The bricks salvaged from the old Spreckels Sugar warehouse will be part of the base of a tribute to the sugar beet processing plant that for years was Manteca’s biggest private sector employer.
That’s the plan of the developer who is removing the Spreckels Historical Plaza at Historical Plaza Way and Spreckels Avenue to build, a 7,560-square-foot retail building.
Brian Heron shared his plans with the Manteca planning Commission on Thursday when they approved the project directly behind the Chevron station.
The proposed building is big enough for two suites. Heron indicated one of them is already pre-leased.
The target to complete the building is June 2023.
Heron explained he was approached by Mayor Ben Cantu who asked if the developer would consider putting in place some type of tribute to Spreckels Sugar given the role it played in Manteca’s early economic development.
Spreckels in 1917  located a plant on what was the outskirts of Manteca after a farming boom triggered by South San Joaquin Irrigation District delivering irrigation water in the area quadrupled the size of Manteca’s commercial area over a two-year period.
Spreckels shuttered the plant in 1997. It eventually was developed into a 360-acre multi-use project by Mike Atherton, Bing Kirk and Bill Filios. The project includes 166 homes, the Target-Home Depot-Food-4-Less commercial area, as well as the business park anchored by the Ford Motor parts distribution center.
Heron said he was more than happy to accommodate the mayor’s suggestion. He is looking at either artistically reducing old photos of the plant or possibly doing a mural.
The AKF partners created the privately maintained historical plaza as a gift to the people of Manteca after they were inundated with requests to create some type of tribute to Spreckels Sugar.
They hired an architect that came up with the idea of using four oversized storm drain popes set on their ends to replicate the image of the four 15-stoiry sugar silos that once dominated the Manteca skyline.
The bricks used for the base of the curved landscaping planter/bench area in front of the silos were salvaged from the old Spreckels Sugar brick warehouse.
Trellises were added as was a large pole that displayed a large lighted America flag for years.
The project cost the developers $200,000 at the time.
Bricks from the factory were also part of the remodeled burned out shell of the old El Rey Theatre when it opened in 1999 as Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. that has since been remodeled as the Veranda Event Center in downtown Manteca.
Some of the bricks made their way to patio projects around Manteca while the rest were sold to an Oakland savage company.
At one point Atherton had lined up a title company to lease a two-story building that he envisioned would also house AKF development on the site.
The office was designed to look like the main factory building with its large windows.
Atherton saved a number of items from the factory that he hoped to incorporate into the building including the large brass plaque commemorating the sugar plant’s founding
The project fell through when the Great Recession hit.
Homeless also started taking over the plaza vandalizing lights, sprinklers, and using the grounds to defecate and urinate as well as to camp illegally.
That led it to being fenced off in 2016.
It was eventually sold to the current owner.
The retail building will cover most of the footprint of the plaza as well as create additional parking in addition n to stalls that are already part of the parcel that was sold.