In-N-Out Burger, Chipotle, Panda Express and Circle K are among the businesses interested in the Ceres Gateway Center commercial project approved unanimously by the Ceres Planning Commission on Monday.
Genesis Family Enterprises went before the commission to seek approval of a Vesting Tentative Parcel Map and a Specific Plan Site Plan entitlement involving the subdivision of a 13.65-acre site into eight parcels. Located in the triangle-shaped land at the southwest corner of Service and Mitchell roads, the project involves the construction of nine commercial buildings totaling 53,863 square feet, a convenience store with a gas station and carwash and an 85-foot tall freestanding pylon sign.
Expected later will be the second phase consisting of a 64,000-square-foot hotel with 80 rooms as well as buildings for three junior anchors.
The project is expected to have a grand opening in 2021.
In 2008 the city approved the Gateway project as proposed by Ralph Ogden. The project stalled – the economy hit the skids that year – and expired in 2012 after extensions were granted. The center was redesigned and brought back Monday by Ogden’s son, Daniel. The original project included plans for two hotels.
The seven parcels in the first phase are:
• 0.91 acres for a 4,529-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru operation and 46 parking stalls.
• 1.11 acres reserved for a 2,418-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru operation and 42 parking spaces.
• 1.2 acres for a 3,974-square-foot building to accommodate an In-N-Out Burger restaurant with a drive-thru and 42 parking spaces.
• 1.69 acres for an 11,142-square-foot building with a drive-thru to accommodate retail/restaurant/coffee shop uses and 76 parking spaces.
• A .65-acre parcel for a 2,600-square-foot building to accommodate a restaurant with a drive-thru and 29 parking spaces.
• A .67 acre sie for a 2,500-square-foot Chipotle restaurant with a drive-thru operation and 27 parking spaces.
• 1.6 acres for a 6,449-square-foot Circle K convenience store, gas pumps, carwash, and 43 parking spaces.
The hotel would be constructed at the southern end and parallel to Highway 99. No specific user has been identified.
The project is proposed in two phases with the first phase consisting of the on- and off-site improvements including curb, gutter, sidewalk, and landscaping, parking and landscape, signage, and water, sewer, and storm drainage infrastructure, a 306-stall parking lot to serve the new retailers on proposed Parcels 1-7 and the buildings. Phase #1 will also include a traffic signal at the project entrance on Mitchell Road that will align to Rhode Road east of Mitchell Road.
The second phase will bring the hotel and junior anchor development.
Westbrook said In-N-Out Burger has been looking at locating in Ceres for some time and didn’t have an opportunity to be close to the freeway until now.
The commission voted 4-0 to support the project with Commissioner Dave Johnson stepping aside for a possible conflict of interest with his employer and In-N-Out Burger.
Project developer David Zylstra mentioned vast changes in the retail world brought about by Amazon and internet shopping.
“It’s really forced retailers to either get better at both doing their brick and mortar presentation as well as online,” said Zylstra. “It has had a profound impact on all retail, in fact this last year alone there were 219 bankruptcies. So the retail market, it’s been brutal and tough but they’ve had to get good at online retailing.”
He detailed how the buildings in the project have a significant number of drive-thru lanes for retailers, and because of smartphone apps with customers pre-ordering. A number of fast-food providers are moving toward drive-up lanes, including Chipotle, Panera Bread and Jamba Juice.
“What happens in the retail world it becomes an initiative and if you can’t provide that retailer with a drive-thru or what they need to service their customers, they will look elsewhere so we’re trying to be accommodating to the retail environment.”
City of Ceres Community Development Director Tom Westbrook explained that the project sought a variance to allow an 85-foot-high freeway sign for the center because current code limits such signs to 50 feet. He explained that the city is in the process of changing the Zoning Code to allow for the higher elevation.
Westbrook explained that there will be a relocated signal light on Mitchell Road to align Roeding Road with the entrance to the center. Temporary signals will be placed farther south on Mitchell Road to regulate the traffic at the on- and off-ramps of Highway 99. He explained that the temporary signals are a requirement of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its anchor of Walmart Supercenter at the northwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads. Mitchell Ranch has yet to break ground so whichever project starts first will be responsible for installing the temporary signals.
“We believe Walmart will be under construction shortly but for some reason they weren’t, then these signals need to be placed when the Ceres Gateway Center is developed,” explained Westbrook.
Ceres resident Dave Pratt expressed concern about another signalized intersection impacting traffic on Mitchell Road and asked the city to push for a new Faith Home Expressway. Westbrook explained that planning is in motion for the county expressway project but funding will take time, especially when it comes to building a new bridge over the Tuolumne River to link Garner Road with Faith Home Road.
Pratt also questioned if Ceres really needed another car wash.
Commissioner Bob Kachel asked if the Panda Express is to be a second one for Ceres or a replacement for the one up Mitchell Road at Hatch Road but Zylstra said the company did not share that information.
Commissioner Gary Del Nero said the project appeared to be “well thought out.”
“The attention to detail here is really impressive,” commented Kachel.
Westbrook said the project has fairly robust landscaping to hide vehicles which are expected in the cues of the drive-thru lanes visible from the freeway, Mitchell and Service roads as well as the future Service Road overpass with its diverging diamond design.
In other commission action, Bret Silveira took the oath of office as the newest member to replace Couper Condit. Laurie Smith was appointed to chair the commission after Vice Chairman Dave Johnson turned down the position.