SANTA CLARA (KCBS) – The Santa Clara city council on Wednesday enthusiastically approved the next steps for a massive development project right next to Levi’s Stadium that could change the face of the city.

The complex of restaurants, apartments, offices, a hotel, a cinema and a theater on eight million square feet adjacent to the new 49ers stadium would dwarf Santana Row in San Jose.

“Over time, we expect a full build out of the project to create a workforce on site of about 23,000 people,” said Steve Eimer, an executive at Related, the developer behind the City Place Santa Clara Project.

Eimer estimates the complex will also create about 1,500 construction jobs a year.

City officials hope the $6.5 billion project, with a price tag that rivals the budget for the new Bay Bridge, will make Santa Clara a destination for sports fans accustomed to seeing football games in San Francisco.

“Anyone who says this is not a good thing needs to just walk out and get some fresh air, because this is a major thing for Santa Clara,” said Mayor Jamie Matthews.

Opponents do not want to see a municipal golf course and BMX bicycle track bulldozed for the City Project. Neighborhood groups have also raised concerns about parking and traffic.

Construction could begin as early as 2016.

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