Those were two of the sobering conclusions in an initial report by redevelopment consultant Arcadis that will be presented to the City Council Sept. 12.
As a test case, the consultants looked at whether it would make economic sense for a developer to build a condo complex on vacant land in Rivertown. The result was that "the financial feasibility of private development in downtown Antioch could be characterized as indefinite at best given prevailing market conditions," the report states.
And although the recently renovated, historic El Campanil Theatre is beginning to draw people to Rivertown on some weekends for plays, concerts and films, the Arcadis consultants don't even mention it in their report as one of Rivertown's assets.
Instead they recommend that city officials "identify one or more potential 'draws' or 'attractors' and begin planning to realize their existence in the downtown area," the report states.
Some city officials are less than impressed with Arcadis' initial analysis and recommendations.
"This grand vision that they had for downtown is not going to occur the way Arcadis claimed they could do it," said Mayor Pro Tem Brian Kalinowski. He added, however, that part of their plans could be useable.
"I've got a funny feeling this is going south," said City Councilman Arne Simonsen after reading a summary of the report.
On the plus side, the report does list some positives about Rivertown such as the river, good access with a grid system of streets, an intimate downtown with mature trees, nearby residential areas and large "bookend" properties east and west of downtown, which might be good sites for six-story buildings.
On the down side, the report cites the railroad tracks separating the downtown from the river, difficult access to the Fulton Shipyard area, small and fragmented city-owned properties, economic disparity in the community and lack of "great" architecture or a downtown "attractor."
But the report is cautiously optimistic, stating that "a variety of residential product types and sizes are likely to be successful in Downtown Antioch over the long-term." But "a single-family detached product is likely to be the most secure investment." Condos will be needed to maximize profits, but that also "represents a more risky prospect."
Rivertown would be "an inappropriate location for conventional retail formats," Arcadis' report states, so downtown should look for a "distinct and attractive mix of goods and atmosphere."
"It is not surprising that new, high-density or mixed-use development has yet to occur in the Rivertown Project area," the report states. "Indeed, the only recent market-rate high-density project anywhere in Eastern Contra Costa County, the Vidrio in Pittsburg, is receiving a $20 million subsidy from the City."
There is a $1.1 million funding gap between potential revenue and project costs, according to the report. "Bridging this funding gap will require a strategic approach."
Curtis Holzer, head of the Rivertown Business Association, said, "It's not going as well as we had hoped," but he doesn't seem distressed by the situation. He said that some waterfront property is expected to change hands, and he is encouraged by that.
Devi Lanphere, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, also said she isn't discouraged and will wait to see the report before drawing conclusions. She referred to some "organic developments" that would be possible in Rivertown.
Joe Martinez, a local contractor who now owns the historic Casino building, said if a major restaurant chain such as Chevy's came to Rivertown, it would have a big impact on the area taking off.
Things were quiet in downtown on Monday morning. Pizzazz coffee bar echoed in emptiness during prime caffeine time. Several shops had "Sorry Closed" signs in the window. But Nature's Bounty was bringing in customers. And in Antioch everybody goes to Rick's for lunch.
Councilman Jim Conley, who has been critical of Arcadis foot-dragging in the past, said it's still a viable deal. "This is too important a deal to let egos get in the way." Mayor Don Freitas was on vacation and not available for comment. Arcadis representatives declined to comment for this article.
It's cool, beautiful and soothing by the river, but not much is going on - yet.