The Walmart Supercenter project has officially advanced for the first time since a legal challenge of the project was dropped in late 2016 and cleared path for development.
Last week the city happily accepted the on-site and off-site improvement plans for the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center at the northwest corner of Service and Mitchell roads. The actual building plans have not been submitted and according to the project engineer, won't be until sometime next month, noted Tom Westbrook, director of Community Development for the city of Ceres.
"We are encouraged to receive the improvements plans and are eagerly awaiting the building plans so that they can be checked, building permit issued and construction started," said Westbrook.
Normally building plans are submitted along with on-site and off-site improvement plans, he said, but the engineer found it easier to submit them separately because of the size of the project.
Westbrook anticipates actual construction plans to be submitted in three to four week.
The off-site plans outline new street widths and the way the project interacts with the existing streets, such as turn lanes. On-site improvements delineate placement of parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, utilities, delivery facilities, landscaping, irrigation systems and lighting.
Westbrook said the engineer of the project had to coordinate with the city's future plans with the Service-Mitchell Interchange. One consideration was allowing enough room for a widened Service Road at the project to accommodate two left turn lanes from northbound Mitchell Road onto westbound Service Road.
City Engineer Daryl Jordan said the project will include transition lanes to turn in and out of the project along the eastern and southern sides. A new traffic signal light will be installed midblock on Mitchell Road between Don Pedro and Service roads, he said, allowing entry into the center.
"We wanted to make sure those projects are harmonious so that we don't put in a curb and gutter and sidewalk somewhere that ultimately has to be removed and replaced somewhere else," said Westbrook. "I think that that's where a lot of time was spent on the coordination between those projects."
While the submitted on-site improvement plans show multiple other buildings scattered on the perimeter of the shopping center, Westbrook believes only plans for the Supercenter will be submitted soon.
"They're a driver of vehicles and traffic and customers and so hopefully those other businesses will see the opportunity to be in the same shopping center as them and we'll get some more movement," said Westbrook.
Applebee's was still interested in the center as of a year ago, said Westbrook, and was just waiting for the Supercenter to start before seeking a green light from their corporate office to locate in Ceres.
"I had put Applebee's in touch with the Walmart corporate so they could be doing stuff behind the scenes that I'm not even aware of yet."
Mitchell Ranch was stalled for nearly a decade by an opposition group that frequently imposed frivolous legal arguments through the environmental review process. The group named itself "Citizens for Ceres" in the template of other anti-Walmart groups formed in other California communities. The Ceres City Council approved the shopping center in 2011 but the project immediately was challenged in court by Citizens. The group, led by Sheri Jacobson and aided by the legal counsel of Brett Jolley, lost its second and final court fight to block construction of the center and its anchor tenant, Walmart Supercenter. When the California Supreme Court failed to hear the appeal of a lower court decision, the group exhausted legal options.
The Walmart Supercenter building itself is planned to be 185,682 square feet but the shopping center total nearly 300,000 square feet and includes:
• Major retailer #2 - 28,000 square feet;
• Major retailer #3 - 13,500 square feet;
• Major retailer #4 - 14,000 square feet;
• Four smaller retails shop spaces at 7,000, 8,500, 11,700 and 12,200 square feet.
• A stand-alone retail pad of 3,250 square feet;
• Three restaurant pads ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 sq. ft.