Press Room

Goodbye East Hills Mall, hello City Lights

  • By JOHN COX jcox@bakersfield.com
East Hills Mall
East Hills Mall in northeast Bakersfield remains boarded up and fenced off.

A few years ago, comparing the East Hills Mall in northeast Bakersfield to The Marketplace over in the southwest would have gotten you laughed out of any cocktail party.

But earlier this week, commercial property broker Duane Keathley kept a straight face when he said that, within maybe a year and a half, the two retail centers will be “not that much different.”

Seriously. Similar size, similar design, similar kind of entertainment-dining-shopping experience.

 In fact, forget the name East Hills Mall. After it’s demolished later this year, it’ll be called City Lights. And come late next year or early 2020, it’ll be Bakersfield’s new “it” spot, in the words of city Development Services Director Jacqui Kitchen.

“If done right, the ‘new East Hills’ center will bring a variety of much-needed amenities to the residents of northeast Bakersfield,” she wrote in an email Tuesday. “These residents have waited a long time for development of this magnitude and it looks like the time has finally arrived!”

Has someone been drinking the Kool-Aid? Perhaps. But northwest Bakersfield resident Tomeka Powell hasn’t, and during a visit Monday to the northeast to see her mom, she took a moment to reflect on the area’s shopping options.

“There’s nothing, really,” said Powell, 35, a stay-at-home mother. She’d like to see a Victoria’s Secret at City Lights, while her husband wants a Fry’s Electronics. “Yeah, it’s needed,” she said of the mall’s redevelopment.

For the record, not everyone agrees. Rebecca Withnell disapproves of the mall’s demolition.

“They should work with what they have and just refurbish what they have,” said the 33-year-old Bakersfield resident. She shops at stores next to the mall, like Target and Big Lots, and contends the area has plenty of shopping options.

There’s no word yet on who’ll set up shop at City Lights. Keathley and Vince Roche, one of his business partners at Cushman & Wakefield | Pacific Commercial Realty Advisors, aren’t allowed to name names, but they assure us tenants are signing up left and right.

What they could disclose is the kind of businesses that want to be part of the project: clothing stores, shoe retailers, specialty shops, cosmetics, jewelry. They said it’ll have chains that already exist in Bakersfield, just not in the city’s northeast.

As for who will shop there, think everyone in town south of Highway 58, and then some. Rio Bravo. Oildale. Tehachapi. “It’s a very diverse trade area,” Roche said, estimating the project’s trade area at 250,000 people or more.

If that’s the case, you ask, why wasn’t East Hills a runaway success? Well, it’s a long and unhappy story.

When the mall opened in 1986, there were four anchor tenants: department stores Gottschalks and Harris, a Mervyn’s clothing store and a United Artist Theatre.

The northeast area didn’t immediately rise to meet the population projections on which the mall was built. Then, in 1998, Gottschalks and Harris became one, leaving the mall with one fewer anchor. Gottschalks and Mervyn’s later closed during the economic recession, and it was downhill from there.

Malls aren’t generally as popular as they once were. While Valley Plaza still draws crowds, the trend in retail development these days is to build an outdoor setting. Like the Marketplace.

A site plan shared this week by Cushman & Wakefield shows row of stores as large as 40,000 square feet abutting the south side of Highway 178 just east of Mount Vernon Avenue. Included there is a 38,300-square-foot movie theater and a few small shop spaces.

South of that section would be a sea of parking spaces, 2,191 of them (more than the 1,329 required by regulation, by the way). Then, further south along Mall View Road would be a series of retail islands, or “pads,” Keathley said would house restaurants and other uses such as financial institutions.

All in all, City Lights would contain 323,313 square feet of space. In other words, pretty close to The Marketplace’s roughly 300,000 square feet. Who’s laughing now?

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/goodbye-east-hills-mall-hello-city-lights/article_e1b943d8-587e-11e8-8e75-af05116ef91b.html?utm_source=bakersfield.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F%3F-dc%3D1526468413&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

Hey, what’s that going up over there? A look at retail construction around Modesto

California’s economy now globe’s 5th largest

California was in a bragging mode last week because the state’s economy has climbed in global rankings to 5th place behind only the United States as whole, China, Japan and Germany.

It’s a remarkable factoid, certainly, that one American state generated so much economic production – $2.7 trillion last year – that it could rank among global leaders.

It’s even more impressive that California produces so much even though in terms of population, its 40 million residents would be considered a fairly small country, about the size of Iraq.

California moved into 5th place by slipping past Great Britain, which has 63.5 million people, after previously topping France (65 million) and Italy (61 million).

Even more dramatically, California outproduced Russia (142.5 million) and even India, which has 32 times as many people (1.3 billion).

Okay, so it is something about which Californians should feel proud. It might even fuel those semi-serious efforts to separate California from the rest of the nation and restore the nationhood it briefly had in the 19th century.

However, it’s just as important to keep the new economic rankings in perspective, to wit:

—We’ve been there before. As the state Department of Finance points out, we were 5th in 2002, only to decline as the Great Recession struck a few years later, and we were in 10th place as recently as 2012.

—While the state’s economic output increased by 3 percent in 2017, the economies of five other states grew faster, topped by Washington at 4.4 percent, according to a new report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Others with larger increases than California were Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

—The BEA report also underscored the narrowness of California’s economic growth of late. The big drivers, the agency reported, were the high-technology and health care sectors.

—Health care growth has been fueled by huge injections of federal Obamacare funds, primarily for expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s medical program for the poor, to about 14 million Californians, more than a third of the state’s population. Obamacare is, however, under assault in Washington and its future is cloudy.

—California’s technology industry is concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area and its explosive growth has come with high levels of transportation congestion and housing shortages and costs that threaten its future.

—The high cost of housing, born of an acute shortfall in new construction, is the primary reason why California, for all of its economic power, has the nation’s highest rate of poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “supplemental” poverty calculation that takes living costs into account.

—The Public Policy Institute of California, expanding on the Census Bureau methodology, says that nearly 40 percent of Californians are living in poverty or near-poverty, with the highest rates in Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state’s population.

—Finally, California is, as Gov. Jerry Brown continues to warn, overdue for an economic downturn. It’s the economic version of Newton’s Law. What goes up must inevitably come down, as we have seen several times in the recent past.

California’s economy now globe’s 5th largest

PG&E gives support to Stockton Scholars program, others

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is contributing $1 million in local workforce development and educational initiatives in the San Joaquin County area.

The utility company recently announced it will donate the half the funding to the Stockton Scholars program, and the other half will go to New Energy Venture Academy and other initiatives. The academy focuses on providing students with educations that support careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“For Stockton to succeed, our young people must succeed. However, the cost of higher education is expensive and can prevent some of our students from reaching their goals,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. “Stockton Scholars was created with the belief that talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”

Tubbs went on to say that Stockton Scholars is committed to getting rid of the financial barriers preventing students from receiving those seemingly unattainable higher-education goals.

“I am grateful for the support of PG&E and their commitment to the future of our youth and the future of Stockton,” Tubbs said.

PG&E employees will also volunteer time to help promote career awareness.

The utility company said money would help create opportunities.

“Education is the foundation for building a career and strengthening our communities,” said Travis Kiyota, vice president of California External Affairs for PG&E. “PG&E wants to support students by helping ensure there’s money for college or career training, and that these students have someone to turn to for questions, support and encouragement. We succeed through collaboration and are proud to partner with Stockton Scholars to help create opportunity.”

PG&E gives support to Stockton Scholars program, others

If you’re 18 and a high school grad, that’s a starting point for Amazon’s Fresno jobs

By Tim Sheehan

May 09, 2018 

California isn’t growing, but the Valley sure is

Special job training program is about to ‘take off’ at Reedley College

By Reuben Contreras

Reedley College is creating a runway for those who want to get their pilot’s license and work in the airline industry.

This fall the community college will have a new Flight Science Program that will allow students to get behind the controls of an airplane within two years.

“The first job you get, you get a flight instructor for a year or two and get flying experience so that you can legally be a co-pilot at an airline, that takes about two years,” said Flight Science Program Coordinator John Johnson.

He says most programs at other public and private schools take up to four years, and cost of tuition is double the $65,000 charged at Reedley College. Plus, this program is the only in the state that allows students to pay with federal financial aid or VA benefits.

“That’s what makes our program so great is that people who don’t have a lot of money laying around can enter the program and get through it,” said Johnson.

Friday the community college hosted an open house for its Flight Science Center with students visiting from local elementary, middle and high schools.

“They showed me examples of jet engines and propeller engines, and then they had us use the simulators,” said Kingsburg High School Student David Reimer. “So actually we got to fly a simulator plane.”

That flight simulator shows students how to fly a plane on a computer with three screens. Students can get a virtual feel for flying around Reedley Airport or Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Reedley College also plans to use electric planes for training, once they get approval from the F.A.A. The aircraft are funded by Measure C and are part of sustainable aviation project of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center.

“When that happens I think that’s going to be awesome,” said Johnson. “Electric planes are the wave of the future, just like we are seeing with automobiles.”

Enrollment is now open for classes that begin in August.

http://abc30.com/education/job-training-about-to-take-off-at-reedley-college/3462291/

Amazon’s not the only warehouse hiring in Fresno. Ulta Beauty looking for workers, too

Madera County ties for number one for most non-farm job growth

Former farmland is now harvesting economic benefits in Madera County.

Madera County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Bobby Kahn said, “The leading sectors are construction and education, I think they play off each other. Where you have strong construction, you have a lot of growth in your area, of course, your education facilities are going to grow.”

Madera County just ranked number one and tied with Calaveras County for non-farm job growth in the state. Kahn said the education field is hiring more people. Schools have been built and others are underway.

However, a lot of growth has been focused on construction along the Highway 41 corridor

“Riverstone is adding about 35 to 40 homes a month being sold, so that is a tremendous amount of growth out there. Tesoro Viejo is finishing its backbone infrastructure, you’re going to see houses coming out of the ground right there toward the fall of this year,” said Kahn.

Hundreds of people are working on the master-planned communities that will transform the landscape of Madera County. Kahn said in addition to construction, manufacturing is also steady in the county.

“You are seeing a resurgence in the manufacturing sector. All of our manufacturers are going strong and most of them are hiring. We are working with two right now that have substantial plans to add onto their facilities.”

More jobs are bringing more people to Madera County as well.

“Madera County is actually number one in population growth. That population growth also drives jobs,” said Kahn.

In addition to growth along the Highway 41 corridor, experts said construction has increased in Madera and building permits are up in Chowchilla. All positive signs of life after surviving the recession.

Almond acreage in California grows to record total