The Ceres Planning Commission unanimously gave its approval Monday evening to what will be the largest hotel in Ceres – Woodspring Inn & Suites – as well as a new Popeye’s Chicken restaurant and 76 gas station and convenience store all within the Ceres Gateway Center.
Woodspring will be the third hotel in Ceres. Microtel and Howard Johnson Inn are located on the freeway frontage road. The four-story-high Woodspring hotel building of 50,800 square feet will consist of 122 rooms and laundry facilities. It will occupy a 2.16-acre parcel adjacent to the east side of Highway 99 in the new shopping center under construction at the southwest corner of Mitchell and Services roads.
Earlier this year the Ceres City Council amended the zoning regulations within the Mitchell Road Corridor Specific Plan to allow construction of buildings taller than the existing 35-foot height limit on properties zoned Regional Commercial, or RC. The action allows a building of up to 50 feet which would allow the four-story structure.
Planning Commissioner Bob Kachel voted for the project after expressing some disappointment in the hotel being an extended stay facility. Typically extended stay hotels are designed for one-night stays for travelers like regular hotels or up to weekly or months long stays since they have kitchenette features. Kachel wanted to know if there was a difference between an apartment complex and a hotel, stating “this basically functions as an apartment complex.”
Community Development Director Christopher Hoem, however, noted the difference is that an extended stay hotel is considered a commercial use versus residential use. He said traffic and demographics of users are different.
“It’s just a different animal,” said Hoem.
Commissioner Laurie Smith also noted that another difference is the city collects a Transient Occupancy Tax for hotel stays unlike an apartment.
“I don’t know, I just don’t know that my level of concern reaches that it shouldn’t be there but I guess I was hoping for a little bit more with as we see hotels coming in – a new hotel, which would be the first one in Ceres in decades,” commented Kachel. “They’ve got some in Turlock. I guess when people look at you, your city from the outside looking in, they say, ‘well this is the best we’re going to get in Ceres.’ Hurts a little bit. I’m a little bit uncomfortable.”
Rates at extended stays tend to be cheaper than other chains. For example, a queen bedroom suite at Woodspring Suites in Bakersfield runs $80 per night, or $560 for a week.
After Commissioner Daniel Martinez asked if the city would see interior room designs and was told that’s the commission doesn’t typically delve into floor plans of hotels.
“I think we want to be clear, this is a residential use, this is a hotel,” said Smith.
Popeye’s Chicken won approval to build a restaurant along Mitchell Road between the Starbucks at the eastern entrance to the center and the In-N-Out Burger on the very southwest corner of Mitchell and Service roads. The chain has an existing restaurant in Ceres at 1400 Hatch Road.
On Monday the commission also approved a 4,549-square-foot 76 gas station and a convenience store building with a drive-thru operation to likely support a fast-food restaurant to be located within the secondary tenant space. The project will be just south of Starbucks at the entrance of the center on Mitchell Road.
“We don’t know which use will be in there but it will be a commercial use, probably some kind of food chain because they’ve got in their plans a drive-thru and the drive-thru will serve that secondary tenant space,” Hoem told the commission.
Proponent Sonny Guy said the secondary use won’t involve cooking and could include something grab-and-go like a Jamba Juice, Firehouse Subs or Little Caesar’s pizzas to go.
Construction is in full swing at Ceres Gateway Center with work occurring on a new Starbucks, Chipotle, In-N-Out Burger, Ono Hawaiian BBQ and a Quick Quack Car Wash south of Service Road. Hoem told the commission that the new Starbucks is preparing to open soon.
The last application expected will be for the center’s two junior anchor retail spaces.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Kachel said he felt “very gratified” to see the three projects.
“I don’t remember the last time we had three items on one Planning Commission agenda,” Kachel said. “It’s nice to see this is coming to fruition after all those years of planning and hoping and then the pandemic slowing everything down and now we’ve got three things on one agenda to develop that center. I was very happy to see it.”