It’s the cream of the local crop at Fresno Food Expo

BY STEFANI DIAS
The Bakersfield California

Jul 7, 2017

While companies from around the globe descend on New York to set national trends, the San Joaquin Valley has its own gathering of what’s up and coming in local foods. For the seventh year, this two-day event serves as the nation’s largest and only regional food show.

More than 150 valley food growers, producers, brewers and winemakers — including our own Kern Ridge Growers — are expected at the expo on July 26 and 27, which also draws nearly 1,000 local, regional, national and international buyers.

A leader in the carrot industry for more than 35 years, Kern Ridge has been with the expo since 2012 and seen it grow.

“The show initially was pretty small but it’s really grown,” Kern Ridge sales manager Andrew Bianchi told The Californian before last year’s event. “There is a lot of participation from growers and shippers.”

Much of the expo is industry-driven, but in recent years it has added Expolicious, a food-tasting event open to the general public highlighting the best area products.

In addition to returning attendees, one famous fan of the valley’s bounty is also scheduled to appear: Simon Majumdar. The celebrity chef and author — known for judging such cooking shows as “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Beat Bobby Flay” and “The Next Iron Chef” — attended last year’s expo and was so taken by the experience he’s returning to participate.

Majumdar has made a name for himself as a proponent of exploring regional cuisine. With a mission of “go everywhere, eat everything,” he has documented his adventures in three books, touring his homeland (“Eating for Britain”) and international spots (“Eat My Globe”) then exploring the United States (“Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America With My Fork”).

At a preview event with Fresno restaurants last month, the chef reiterated his amazement with what the region offers.

” … Central California is a hidden gem with a rising food scene that people absolutely need to take notice. The quality and array of products I discovered was incredible and the talent among chefs in the region is on par with San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“I am excited to return this year, connect with these companies to see how their products are doing and continue to be part of telling the story of the incredible food culture brewing in this vibrant region.”

He will take part in the July 27 public event at which attendees can sample and enjoy hundreds of delicious food and beverage products including fresh fruit, wine, beer, ice cream, cheese, barbecue sauce and more from an array of area companies.

In addition to the chef, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert will also attend the expo, serving as keynote speaker on July 26 at an address for buyers, sponsors and exhibitors. For more than 25 years, Lempert has served as an expert analyst on consumer behavior and retail trends, identifying and explaining impending trends to influential business leaders in the food industry.

Commercial building demand, prices on the rise throughout Central Valley

By Sim Risso
Business Journal Writer

July 7, 2017

 

STOCKTON — As the Central Valley gets deeper into 2017, things are trending positively for commercial real estate. Industry professionals are reporting low vacancy rates, high demand leading to an increase in leasing rates and construction on new buildings ramping up to meet that demand.

Jim Martin, Senior Vice President of Lee and Associates Central Valley Inc. has been working the local commercial real estate market for 21 years, specializing in industrial real estate. During that time, Martin has seen ups and downs in the market, but he said the current market is one of the stronger ones he can recall.

“On the industrial side, I’d characterize the demand similar to what we saw in 2006 and 2007,” Martin said. “But I would say that what we haven’t seen, which we saw in that cycle, is an over flow of supply in terms of new construction starts.”

According to a report from commercial real estate services firm CBRE, there was one commercial construction building completed in the first quarter of 2017. It was a project in Tracy totaling 381,600 square feet.

While the building in Tracy was the only one completed in the first quarter of 2017, there are nine buildings under construction totaling 3.5 million square feet. Six or seven of those projects should be completed during the second quarter of 2017.

However, filling those buildings with tenants shouldn’t be too difficult. The vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2017 was only 2.2 percent.

Brian Peterson is First Vice President for CBRE and covers the office real estate market in the Central Valley. Peterson said he expects to see more projects in the future, but the approach will be measured due to a lack of available, entitled land and developers’ desires to have the building occupied quickly.

“They’ll probably look to build in really strong submarkets or have it pre-leased to justify,” Peterson said. “I don’t think you’ll see spec-office building in the near term under construction to put a major chunk of space on the market. It’ll probably be something that can be absorbed pretty quickly after delivery.”

The CBRE report also cited an increase in the average asking Industrial lease rate. It increased 1 cent per square foot across the board to 40 cents overall.

Tom Davis, Senior Vice President for CBRE’s Central Valley Industrial Practice group, expects the price per square foot to continue to increase in the coming year.

“Rents and building prices are up compared to this time last year,” Davis said. “We expect further increases in the coming year. Almost all vacancies in the market are seeing activity.”
Peterson offered a similar prognostication in terms of office real estate.

“Office lease rates and sales prices are up year over year in most local submarkets,” Peterson said. “I don’t see any change to the trend and expect a moderate increase in pricing throughout 2017.”
There’s also been a trend where the submarkets of Tracy and Northwest Stockton are noticeably strong in the office market. Peterson said part of Tracy’s market could be influenced by the Bay Area, as well as a lack of supply driving up demand. In Northwest Stockton, the Brookside business park is in demand.

“Many buildings are fully leased or just have a couple suites available,” Peterson said. “And again, rents are going up. Each deal seems to be pushing our rates up a little higher than the last.”
Martin has noticed the same thing, with Stockton seeing an increase in demand on the industrial side.

“Historically, there’s always been a preference for Tracy, Lathrop and Manteca, given their proximity to the Bay Area. But as those markets have reached nearly full occupancy, Stockton has been the benefactor of that overflow in demand,” Martin said.

And there’s a diversity in industries driving the demand. On the office side, Peterson cited medical offices, government-related uses, financial and professional services.
Davis also mentioned a wide array of tenants are driving demand in his discipline.

“Tenant demand is very broad on the industrial side,” Davis said. “E-commerce, the electrical vehicle industry and just consumer staples, food and beverage, are the most active sectors.”
Between the demand on the limited supply currently available, the measured amount of construction adding an amount of supply to the market that can be absorbed, and the increase in price per square foot, the market is in a good place. The industry professionals expect it to keep trending that direction too.

“We’re in a healthy market,” Martin said. “Values are up, rents are up and supply is short. So there aren’t very many options, and we’re starting to get to a point now where more and more buildings that are available are getting multiple inquiries and in many cases multiple offers. We haven’t seen that for some time.”

Nemat Inc. Unveiling Solar System for Industrial Application

What: Grand Opening of Nemat Inc.’s, Lean Solar Company and the unveiling of their 150 KW pilot solar system
When: 10 a.m., Friday, July 14th
Where: Nemat Inc. – 19225 Road 24, Madera, CA 93638

(Madera, California) – Nemat Inc. is unveiling a 150 KW-DC solar system at their headquarters facility in Madera, CA. Owner Mike Nemat will also be celebrating the Grand Opening of his new company, Lean Solar. Lean Solar is a developer, manufacturer, and installer of “turnkey” high quality modular ground-mount solar systems for industrial applications. Nemat says his solar system is 30% less than market price and will save customers up to 70% of their energy costs. The system is an ownership program. Nemat is also considering offering financing programs with a 5-6 year purchase option. The down payment can be covered by a 30% tax credit offered by the federal government.

Lean Solar manages the entire project including; concept design, system design, municipalities permit process, manufacturing, installation, and interconnection with utility companies. The entire project is implemented in 45-60 days. This is achieved through their modular design and manufacturing, as well as pre-assembled installation. The system is designed and made in the USA and has a 20 year warranty.

The new venture will expand their operations in Madera and double their employment of 35.

U.S. home prices up 6.6 percent in May 

Central Valley Business Times
IRVINE 
July 5, 2017 

  •  Price appreciation outstripping income growth in many markets
  • Prices soaring in Central Valley
  • For renters and potential first-time homebuyers, it is not such a pretty picture

Home prices are up strongly both year over year and month over month with national prices increasing year over year by 6.6 percent from May, according to a new report Wednesday from real estate financial information company CoreLogic Inc. (NYSE: CLGX) of Irvine.On a month-over-month basis, home prices increased by 1.2 percent in May compared with April, according to the CoreLogic data.

Looking ahead, the CoreLogic “HPI Forecast” indicates that home prices will increase by 5.3 percent on a year-over-year basis by May 2018, and on a month-over-month basis home prices are expected to increase by 0.9 percent from May to June.

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.

“The market remained robust with home sales and prices continuing to increase steadily in May,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “While the market is consistently generating home price growth, sales activity is being hindered by a lack of inventory across many markets. This tight inventory is also impacting the rental market where overall single-family rent inflation was 3.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in May of this year compared with May of last year. Rents in the affordable single-family rental segment (defined as properties with rents less than 75 percent of the regional median rent) increased 4.7 percent over the same time, well above the pace of overall inflation.”

“For current homeowners, the strong run-up in prices has boosted home equity and, in some cases, spending,” says Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “For renters and potential first-time homebuyers, it is not such a pretty picture. With price appreciation and rental inflation outstripping income growth, affordability is destined to become a bigger issue in most markets.”

Parts of the Central Valley are seeing price increases even greater than the national average. Here are CoreLogic’s reports for individual Valley markets:

Home Prices in Fresno Increase In Fresno, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 6.9 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.9 percent in May compared with April.

Home Prices in Stockton-Lodi Increase In Stockton-Lodi, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 9.0 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 2.1 percent in May compared with April.

Home Prices in Visalia-Porterville Increase In Visalia-Porterville, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 5.5 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, decreased by 0.4 percent in May compared with April.

Home Prices in Bakersfield Increase In Bakersfield, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 4.9 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.8 percent in May compared with April.

Home Prices in Metro Sacramento Increase In metropolitan Sacramento, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 8.5 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.8 percent in May compared with April

Home Prices in Modesto Increase In Modesto, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 9.6 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 1.3 percent in May compared with April. Home Prices in Merced Increase

Home Prices in Merced Increase In Merced, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 11.6 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.5 percent in May compared with April.

Home Prices in Madera Increase In Madera, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 8.5 percent in May compared with May 2016. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.5 percent in May compared with April.

USC partners with Kern Medical Center to open Central Valley’s first dedicated epilepsy neurology center

THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
BY HAROLD PIERCE 

By next month, local epilepsy patients won’t have to travel so far for complex procedures.

That’s because Kern Medical Center has partnered with the University of Southern California’s Neurorestoration Center to bring an epilepsy program and center to Bakersfield. It’s the first time USC has partnered with a Kern County healthcare provider.

“There is no comprehensive epilepsy center in the Central Valley. Fresno does not have one, the Central Coast does not have one, and Bakersfield did not have one,” said Dr. Joseph Chen, an adjunct associate professor at USC who serves as the new chief of neurosurgery at Kern Medical Center.

“It’s one of the most common neurological conditions. We knew there was a need here in the Central Valley.”

Chen estimates there are about 10,000 people suffering from medically intractable epilepsy in Kern County, but anticipates drawing patients from as far north as Fresno. The center would be the only one in the Central Valley that offers complex neurosurgery services for epileptics, Chen said.

Next month, for example, a patient is having an open brain surgery where Dr. Charles Yu Liu, the chief epilepsy surgeon, will remove a “focus of tissue” that is causing seizures, Chen said.

“My guess is that probably will be the first procedure of its kind performed anywhere in the area,” Chen said.

Patients needing those types of procedures have historically gone to hospitals in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Chen added.

“That’s a tremendous hardship for many of these patients. Many epileptic patients can’t work, so they have limited resources. Many depend upon caregivers, so making a journey of more than 100 miles can be an undue hardship for them,” Chen said.

The disorder is a complex service line that requires a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiologists, and sometimes psychiatrists during a course of treatment, Chen said.

 Those are all things the partnership with USC would bring to KMC.

In other cases, USC and KMC plucked local doctors, like epilepsy neurologist Dr. Hari Veedu, to help lead the new center who have established private practices. They were wooed, he said, by the resources USC provides.

If a patient requires an investigational procedure, for example, he or she could be sent to Los Angeles but would be treated by the same team doing the surgery in Kern, Chen said.

Chen described it as proof “this can be done in a safety-net hospital,” and that a sophisticated center doesn’t have to be established through a wealthy privately-supported hospital.

USC’s first goal through the partnership, Chen said, is to provide care to the impoverished.

Central Valley Cities Continue to See Increase in Tourism

By Patricia Reynolds
Business Journal Writer

June 22, 2017

STOCKTON — California’s travel and tourism industry enjoyed a seventh consecutive year of growth in 2016, according to the annual economic impact report released by Visit California and Dean Runyan Associates.

The May 4, 2017 report states that tourism generated $10.3 billion in tax revenue and supported 1.1 million jobs during 2016, reflecting a 3.2 percent growth in traveler spending.

Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties contributed to these figures, and as the peak summer travel season approaches, Central Valley communities expect to continue attracting visitors with sights and scenes unique to the area.

“We see a lot of our visitors checking out the Haggin Museum and the Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple, or just shopping and dining in the Lincoln Center and the Miracle Mile,” said Robyn Cheshire, Director of Marketing and Communications for Visit Stockton. “We also know that the water is a big lure for visitors regionally as they explore the Delta and enjoy its recreational opportunities in the summer months.”

According to Cheshire, Stockton is a drive market, drawing many visitors from within a 100-mile radius, particularly from the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Still, travelers from all over the state stop in as well.

“Being on the I-5 corridor, we also see visitors from up north and from Southern California.”

During the peak summer season, Stockton hosts more festivals, sporting events and other activities than other times of the year, and Visit Stockton markets via social media outlets where blog content is targeted at promoting Stockton experiences.

“Our most popular blogs emphasize on family fun, sports, arts and culture and agriculture,” Cheshire said. “We also target potential travelers on other digital channels where they are looking for something to do in the region.”

A bit further North, Lodi’s wine industry is a key attraction to the area.

“Lodi is known as a wine country destination, and visitors travel from all over the United States and beyond to visit our wineries and attend our events,” said Nancy Beckman, President and CEO of Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau.

About 60 percent of Lodi’s Downtown Visitor Center guests are from California, with the largest number of overnight visitors being from the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions.

A sizeable amount of visitors, 40 percent, do travel to Lodi from out of state with roughly 10 percent being international travelers.

“Visit Lodi! advertises heavily in the spring and early summer months to capture the potential visitor in their vacation planning cycles. Also, we feature summer attractions and fun activities in blogs and on social media,” Beckman said.

Vacationers sampling Lodi’s 85 wineries have reported that while in the area, they also enjoy recreational activities such as kayaking, paddling and cycling along with visiting the area’s nature preserves, parks and downtown entertainment.

Hotels see an uptick in business during the summer season as well.

“It is not uncommon for lodging facilities to see a 10-20 percent jump in occupancy during the summer months over the first quarter of the year,” Beckman said.
The establishment of Lodi as a notable California wine region has helped boost tourism in the Lodi area. An economic study of the impact the winegrape and wine industry has had to the immediate area is in process, but the growth in tourism is expected to be positive.

“What I can say now is that the number has definitely increased the past few years,” said Wendy Brannen, Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission.
Wineries in Lodi, typically situated in clusters, tend to work together to increase traffic pull and will refer tasters from one winery to the next.

“It’s very common as you are leaving one tasting room for the staff or owners there to direct you to their neighbors down the way,” Brannen said.

Lodi wineries do not consider themselves as competing with the Napa and Sonoma wine regions for visitors. Instead, they consider the comparison as one of apples to oranges.

“The experiences are so different, and there is plenty of room in the California wine scene for all of us,” Brannen said. “We offer a very personal experience, and many times the people pouring your wines are the winery owners, and very realistically could be growing the grapes too.”
In Modesto, a proximity to rivers and lakes and the associated water recreation and camping opportunities they provide, along with the area’s agricultural richness draws visitors.

“We also have, and this is very seasonal, but we have a couple you-pick farms which have literally exploded,” said Jennifer Mullen, Executive Director at Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People really want that hands-on, ‘Oh my gosh, I picked it myself’ kind of experience.”

Ott Farms is one such operation giving visitors the opportunity to hand-pick cherries and blueberries.

Still, the biggest summertime draw is Graffiti Summer, a celebration which recognizes Modesto’s cruising heritage as depicted in George Lucas’s film, American Graffiti.

“We get thousands and thousands of people in town because they want to experience something to do with American Graffiti, the movie,” Mullen said.
Along with viewing the Graffiti car parade and car show, visitors can take a 1.5-mile walking tour downtown that features 25 information kiosks.
As part of that tour, visitors can now enjoy the walk of fame, a two-block area, and growing, that currently features 18 embedded stars with the names of those influential in Modesto’s cruising car culture.

“That’s all focused on what we’re so well-known for, our signature events which are the classic car shows, the hot rods, the music,” Mullen said.

Pacific Ethanol to acquire Illinois Corn Processing

CENTRAL VALLEY BUSINESS TIMES

SACRAMENTO
June 27, 2017

Pacific Ethanol Inc. (NASDAQ: PEIX) of Sacramento says it is buying Illinois Corn Processing LLC for $76 million, which includes $15 million in working capital.

The transaction is expected to close in July, subject to customary and other closing conditions.

The acquisition adds 90 million gallons per year of production capacity and diversifies the company’s fuel ethanol production with high-value beverage and industrial grade alcohol.

It also will consolidate additional production in Pekin, Illinois with a combined 250 million gallons of production, the company says.

ICP is a 90 million gallon per year fuel and industrial alcohol manufacturing, storage and distribution facility adjacent to the Pacific Ethanol Pekin facility and is located on the Illinois River. ICP produces fuel-grade ethanol, beverage and industrial-grade alcohol, dry distillers grain and corn oil. The facility has direct access to end-markets via barge, rail, and truck, and expands Pacific Ethanol’s domestic and international distribution channels.

“The acquisition of ICP underscores our commitment to making strategic investments that expand and diversify our production platform, increase revenue, expand our marketing reach and improve our overall profitability,” says Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s president and CEO. “The consolidation of the ICP facility with our two Pekin, Illinois, plants integrates the Pekin site into a unique combination of technologies and products with a combined operating capacity of 250 million gallons per year. We expect the acquisition will yield approximately $3 million in annual cost savings over the first six to twelve months after closing, including economies of scale in purchasing power, managing grain supply and transportation costs for DDG and ethanol.”

Upon completion of the acquisition, Pacific Ethanol will have nine production facilities with combined annual production capacity of 605 million gallons.

Pacific Ethanol will acquire Illinois Corn Processing LLC from Illinois Processing Holdings Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seacor Holdings Inc., and MGPI Processing Inc. for $76 million, subject to a customary working capital adjustment. Of the $76 million purchase price, $30 million will be paid in cash and $46 million will be paid through the issuance of non-amortizing secured promissory notes due 18 months from closing.

Pacific Ethanol intends to refinance these seller notes in the near future, and the company is currently engaged in negotiations with CoBank to secure a long-term financing vehicle, which – if consummated – will have terms similar to the existing non-recourse loan at the company’s Pekin facilities.

“In conjunction with this transaction we are also taking steps to further strengthen our balance sheet and increase our available liquidity,” says Bryon McGregor, Pacific Ethanol’s CFO. “We have a commitment from Wells Fargo Bank to expand our borrowing capacity on our Kinergy line of credit facility from $85 million to $100 million, reduce the cost of the facility and extend the maturity date for an additional two years. We have also entered into an agreement to issue additional senior secured notes and amend our existing notes to increase the amount by approximately $14 million, bringing the note total to approximately $69 million with no material changes to the existing terms.”

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza Announces Grand Opening of New California Central Valley Location

Central California

May 8, 2017
www.franchising,com

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, the fast-casual concept known for its chef-driven menu and casually hip restaurants, today announced that it will open a new Central California location, in Clovis on May 11. The Clovis restaurant is located at 1840 Herndon Ave., features a 2,500-square foot interior with interior seating for 51 and exterior seating for 26, and is located in the Buchanan Crossroads Center at Herndon and Fowler Avenues. To celebrate the grand opening, the Clovis restaurant will offer FREE build-your-own artisanal pizzas on Thursday, May 11th from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. to anyone who follows Blaze Pizza on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Blaze also has additional central valley locations in Lodi (1537 Lower Sacramento Road), Tracy (2976 W. Grant Line Rd.), and Stockton at the Weberstown Mall (4950 Pacific Ave).

Blaze Pizza is a modern day “pizza joint” that has been inspiring excitement and cultivating fanatics for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies since it opened its first location in 2012. Each restaurant features an interactive open-kitchen format that allows guests to customize one of the menu’s signature pizzas or create their own, choosing from a wide selection of carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients – all for around $8. The generously-sized 11″ pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven – the centerpiece of the restaurant – where dedicated pizzasmiths ensure that the thin-crust pies are fast-fire’d and ready to eat in just 180 seconds. Each restaurant makes its own dough from scratch using a recipe developed by critically-acclaimed Executive Chef Bradford Kent (the “Pizza Whisperer”), which requires a 24-hour fermentation period to produce his signature light-as-air, crisp crust. For pizza fans with specific dietary needs, Blaze Pizza offers gluten-free dough and vegan cheese. The Clovis restaurant will also feature a selection of wine and craft beer.

To create the perfect vibe inside the Clovis restaurant, award-winning design architect Ana Henton has added several unique, modern touches, including an oversized wall graphic custom-built to suit the space. Additionally, in support of the company’s commitment to “Intelligent Choices for Our Pizzas, People & Planet”, the Clovis restaurant will use both recycled and sustainable materials and energy-efficient LED lighting, and will feature eco-friendly, compostable packaging.

“At Blaze, we’re all about creating an engaging dining experience where guests can enjoy artisanal pizza that’s both fast and affordable,” said Jim Mizes, president & COO of Blaze Pizza. “The authenticity of our food, plus a service culture that genuinely focuses on the happiness of our guests and crew – have been key to our popularity and expansion.”

The newest Blaze restaurant is looking forward to building strong roots within the community, offering a spot where guests can connect, create and enjoy. To that end, the restaurant promotes a turnkey fundraiser program that returns 20 percent of an event’s proceeds back to the organization, helping schools, sports clubs and other local groups “cause a scene for a good cause.”

The Clovis Blaze Pizza location will be locally owned and operated by DAMM Fine Pizza LLC, a franchise group developing locations throughout Central California.

Modesto data project to launch

Central California

February 28, 2017
Central Valley Business Journal

 

Modesto, get ready to learn a lot more about yourself.

The city has been selected to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Work Cities initiative, a national philanthropic effort to enhance the use of data in the public sector.

“They’re going to help us formulate what measures we should be measuring for our community,” said Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez. “They’re going to help us put it together and publish that information so that it’s useful for our community.”

The project will help the city organize and release more of the data it collects. Such information could include demographics, vacant properties, permit requests, arrest records or traffic stops.

Lopez said the first data to be released would likely focus on the city’s Great Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

Schools and universities, nonprofits, the business community, entrepreneurs, developers and others could use the information for their own projects.

The project will last six months with a possible expansion.

Developers unveil plans for lifestyle center at East Hills Mall

Central California

January 18, 2017
By James Burger
Bakersfield.com

The new owners of the East Hills Mall announced Wednesday plans to renovate the property into a 350,000-square-foot “destination open-air lifestyle center” with restaurants, shopping and a brand new movie theater.

Local developers Chris Hayden and Mark Shuman of MarkChris Investments and Craig and Grant Carver of C & C Properties Inc. purchased the northeast Bakersfield mall in December.

On Wednesday they described their plans for turning the faltering mall into a destination shopping center.

Their plans call for a dramatic change to the complex. The center of the mall would be demolished and converted to an open-air courtyard with a fountain anchored by the new movie theater and flanked by shops and restaurants. The theater appears from plans to sit on the same footprint as the current Regency Theaters.

“We are looking forward to providing Bakersfield and especially northeast Bakersfield an exciting, first-class shopping and entertainment experience,” Craig Carver said in a statement. “Our design inspiration is a blend of mid-century modern and contemporary-style architecture so it will uniquely stand out in the market.”

The plans show room for 10 major retail shops fronting on pedestrian walkways, not the interior space of the mall, as well as plenty of other smaller retail and restaurant space.

They show the addition of five new, smaller buildings along the Mall View Road frontage like those that typically contain stand-alone restaurants and banks in other Bakersfield shopping centers.

Carver said the owners are in lease negotiations with several national and regional retailers and restaurants as well as a national theater chain. He did not name names, which is typical before final deals are struck.

Reconstruction is scheduled to start in the “second quarter or early third quarter” of 2017 and be finished roughly a year later. Current tenants will move out by March 3, a press release said.

It said those tenants will have an opportunity to relocate to the new shopping center at current market lease rates.

The project will need city approvals before it can move forward.

Paul Johnson, a principal planner with the City of Bakersfield, said the property is currently zoned for a planned commercial development.

If the developers choose to proceed under that zoning, they would need to submit plans to the city for review and get approval by both the Bakersfield Planning Commission and the Bakersfield City Council.

If the developers choose to rezone the property, they would have to undergo a more extensive zone change process, which could include environmental review up to and including an environmental impact report, Johnson said.

He said formal plans have not been submitted to the city for review.

East Hills Mall, built in 1988, sits between Mount Vernon Avenue and Oswell Street. There are 250,000 people in the project’s primary trade area and about 500,000 people in a 10-mile radius, said Duane Keathley, senior director/principal at Cushman & Wakefield/Pacific Commercial Realty Advisors.

“This redevelopment has been a long time coming,” he said in a statement. “It’s great news for the people of east Bakersfield and for the city of Bakersfield in general. It will be an impressive retail and entertainment center.”