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Long-awaited projects may come to fruition in 2020
• Long-ago approved projects could break ground while new Gateway commercial project seeks approval
Southern Gateway
The triangle-shaped lot south of Service Road is pegged for the Gateway Center. The new Walmart site is at upper right.

Fully a week into the new year, city officials are hoping 2020 is the magic year to begin seeing a number of projects in the planning stages for years come to fruition.

Chief among them is the long awaited Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its Walmart Supercenter anchor tenant.

Planners at the city level also have an application for the Ceres Gateway Center south of the Mitchell Ranch project which should be before the Planning Commission in February.

Located south of Service Road and west of Mitchell Road, the project includes a hotel, sit-down restaurants and junior anchors of 15,000 to 18,000 square feet. The project is similar to one submitted by Ralph Ogden and approved but never built because of a downturn in the economy. Ogden passed away and his son, attorney Daniel Ogden is proposing it.

The original Ceres Gateway Center was approved in May 2008 and included six commercial buildings totaling 25,955 square feet for restaurants, retailers and a gas mart; as well as a three-story, 162-room Hampton Inn & Suites and a second hotel. Westbrook said the new project eliminates the second hotel.

Other projects that could start breaking ground in 2020 are the $16 million, 47,348 square-foot, 175-bed American Post Acute Care Rehab Center which was initially approved by the Ceres Planning Commission on Sept. 8, 2009 and again in March 2017 and again in December 2018. Community Development Director Tom Westbrook said proponent Dr. Meetinder Rai is seeking approvals through the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) which is reviewing plans.

“What I hear from the development side of the community is once you submit an application it takes anywhere from nine to 15 months to get approvals,” said Westbrook. “I know they’re getting right down to the end of it.” 

City Manager Toby Wells said the project offers “a huge amount of jobs” which are typically good paying. An added benefit to the Ceres community would be filling a great need for care.

The Hatch Road Rehabilitation Center is designed for 24-hour care for those 60 years of age or older as well as those needing rehabilitation care. City officials estimated then that the facility would employ 130 of which 60 would be on day shifts.

The facility will include physical therapy and occupational therapy rooms, two dining areas, two patio areas, and a total of 77 living units – 22 which will accommodate three beds and 54 being rooms for only two patients.

The parking lot calls for 147 parking spaces.

Westbrook consider the facility a “good fit” for the Hatch Road block which already has several churches, a school, Davis Guest Home and doctor’s offices.

Both parcels are designated as Office (O) in the City General Plan and are governed under the City Zoning Ordinance with a zoning of Administrative Professional (A-P).

If constructed, the Hatch Road Rehabilitation Center would be Ceres’ first rehabilitation facility at its size.

Public works projects

The city of Ceres is expected to start a number of public works projects.

This spring the city hopes to begin construction on a $1.9 million construction project for Whitmore Avenue corridor improvements between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard. The project involves widening Whitmore Avenue between Moore Road and Eastgate Boulevard with asphalt overlay, and new 10-foot-wide sidewalk with curb and gutter to make for a better and safer pedestrian route. A new center median will be constructed. To improve safety of pedestrians, signage, a pedestrian beacon signal system, solar speed flashing equipment and street lighting will also be installed.

Construction is expected to begin in April and to be completed before the 2020-21 school year begins.

Also in the works is a new roundabout for the intersection of El Camino Avenue and Pine/Park Street at the base of the Pine Street freeway overpass.

Public Works Director Jeremy Damas said the new roundabout will provide traffic calming measures while improving traffic flow. It will also help, he said, in the detours once the city and Caltrans begin building the new Service/Mitchell/ Highway 99 interchange.

The roundabout will be at the eastern portion of the Pine Street Overpass, east of the new roundabout at Pine Street/Central Avenue/Industrial Way. Also this year the city finished a new roundabout at Morgan Road and Aristocrat Drive.

Also in the design stage are the first phases of construction of both Lions Park and Eastgate Park. Both designs are about 90 percent complete with GDR Engineering preparing construction plans for Lions Park and O’Dell Engineering preparing the construction plans for Eastgate Park. All design work should be completed by the end of the year.

Ten acres of land for Lions Park was purchased by the city over a decade ago. Until now, a lack of funds has prevented the city from making improvements to the site which is located on River Road between Thompson Road and Peter John Way. The first phase of the playground area will be going out to bid this year and ready for use by summer of 2020.

Eastgate Park is also on the same time schedule.

The city is budgeting about $800,000 for each project, funded out of Public Facilities Fees paid by past developers. City Manager Wells said there is also the potential for some state funding.

The city is also making plans to grind and overlay the asphalt pavement on Blaker Road from Service to Hackett roads and upgrade ADA sidewalk ramps. Construction is anticipated to start in the spring.

Improvements will also be made in the Westpointe area of Ceres, including replacing and removing landscaping, mostly in the medians in Malik Avenue and Aristocrat Drive, installing cobbles in those medians. Also the city will be removing the bathroom building from Strawberry Fields Park, and installing new playground equipment. 

The older Morrow Village area will see new sidewalks primarily in the area bound by Garrison, Mitchell, Whitmore, and Moffett. The project will be funded by HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds and is anticipated to be constructed by June. The project design is just starting and will be completed in-house by city engineers.

Damas reported that the city is also planning to do some critical maintenance on the sewer main pipeline to the Turlock wastewater treatment plant. Next summer the city plans to video inspect several segments of the critical 18-inch pipeline, dewatering, replacing several blow-offs, and replacing approximately 40 galvanized steel air release valve assemblies with stainless steel assemblies.

A portion of treated effluent from the Ceres wastewater treatment plant is piped to Turlock where it is treated.

Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) in the construction phase include:

• The second phase of the Ceres River Bluff Park’s Lower Terrace. The project was put on hold on for almost a year due to environmental permitting and scheduling issues associated with the environmentally sensitive riparian habitat of the Tuolumne River. Contractor Hanford ARC started construction on Sept. 3. The final environmental permits required the contractor to put off construction of pedestrian bridges, a dock, and a kayak ramp until next summer.

• New electrical service in downtown Ceres as well as new street lights and electrical conduits on El Camino Avenue, North Street, and possibly Third Street and in Whitmore Park. The project is set up with bid alternate packages, which allows the city to select the specific scope work depending on the actual bids received.