Former Base is Booming: How it All Began

Back Commentary Jul 16, 2019 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

Late in October 1997, Comstock’s hosted a roundtable discussion on the future of McClellan Air Force Base, which was slated to be closed July 13, 2001. At that time, the entire business community was struggling with what to do about the upcoming base closure and its anticipated negative economic impact. There were many conversations, of course, but few ideas. Comstock’s decided to pull together a group of military, business, development and education leaders to brainstorm ways to turn the departure of the military into a win for the Capital Region.

Larry Kelley, the force behind the development of Stanford Ranch in Rocklin (one of the most successful planned communities in the United States), and a then-member of Comstock’s editorial board, almost didn’t attend the roundtable that morning, figuring he had no experience in redeveloping a military base. We pushed for his attendance the night before the breakfast discussion, and he reluctantly acquiesced.

Our December 1997 issue included the story about the roundtable discussion and its highlights.  Kelley talked about the possibilities, saying: “Our plan should be to make the McClellan facility a model of redevelopment. To do this will require a private developer risking capital and being rewarded with profit. … McClellan, like Stanford Ranch or any other master-planned community, needs to be planned by one master developer. Regardless of your opinions of developers, they are the people in our community that are best at finding, marketing and creating the opportunities and uses for our land.”

Two years later, a group headed by Kelley’s Stanford Ranch LLC was selected by Sacramento County to redevelop McClellan, and the county agreed to sell the 3,200-acre base for $118 million after finalizing its purchase from the military for $90 million. “I first started thinking about it at a Comstock’s magazine roundtable,” Kelley said in 1999. “I had been looking around for another project since Stanford Ranch is almost completely sold out and when the county decided that it wanted to sell to a developer/owner, rather than hire a management company, I got really serious. … This is probably one of the largest in-fill sites in the United States.”

When asked what he thought people would say about his work at McClellan 20 years later, Kelley said, “Hopefully, a mix of landscaping and architecture and the creation of a McClellan Park identity will make it a more aesthetically pleasing place to be and an attractive community where people enjoy going.”

We’re glad Kelley decided to attend that roundtable discussion.