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Good Urbanism: RiverPark Master Plan by AC Martin Partners

Oxnard, California: 700 acres of abandoned gravel-mining pits and a failed commercial project to be transformed into a model economically viable, environmentally sound, livable community.

by ArchNewsNow
February 10, 2003

Oxnard is a fast-growing edge city midway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Like most of Southern California, it faces overwhelming demands for housing with little available land. In addition, the community passed an unusual voter initiative in 1998 prohibiting the rezoning of any remaining agricultural land without a voter referendum.


Within this restrictive context, the developer RiverPark Development called for “a ‘landmark’ new community using the best planning practices” that would gain the support of local governing agencies and residents, resolve critical environmental issues responsibly, capture the economic potential of the site, and most importantly, create a strong sense of place in the region.


Los Angeles-based AC Martin Partners, Inc. (ACMP) resolved these issues in the design of RiverPark, a community of 2,800 housing units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space on 700 acres. The site, near Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 Freeway, included a failed 300-acre commercial project from the 1980s and abandoned gravel-mining pits. After reviewing the Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report, the Oxnard City Council approved the planned community in August 2002. The $750 million project is the result of partnerships with the city, county, Caltrans, the water district, the school district, environmental agencies, and community groups.


ACMP and RiverPark Development have organized an impressive team of experts to develop the plan including: RTKL, commercial planning; EDSA, landscape planning; and William Hezmalhalch Architects, residential design guidelines.


“We are gratified by the council’s action, and the positive reaction from the community,” says Richard Thompson, AIA, AICP, director of urban design and planning at ACMP, who led the consultant team that developed the master plan. “It’s a confirmation that ’urbanism’ isn’t new or old – it’s just good or not.”


Socially Responsible Development


Of particular note is the approach to the provision of much-needed affordable housing. By working closely with local affordable housing groups, the developer was able to set aside 15 percent of the residential units for affordable housing, as well as create the potential for additional affordable units, which would bring the total of affordable housing to more than 27 percent. In addition, recognizing the critical need for farm-worker housing in this agricultural region, RiverPark includes a 4 percent set-aside for very low-income housing. These efforts to insure the inclusion of affordable housing in RiverPark neighborhoods will promote the social diversity sought after (but not often achieved) in New Urbanist communities.


“RiverPark shows that developing quality new community environments requires – in addition to vision – the willingness to partner with local citizens and public officials to build a balanced development that provides a wide range of benefits for all parties – the proverbial win-win situation,” Thompson adds.


Other socially responsible elements include three public schools operated by the local school district; city/county fire station; storefront police center; post office; library; and other public facilities. Residents and the surrounding community will have access to a network of neighborhood parks, community sports fields, jogging trails, and pedestrian pathways. Public streets, an important part of the public realm, will have ample sidewalks, street trees, and lighting.


Environmental Elements:


- Earmarks more than one-third of the land to an extensive system of parks and open spaces distributed throughout the community.


- Converts existing mining pits into water storage and recharge basins that will serve as a regional water resource and provide visual and recreational amenities for residents. Storm water runoff will be collected and treated in a series of bio-swales and retention basins.


- Encourages pedestrian activity by clustering most destinations within a five-to-10-minute walk, while creating a network of streets that accommodates automobiles without allowing them to dominate.


Economic Considerations:


- Creates a balanced commercial district that features a diverse mix of local and national retailers, offices, restaurants, and a food/wine venue that will showcase the region’s agricultural products, all organized around a central town square.


- Provides a new overcrossing and off ramps leading directly into the center of the commercial district to capitalize on RiverPark’s preeminent regional location at the intersection of the 101 Freeway and Oxnard Boulevard. Visibility and accessibility, together with ample parking, are keys to attracting and retaining a lively mix of retailers, as well as both regional and local users.


RiverPark is moving forward after only three and a half years of an approval process that typically can take up to 10 years for a project of this scope. Construction is planned to start this year and be completed over the next decade.


Client: RiverPark Development, LLC

Master Plan: AC Martin Partners, Inc.

ACMP Planning Team: Richard W. Thompson, AIA (Principal-in-Charge), Ben Rosenbloom (Project Manager), Dave Davies, Craig O'Connor, Chris Hahn, Jeff Su, Kevin Hsieh, Joanne Fitzgerald

Commercial Planning: RTKL

Landscape Planning: EDSA

Residential Design Guidelines: William Hezmalhalch Architects

Civil Engineering: Huitt-Zollars

Water Quality System Design: Integrated Water Resources

Traffic Planning and Engineering: Crain and Associates

Reclamation Engineering: Fugro

Natural Resource Conservation: Bio-Resource Consultants

Environmental Impact Assessment: Impact Sciences


AC Martin Partners, Inc. (ACMP) is an integrated architecture, engineering, and planning firm with a long-standing tradition of creating environments that have had significant impacts upon their surroundings through attention to craft, integrity, and social responsibility. The Los Angeles-based firm's wide range of clients includes corporations, government agencies, developers, cultural organizations, and educational institutions. ACMP has created master plans for Chapman University, Downtown LA’s Grand Avenue, and Downtown Fresno, among others. Founded in 1906 by Albert C. Martin Sr., the firm continues to shape the Southern Californian region, creating user-focused, innovative, sustainable, and aesthetic landmarks for the 21st century.


One of the world’s most highly recognized multi-disciplinary design firms, RTKL has amassed a portfolio of work that exceeds 1 billion square feet and extends to 60 nations. With 14 offices located around the globe, the firm’s expertise includes planning and urban design, mixed-use developments, retail and entertainment centers, hotels, resorts, office facilities, government buildings, healthcare facilities, and engineering services


(click on pictures to enlarge)

(AC Martin Partners (ACMP))
Site plan: RiverPark, a 700-acre mixed-use development in Oxnard, California

View from southeast

Night view of commercial district

View from north

Residential street

© 2003