects. Frontier cares deeply how the project will integrate within and enhance the special neighborhood that is Los Rios. Frontier Managing Partner Dan Almquist, who lives in and raises his family in our town, has spent many hours reaching out to the Los Rios neighborhood and has made numerous alterations integrating many of the suggestions. It would be tough to find another developer with the integrity and personal appreciation of our town’s rich history as Almquist and Frontier.

The city of San Juan Capistrano has robust processes that will provide comprehensive project review, design, planning and approval oversight. Let’s allow our city’s development approval process proceed and play out accordingly so that we end up with a vetted set of facts to review the proposed development properly and fairly. We should not allow the corruption of the process by the bullying tactics of a few who don’t respect the property owner’s rights or don’t want the project approved at any cost.

Done right, River Street Market Place would end up a win-win for everyone. I believe Los Rios property values would increase with this beautiful asset nearby. Residents and visitors alike would have a great gathering spot for everyone to enjoy. Many jobs would be created and hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in revenues would be generated to help fund the many infrastructure maintenance and repair needs of our city. Done right, this project will be something we all can be proud of and enjoy while making a strong contribution toward keeping our town vibrant and economically stable for years to come.

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