News for the Hospitality Executive
|The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 28--THOUSAND PALMS, Calif.--They said it would be huge, and they were right.
A new desert community proposed Tuesday promises everything from a center for world trade, university and high-tech center to 7,000 homes, 12 golf courses and resort hotels.
The 9,000-acre Joshua Hills community north of Interstate 10 would create thousands of jobs, attract research firms and draw trade experts, students and visitors from around the world, its backers said.
"It'll become the single largest economic engine in the history of the Coachella Valley," said Michael Bracken, executive director of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.
Whether Joshua Hills ever gets built is another matter.
An intriguing project, it will have to compete with other regions to lure high-tech companies, said Michael Bazdarich, an economist and director of the Forecast Center at UC Riverside.
Opponents say the project is doomed before it starts because of its location, smack dab between Joshua Tree National Park and the Coachella Valley Preserve.
"It's urban sprawl at its worst," said Joan Taylor, spokeswoman for a local Sierra Club chapter. "The consultants and the attorneys will make a lot of money but nothing will ever happen in this location."
Proponents say their new plan will rely on technology and science to protect wildlife and provide corridors between the 6-mile length of the preserve and the national park. Joshua Hills is not leapfrog development -- it falls within natural boundaries of the Coachella Valley, said Richard Oliphant, project developer.
Oliphant, a former Indian Wells mayor whose efforts include the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens and 16,500-seat stadium, outlined plans for the up to $5 billion project during a news conference. His new firm, California Intelligent Communities, hopes to break ground in summer 2004.
Lead planner Marvin Roos said the project will resolve such issues as traffic, noise, light pollution and water use. The 12 new fairways would consume an estimated 6 million gallons of water a day -- enough for 13,000 households a year.
Built over a decade or more, Joshua Hills would encompass more than 7,000 full-time residents, a university enrollment of 15,000 plus guests and seasonal residents. It would create a service area for police, fire and paramedic service. It also plans shopping areas, public schools, and a utility cooperative, Oliphant said.
A World Trade Center and the first World Trade Center University would anchor the development.
The university, which has offered classes through the Internet, would serve 2,500 graduate students at its first campus, mostly in business and computer-based technologies, said Al Palmiotto, dean of academic affairs for the 6-year-old online university in Washington, D.C.
Eventually it would grow to 15,000 students and complement the satellite campuses of Cal State San Bernardino and UC Riverside in nearby Palm Desert, said David Teuma, president of the World Trade Center, Palm Springs.
Cameron Barrows, director of the Coachella Valley Preserve, sees no easy solutions for such development. Conservationists wanted to include the proposed development area within the preserve which was created in the mid-1980s, he said. But no one thought the area would be developed and it was left out, Barrows said.
Daniel Patterson, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said his Idyllwild-based group is making Joshua Hills a high priority.
He predicted the project would derail a multiagency plan to preserve certain areas of the valley and to streamline the development process for the rest.
-- By Mark Henry and Adam Eventov
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(c) 2002, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.