A conference call with Walmart’s regional vice president has left two city officials encouraged that the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center will soon break ground.
Ceres City Manager Toby Wells reported Monday that he and Community Development Director Tom Westbrook spoke to the Walmart representative and that it was “a very positive conversation.”
“They have re-engaged their team and are moving forward very quickly with pushing toward a date which is very exciting to hear so we expect to hear an announcement from them in the very near future as to when they expect to break ground,” Wells told the Ceres Council on Monday. “It got our attention that they are serious and it so it looks like it’s coming sooner than later, which is very good.”
The project has been in limbo since it 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.
In March 2018 the Walmart Corporation submitted building plans and filed an application for a building permit but no activity and ground-breaking has occurred.
Walmart now owns the site at the northwest corner of Service and Mitchell roads. Only the Supercenter itself is currently proposed for construction within the center. Once construction starts the 185,682-square-foot Supercenter will precede 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.
Once construction starts, the Supercenter could be open within nine months to a year, Westbrook estimated.
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.
Last week the Ceres Planning Commission approved the 13-acre Ceres Gateway Center directly south of Mitchell Ranch.
In-N-Out Burger, Chipotle, Panda Express and Circle K are among the businesses interested in the center.
Genesis Family Enterprises owns the project which 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 is expected to have a grand opening in 2021.