COVID-19 has derailed a lot of things but apparently not the plans of Walmart to start construction of the new Supercenter in Ceres.
Word from newly appointed City Manager/Director of Community Development Tom Westbrook is that the Walmart Corporation is moving forward and could be breaking ground soon.
“They’ve been working to get bids,” said Westbrook, who had hoped to place the final map and subdivision improvement agreement on Monday’s meeting. The item was postponed because Walmart didn’t submit the required signatures because much of the work at headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas is being done remotely. Westbrook said the matter will be pushed off until the Monday, May 25 City Council meeting.
“Everything shows they’re moving full speed ahead and the reason I can say that comfortably is they’ve gone out to get bids for the actual construction work. I think they got the bids back; they’re refining those bids with whomever the folks are that bid that. I believe that once they get that final map adopted – we’re shooting for the second meeting in May – then hopefully they’re breaking ground within 60 days after that.”
Westbrook has been pressing Walmart for a groundbreaking date to plan a celebration but the company has held back pending the next council steps.
The 185,682-square-foot Supercenter will be the first building going up in the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center, first proposed in 2007, at the northwest corner of Service and Mitchell roads. The project was held up for over a decades by an anti-Walmart group that dragged out things through the court system.
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 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. 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.
Also expected to break ground – likely next year – is the Ceres Gateway Center just south of the Supercenter site. Genesis Family Enterprises received 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.
Among the businesses expected at the Gateway Center are In-N-Out Burger, Chipotle, Panda Express and Circle K.
“The sooner Walmart starts to build I think the sooner that you’ll see things happening at Ceres Gateway Center regardless of Covid,” said Westbrook. “I think the Gateway Center and some of the tenants that they’ve got lined up, you know, In-N-Out, Chipotle and Panda, they’re going to love the fact that they’ll be near a Walmart that’s under construction and opening.”
Westbrook said Gateway was just approved and has a lot of work to do on improvement plans prepared by their engineers, checked by building officials and seek building permits.
“They’re a lot further behind Walmart,” added Westbrook.
In 2008 the city approved the Gateway project as proposed by Ralph Ogden. The project stalled – the economy hit the skids that year – and expired in 2012 after extensions were granted. The center was redesigned and brought back earlier this year by Ogden’s son, Daniel. The original project included plans for two hotels.