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Big building projects expected to start in ‘19
• Supercenter, American Post Acute Care Rehab Center may begin building
The proposed Walmart Supercenter, as depicted by an architect. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center is expected to begin construction in 2019 with the building of the Walmart Shopping Center. It’s one of the big projects expected in Ceres for the new year.

Also expected in 2019 is the start of construction of the American Post Acute Care Rehab Center on Hatch Road east of Richland Avenue. The Ceres Planning Commission recently approved another one-year extension for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build the $16 million 47,348 square-foot, 175-bed rehabilitation and nursing facility.

Design work for the new Walmart Supercenter and Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center is taking a little longer than expected but is still moving forward, city officials report.

The city received building plans and an application for a permit for the Walmart Supercenter in March – nearly 11 years after the project was originally proposed in 2007. The delays were caused by an opposition group which ultimately ran out the clock in their legal challenges.

“We fully believe they’ll be under construction in the next year,” said Tom Westbrook, the city of Ceres’ Community Development Director.

The city is now awaiting Caltrans to approve plans for two new temporary signal lights at the Mitchell/Highway 99 interchange. When that happens Walmart is expected to pull permits and begin construction. 

“They (Walmart) didn’t want to start construction and then not have that approval from Caltrans so they want to kind of have everything buttoned up before they start,” said Westbrook.

The temporary signals – to be installed at Walmart’s expense – would be placed where the southbound Highway 99 off-ramp meets the Mitchell Road on-ramp. Another will be placed on the freeway’s northbound off-ramp at Mitchell Road. The temporary signals will be removed once the city builds a new interchange at Service Road and modifies the Mitchell Road interchange configuration.

Westbrook said the temporary signals will likely be in place for four or five years until construction is completed on the new interchange. Construction is expected to start in 2021 or later.

The new interchange will eliminate the current way motorists exit southbound 99 at Mitchell Road. The southbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramps cross each other, so drivers coming off the freeway must stop and wait for a break in southbound Mitchell Road traffic headed toward the on-ramp. Under the diverging diamond design, the only freeway access at Mitchell Road to remain would be the southbound on-ramp and the northbound freeway on-ramp.

Once construction starts, the Supercenter could be open within nine months to a year, Westbrook estimated. Only the Supercenter structure itself is currently proposed. It consists of 185,682 square feet. The city expects the remainder of the center to develop as companies express interest in leases. 

The infrastructure for the shopping center will include transition lanes to turn in and out of the project along the eastern and southern boundaries. A new traffic signal light will be installed midblock on Mitchell Road between Don Pedro and Service roads, to allow safer entry into the center.

To the south of Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center is the Ceres Gateway Center project pegged for the triangle piece of ground sandwiched between Service and Mitchell roads and Highway 99. The commercial center project, as proposed by Ralph Ogden & Associates approved in 2008, originally included a Hampton Inn & Suites motel with a tentative parcel map to split 16 acres into nine parcels for six buildings totaling 25,955 square feet. Uses were to include a restaurant, retail space and gas mart. The project was never constructed.

“We know that they’re trying to get some folks pinned down in terms of the future commercial users and then once they have that I believe they’ll be submitting applications to us,” said Westbrook. “If that happens early next year, they can be approved hopefully by late spring … there’s an off chance they could be developing something late next year.”

With the change of the market, Westbrook is uncertain if hotels would be a part of the project.

“We know that once Walmart gets going we think there’s going to be a lot of activity in that area over the next three to five years,” said Westbrook.

Westbrook said that Sam Khacho, owner of 10 acres on the east side of Mitchell Road near Rhode Road have been watching for Walmart to become a reality “before they really start moving forward.”

Dr. Meetinder Rai is proposing to build the American Post Acute Care Rehab Center which was initially approved by the Planning Commission on Sept. 8, 2009 and again on March 20, 2017. An extension, said Community Development Director Tom Westbrook, will give Dr. Rai and project architect Gary Rogers time to prepare the construction plans. Rogers said plans for the project must be approved by the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development which is reviewing plans. He said an extension of the CUP was needed to keep the permit current since the applicant and state are working out construction plan issues.

The only residential subdivision in the works is the 80-home Orchard Terrace Kaufman Broad project south of Whitmore Avenue west of Malik Avenue.

Westbrook said that Kingspan, a Morgan Road manufacturer of insulated panels for refrigeration buildings, was approved in November to add construction for 24-hour operations.

The Whitmore Ranch Specific Plan could be placed before the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for annexation this spring. If approved, the developer could begin the process of building but Westbrook believes it is a “remote possibility” that construction would occur in 2019.

The city will be seeking to add 94 more acres to the Ceres limits since the City Council approved the Whitmore Ranch Specific Plan in November. The project would add up to 441 new dwelling units to Ceres south of Whitmore Avenue between Moore Road and Cesar Chavez Junior High School.