Planning, Innovation Pave Way for Riverbank to Turn Ammo Plant into ‘Green’ Business Park

Suffering from one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates at the time the Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant closed in 2010, the city of Riverbank, Calif., could not afford any further economic setbacks as it began to carry out the redevelopment plan which called for retaining the site’s light industrial focus with a “green” twist.

Four short years later, the mixed-use business park located in the heart of California’s Central Valley has quadrupled its number of tenants, and now is home to 36 companies employing 300 people with an additional 75 workers anticipated to be hired later this year. The Riverbank Industrial Complex generates a $31 million local economic impact, almost four times its annual economic contribution prior to closure.

For starting the redevelopment process with a strategic vision and implementing it with a combination of innovation and tenacity, the Riverbank Industrial Complex has been awarded ADC’s Base Redevelopment Excellence Award.

After the 172-acre plant was recommended for closure in the 2005 BRAC round, the city developed a reuse plan that included light industrial and business park development, with an emphasis on environmentally conscious businesses. When the Riverbank LRA assumed control of the property in 2010 under a long-term lease from the Army, officials worked to expand the base of tenants already in place through the Army’s Armament Retooling and Manufacturing Support (ARMS) program. The LRA negotiated leases with seven existing tenants and 10 new ones. As more space became available following completion of environmental remediation activities, the redevelopment authority sought additional tenants.

The LRA aggressively sought funding from local, state and federal sources to craft a strategic and marketing plan for the site, and to establish a community financing district. At the same time, the city employed a broad outreach effort to keep stakeholder and constituents up to date on the progress of the reuse. The project’s success has relied on a series of partnerships, including the ARMS program that the city took over from the Army.

With a range of local startups and national companies as tenants, the Riverbank Industrial Complex has helped the city’s unemployment rate drop significantly over the past four years. The project serves as a model for other BRAC communities seeking a path to economic recovery.

Award winners will be recognized at a special ceremony on Capitol Hill next month during the Defense Communities National Summit. 

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