The Enterprise sat down with Mike Fletcher, one half of CV Development Partners, on Monday to discuss their evolving plans for Copper Valley, which encompasses Copperopolis’ town square, its golf course, and thousands of acres of surrounding land.
Fletcher and his partner, Tom Hix, acquired Castle & Cooke’s entire Copperopolis land portfolio in 2018. Hailing from Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Bay Area, respectively, the two developers who have reported past real estate projects valued at a combined $2 billion now spend the majority of their time at Copper Valley, Fletcher said.
Just over a year ago, the pair laid out their plans for Copperopolis during a presentation for members of the former Saddle Creek Golf Course community. Since then, the golf club and course have received a facelift and rebranding under the umbrella name of Copper Valley. Also renamed, The Square at Copper Valley has seen some major changes, with a 29-room hotel scheduled to open this summer.
Copper Valley also has a spokesdog named Copper.
According to Fletcher, CV Development has shifted its focus from retail to making Copper Valley a launching pad to the foothills, Yosemite National Park and other outdoor pursuits. The long-neglected square and its hotel, called The Gateway Hotel, will be “the heartbeat” of this new community, Fletcher said.
“I think if we had not come along, honestly, it would have ended up with a fence around it,” Fletcher said of the “ghost town” square, which was built by Castle & Cooke in 2008 for $53 million. “Some people hadn’t paid rent for eight years.”
Now, all available commercial units have been leased out, he said.
“We spent pretty much the first year really trying to understand what the needs were for the community, and, clearly, it’s different. The world has changed from what it was when this was built.”
Now, the developers are ready to “lift the veil” on upcoming projects. Fletcher describes their current vision for Copper Valley as a family-friendly, low-priced alternative to California city-living.
“Affordable housing, amazing views, amazing lifestyle, less crime, better air quality, no traffic and a high quality of life within a couple hours of everything that they need,” Fletcher listed the potential draws.
However, CV Development’s choice to preserve the “rural character” of Copperopolis has led to downsizing the number of homes they originally planned. According to Fletcher, approximately 1,600 new residential units is the target number for the developers by the end of their 12- to 14-year schedule.
In the Copper Ranch development, located between the golf course and Lake Tulloch, the planned number of homes has been reduced to 88 from the initial 2,300 that were proposed by Castle & Cooke, Fletcher said.
Though plans are “constantly evolving,” Fletcher said, there are some projects that will likely come to fruition in 2020.
Beyond the construction of The Gateway Hotel, which will occupy the bottom floor of the clock tower building at The Square, other commercial units are being expanded and remodeled to meet the needs of anticipated guests.
Formerly known as Roasters, the coffee shop at the square has been transformed into Baldi’s Copper Valley Café – a full-service restaurant operated by Drifters Marina Bar & Grill owners Craig and Jennifer Baldi. The space was expanded with the addition of a dining room, and within several months, another wing will be added for coffee, gelato and desserts, according to Fletcher.
The Governor’s Mansion, currently called the Courthouse, located in the southern corner of the square, will be converted into a meeting and banquet space with a full-service kitchen. Near the Governor’s Mansion, a pool area is planned to serve hotel guests and residents with a VIP membership.
Tentatively moving into The Square will be a Dignity Health Clinic, which will occupy a nearly 3,000-square-foot space. Fletcher said that the plan is in the permitting stages and may come to fruition within nine months.
Additionally, negotiations with the Copperopolis United States Post Office have been promising, according to Fletcher, and their move to The Square may be coming soon.
“I can’t tell you the deal is done yet, but I think we’re close,” said Fletcher, who believes the post office will bring much-needed local traffic to the square.
Located near the southwestern border of the former Saddle Creek community, Quail Creek will be one of the first new residential developments built in Copper Valley.
The community will constitute 55 of the roughly 900 total homes that are planned for Copper Valley, with additional homes and condominiums planned near The Square.
Three model home units in Quail Creek are currently under construction, and five residential units will break ground next week. With a wide range of designs and deluxe details such as an indoor/outdoor bathtub, Fletcher said he is more excited about the project than any other homes he’s worked on.
The units will max out at 2,600 square feet and will overlook the 3,171-acre Oak Canyon Ranch, a failed residential development proposal that was designated as permanent grazing land in 2016.
“They’re the most gorgeous lots I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Fletcher, who added that the homes will include state-of-the-art solar power technology and generator options, as well as fire-retardant building materials and low fire risk landscaping. “I just really believe in it.”
Another addition that Fletcher anticipates will draw more traffic to The Square is The Quarry, a kid-friendly entertainment center and outdoor amphitheater.
Designed with an organic, old quarry feel, the multi-level indoor event center and arcade will cover up to 12,000 square feet and occupy the undeveloped property near the Governor’s Mansion at The Square. Construction is scheduled to begin in July, and the center may open as early as December.
The outdoor venue of The Quarry will include a small water park, batting cages and 18-hole mini golf. Indoor golf and a mechanical bull are also in the works, as well as casual dining options.
“The whole area is going to be transformed into something that isn’t anywhere in the community,” Fletcher said.
The Warehouse District
In an open parking lot area to the west of The Square, CV Development is planning to provide an alternative for those in the technology industry who are seeking a more relaxed, affordable lifestyle.
The Warehouse District will provide incubator space and a venue for farmers markets and specialty products, with a train station-themed Asian food restaurant tentatively planned nearby.
Construction may begin as early as August, and Fletcher said he and Hix are actively pursuing small campus opportunities with technology companies, in the hopes that the industry will bring more young people to the region.
“(It) wouldn’t change the feel of the area, but it would broaden it so it’s not primarily an empty nester community and bring some vitality here,” Fletcher said. “So I think it’s an amazing opportunity for some of the tech companies to have a place that is tastefully done.”
Townhomes and condominiums
According to Fletcher, one of the top priorities of CV Development is to provide affordable housing options for a workforce that is anticipated to grow exponentially if projects go as-planned.
Half of the 40 planned condominium units near The Square may enter the construction phase as early as May, with the second half soon to follow.
Half of the 34 planned townhomes are scheduled to break ground in July.
Further down the road, plans include the development of the approximately 850 remaining lots in Copper Valley, as well as 88 homes in Copper Ranch.
An expansion of The Golf Club at Copper Valley is also on the distant horizon, and bungalows near the golf course are being purchased by the developers for future remodeling.
In the meantime, CV Development seeks to bolster the recreational draw of Copper Valley, offering lake access, horseback riding, archery, beehive experiences, concierge services and buses to other destinations in the foothills.
“It’s going to take a while for people to start getting to know the area again,” Fletcher said. “If you build the destination and create the lifestyle experiences, people will get it and come.”