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Tourism—Poway water park project paddles backward

POWAY , The newest challenge to a water park in Poway could be the one that submerges the project for the last time.

With the withdrawal of the park’s most recent developer, city officials expect to meet and reassess the situation sometime in the next couple weeks, said Poway Mayor Mickey Cafagna.

The discussion wouldn’t take place until the city receives formal notice from the developer, Florida-based Alfa Smart Parks, Inc., he said.

According to Deborah Johnson, the city’s director of redevelopment services, Alfa Smart executive Chris St. Jermain e-mailed her Jan. 5 and informed her that his company no longer planned to pursue the project.

Pursuing it involves buying or leasing a 35-acre property off Scripps Poway Parkway that had been zoned for a water park.

The property is the only developable part of a 140-acre site owned by San Diego resident Riley Lively, according to Poway City Manager Jim Bowersox.

Johnson said she was not surprised by Alfa Smart’s actions. No measurable progress has been made on the project since the company picked up the site’s option last year, she said.

Alfa Smart is the third company to hold an option on the site, Cafagna said.

Although the parcel of land remains available and another developer still could take on the project, Cafagna said the water park has become a far less likely prospect.

“Apparently, it may not be financially feasible to do,” he said.

Companies that have done feasibility studies have told him the project could cost $20 million to $25 million to build, Cafagna said. “It may be too much,” he said. With already-zoned land, and a city eager to have the water park built, Cafagna was still somewhat baffled by the lack of concrete action taken on the project.

In the e-mail to Johnson, St. Jermain had not offered any explanations for Alfa Smart’s decision to not go ahead on the water park.

St. Jermain could not be reached for comment.

The furthest the water park project had gone was on a site a half-mile east of the current one, with the first developer, Cafagna said. Poway Partners was connected to the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park brand. The company had the design completed, the property zoned and had even started grading the land before deciding changes in the real estate market made the land more valuable for industrial use, he said. The first site is now being developed as a headquarters for locally based Toppan Electronics, Inc.

The city now stands to collect $1 million in an escrow account set up by Poway Partners as a guarantee the water park would be built.

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