When the $800 million Vista Canyon mixed-use project breaks ground this quarter in Santa Clarita, it will be the biggest development in the region since the recession.

The 185-acre project boasts 800 apartments, 295 townhomes, 950,000 square feet of office and retail space – and even its own water treatment plant and transportation center.

It also could be the kickoff to a long-awaited, much-delayed development boom in the Santa Clarita Valley.

But the process took 15 years as its Valencia developer battled critics who still oppose Vista Canyon – and pose serious challenges to future projects of its size.

Most are environmentalists, unhappy because it is built in the corridor of the last natural river in Southern California. And water usage is a concern too, especially in the current drought – though Vista Canyon will employ cutting-edge recycling systems and drought-tolerant landscaping.

“I’ve done bigger projects, but this is by far the most complicated,” said Jim Backer, 53, president of JSB Development, whose involvement with Vista Canyon started back in 2006 when he purchased the undeveloped acreage.

Read the complete story in the May 4 edition of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal