Approximately 13 years of waiting will draw to a close on Monday when the Ceres City Council will be asked to approve a final subdivision map for the Walmart Supercenter, more specifically the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center.
The action will be on the consent agenda before the council. Unless it’s pulled for discussion, it may be approved with little fanfare.
The council will also be asked to approve the subdivision improvement agreement.
Walmart, which already has the building permits in hand, will be able to immediately start construction.
City Manager Tom Westbrook theorized that preparation and grading work could commence before inclement weather starts.
“I don’t know what their timeline is going to be but this is the last step in that process,” said Westbrook.
It’s unknown if there will be a groundbreaking ceremony.
The council will be conducting its Monday meeting without the public physically present given the social distancing restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be accessible via Zoom.
The Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center project has taken the longest to develop in the city’s history, largely in part to an organized effort to halt its development using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A group calling themselves Citizens for Ceres threw a myriad of protests and legal roadblocks against the project for over a decade.
The 185,682-square-foot Supercenter will be the first building constructed in the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center, which was first proposed in 2007, at the northwest corner of Service and Mitchell roads.
The shopping center includes plans for 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.
The project was approved by the Ceres City Council in 2011 following a protracted fight through the environmental process and the Stanislaus County Superior Court led by Sherri Jacobson and attorney Bret Jolley. The center was first proposed in 2007 by the Regency Group. Those legal challenges were exhausted and Walmart was cleared to build. In March 2018 Walmart submitted building plans and filed an application for a building permit.
Walmart plans to close the existing store at Hatch and Mitchell roads once the Supercenter is open. During the approval process, the City Council sought assurances from the corporation that every effort would be made to re-tenant the building for other retail or recreational uses.
“I’ve seen this project from the start and I want to see it to its finish,” said Westbrook.
It’s believed that the new store will incorporate its new store design which was inspired by airport wayfinding systems to direct large groups of people through the store more quickly. That design optimizes product layout, brings greater visibility to key items throughout the store, including dedicated in-store sections for electronics, toys, baby products and more. The new layout is supposed to be more efficient for shopping and emphasizes the use of a smartphone and the Walmart app to make the experience more streamlined.