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Projects raring to take off
• Construction boom of approved projects may hit soon
vito truck
Construction has started on a new Vito’s Trucking facility on Whitmore Avenue. It’s among the numerous developments that have been approved by the city recently, most of which have not broke ground yet.

City officials have given their approval to a number of construction projects in the past several years but it’s been a waiting game for them to break ground.

The projects include two major shopping centers, a commercial building on Whitmore Avenue, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center on Hatch Road, a church and a residential subdivision on the east side of Ceres.

The wait has been excruciatingly long for the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center, which was approved by the Ceres City Council in 2016.

In March 2018 the Walmart Corporation submitted building plans and filed an application for a building permit for construction of a new Walmart Supercenter – 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.

Earlier this month Ceres City Manager Toby Wells announced the city had a conference call with Walmart officials in which they learned the corporation is “moving forward very quickly with pushing toward a date (for a groundbreaking).”

Only the 185,682-square-foot Supercenter is currently proposed for construction within the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center. It will precede 10 other retail shops totaling 114,162 square feet, including three other major tenants and four smaller shops as well as a stand-alone retail building and two to three new restaurants.

It remains to be seen if Mitchell Ranch breaks ground before the Ceres Gateway Center, which was approved recently by the Ceres Planning Commission. Genesis Family Enterprises won 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’s first phase is expected to have a grand opening in 2021.

Community Development Director Tom Westbrook feels like Walmart will get moving first. Genesis still has off site work to do and getting construction documents together.

“I would say that they’re going to be behind Mitchell Ranch but I’m eager to see the first shovel of dirt turned on either property,” said Westbrook.

Other projects that could break ground this year 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 in 2009, again in March 2017 and again in December 2018. Westbrook said proponent Dr. Meetinder Rai is awaiting approvals through the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) which is reviewing plans.

“That process takes a long time,” noted Westbrook. “They’ve been in it for more than a year already and I think they’re getting close to being complete. Once that’s done the building permit can be issued and they can start construction. So there’s nothing on the city’s end that’s holding them up. They just have to get through that state approval.”

The facility will be designed for 24-hour care for those 60 years of age or older as well as those needing rehabilitation care. It 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.

City officials estimated then that the facility would employ 130 of which 60 would be on day shifts.

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

Vito’s Trucking is one of the few approved projects under construction. The business is constructing a 13,000-square-foot shop and office building on Whitmore Avenue between Rockefeller Drive and Morgan Road.

In September the Planning Commission approved the project which included splitting 12 acres into four parcels one of which will be the trucking operation and remainders reserved for future higher end industrial users that may have a “showroom” with an industrial component.

Vito’s is being forced out of its Nathan Avenue location in Modesto.

Action is taking place to start construction of a 7,539-square-foot church building by the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East at 1748 Evans Road.

 In July the Ceres Planning Commission gave its blessings to the project for the Saint Gewargis Church and an accompanying Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the church to continue operating the existing nearby Evanshire wedding event venue.

The church has been in Ceres near the Service Road overpass since 1998 but has to find a new location because of the Service Road/Highway 99 interchange project that will result in the building being razed. The city purchased the former site for the interchange project.

The new church site of Saint Gewargis Church, will be sized for a maximum capacity of 285 occupants. Three classrooms will be included for religious education and meetings throughout the week. Plans call for the sanctuary to be near Evans Road, oriented facing the west with the parking lot butting up to the back of property lines of El Monte Avenue homes.

The Evanshire Mansion sits in the middle of the site to the south of the future church building.

The project is proposed for a five-acre site south of the Evans Road and east of Richland Avenue.  The site is currently developed as a wedding event venue with well-maintained landscaping with several buildings linked with the wedding event venue (that will be maintained as part of the overall project). 

“I talked to the architect, probably within the last month, who said they finally closed on the property and they’re just getting their plans together but he didn’t have a timeline on when they would actually get building permits in or when they would start construction of the church.” 

Approved last November was a one-year extension of a prior approval of a conditional use permit to build a mixed-use project on the south side of Whitmore Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. In early 2018 the Ceres Planning Commission approved a 4,500-square-foot two-story building with retail uses on the first floor and a single-family residence on the second floor. The project is intended to be constructed after two properties are joined in a single third-acre parcel.

Since the primary uses proposed for the site are of neighborhood retail in nature, a CUP was approved for the project to allow for the single-family residential use.

Mohinder Kanda of Ceres owns the site and plans to live on the second floor and occupy one of the retail shops with his notary business. The uses for three spaces have not been identified.

Westbrook said he’s unsure of plans to proceed.

An architect and engineer are getting plans together for a 20-unit multi-family residential project at 2800-2808 Blaker Road. The Ceres Planning Commission approved a second one-year time extension for the project back in November. 

The proposed project consists of two five-unit duplexes (10 units total), two four-plex units (eight units total) and two single units for a total of 20 dwelling units on 1.9 acres just east of Blaker Road.

“Until the plans come into the Building Division to get plan checked it’s hard for me to say … but I hear they’re moving that direction.”

Façade improvements have been made to a commercial building on Whitmore Avenue that was once the Blockbuster Video. Westbrook said the building was divided up for small tenant spaces but no tenants have been identified.