It might take five years, it might take a decade, but Kern County is apparently getting a Hard Rock Cafe-branded hotel and casino.
At least that’s the hope of the Tejon Tribe of Kern County, which announced an agreement this week with Hard Rock International, the global hospitality company known for its rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurants. Hard Rock has agreed to develop and manage a $600 million, 400-room hotel and casino that the tribe has proposed on farmland just west of Highway 99, half an hour south of Bakersfield.
Sandra Hernandez, a council member with the Tejon Tribe, joined The Californian’s Robert Price Wednesday on his weekly “One on One” noon webcast to talk about the Tejon Tribe and its vision for the hotel-casino.
Among the topics they discussed:
• The tribe is considering the possibility of building administrative offices, a health-care facility and housing near the hotel-casino, which will occupy 52 acres of the 306-acre parcel the tribe owns near Mettler.
• The hotel-casino would employ 2,000 people — more than twice the number of known Tejon tribal members. There’s no such thing as a hiring advantage for tribal members, however. “We’re an equal opportunity employer,” Hernandez said.
• Hernandez said she expects to maintain good relations and mutual support among the management of the Tejon’s Hard Rock casino and those of the Eagle Mountain and Tachi Palace gaming casinos in adjacent Tulare and Kings counties, respectively.
The Home2 Suites just west of Coffee Road on the north side of the Westside Parkway south of Brimhall Road hotel is under construction.
Alex Horvath / The Californian
Expectations that Bakersfield’s economy is on the rise have created the city’s biggest hotel boom since the Great Recession.
Half a dozen hotels with a combined 658 rooms are proposed or under construction, all on the city’s west side and many of them extended-stay properties geared toward business travelers. Some of the incoming brands are entirely new to the city.
Hoteliers say the rush of private investment is being driven in part by other local projects, such as the Amazon distribution center under construction near Meadows Field Airport. There’s also a sense the city’s relatively low housing and labor costs have created an incentive to build while the savings last.
Conditions in Bakersfield’s hotel market have improved significantly during the past decade — the city’s occupancy rate is up more than six points, average room rates have increased 25 percent and Bakersfield’s hotel room inventory is up 12 percent, according to hotel data tracker STR.
Those numbers alone don’t explain the construction seen in the market lately, said Francois Khoury, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Bakersfield, which is finishing up more than $15 million of renovations that began in April of last year.
He said a bigger factor in the recent investment is anticipation that oil prices are on the way up and that now’s the time to prepare for good times ahead in the local economy.
“Everybody wants to be ready,” he said.
AFFORDABILITY AND GROWTH
Jenny Hlaudy, general manager of The Courtyard by Marriott, sees affordability as bringing investor attention to the Bakersfield market. Land is inexpensive locally, she said, and so are housing costs.
At the same time, the area’s overall growth, combined with large construction projects going on around town, are helping not just hotels but also local restaurants and stores. She said the net effect is a desirable place to build new lodging.
“It’s huge,” she said of the hotel boom. “We haven’t had that much growth, as far as hotels, in many years. … It’s going to truly impact this city.”
One of the new hotels coming online later this year is a 113-room Home2 Suites by Hilton west of Coffee Road near Brimhall Road. Director of Sales Denise Connor said a large housing-residential-retail project proposed nearby, the Bakersfield Commons proposal, is probably one reason why the hotel is being built.
“With the Bakersfield Commons coming in, that is going to bring in potential new growth,” Connor said. She added that new roads projects and the Amazon center are further positive signs that could lead to business for the hotel.
David Lyman, manager of Visit Bakersfield, the city’s convention and visitors bureau credited an increase in local events for recent hotel investments, as well as travelers stopping overnight on their way to national parks to the north and south.
Whatever the reason, Bakersfield’s hotel tax — a 12 percent addition to the cost of a room — is now bringing in more money than it ever has. This fiscal year alone the tax is projected to raise $9.7 million for the city’s general fund.
Add that to the money visitors spend on meals and supplies, he said, and the local hospitality industry becomes an economic force that is growing fast.
“These projects create and retain jobs, not just the people who work in the hotels and restaurants,” he said. “We all like to keep that money flowing locally.”
The empty Orchard Supply Hardware, Toys R Us and Babies R Us sites in Modesto and Turlock, CA all have been sold or leased. OSH sites on Oakdale Road in Modesto and Turlock will become Ace Hardwares. BY MARIJKE ROWLAND
Those big empty Orchard Supply Hardware, Toys R Us and Babies R Us buildings dotting Stanislaus County might not be empty much longer.
In April it was announced the owners of Strand Ace Hardware in Escalon were going to take over the former OSH site on Oakdale Road. Work continues on that site, with a planned opening at the end of June. Now another new Ace Hardware is slated to take over the former OSH site on Geer Road in Turlock. A banner went up on the building last month with a planned late summer opening.
Modesto’s second former Orchard site, on Sisk Road, was sold earlier this year to Mad Monk Holdings, LLC, whose Berkeley-based owner also operates Rasputin Music & Movies. The next-door Toys R Us building was sold as well earlier this year, to the Miami-based commercial real estate investment firm Corbin Holdings.
A little further north on Sisk Road, the former Babies R Us site remains vacant, but plans are still moving forward for Rasputin Music & Movies, which currently has a shop on Dale Road, to relocate to the space. The new store will be a combined Rasputin and an Anastasia New & Vintage Clothingstore, both associated with Mad Monk Holdings, LLC.
Strand Ace Vice President Dirk Swanson, whose family has run the Escalon hardware store since 1975, said they hope to open in about three weeks, with a grand opening celebration planned for the last week of June. Staff has been working at the site daily — rearranging, organizing and stocking inventory. The 44,000-square-foot building is a significant step up from the company’s existing 28,000-square-foot store, which will remain open when the new one debuts.
Swanson said the company has been hiring the 50 to 60 positions needed to staff the new store. There are still a number of positions available and job-seekers should go to the Strand Ace websiteto apply. They’ve already hired a handful of former OSH employees for the new Modesto store as well.
The space, in the same complex as a Michael’s and Big Lots, has been stripped down to the studs inside. A spokesman for Mentzer PR Group, which is representing Ace Hardware, said a soft opening is planned for late summer. The new store will be owned and operated by a a subsidiary of Ace Hardware Corporation.
The Illinois-based hardware company has more than 5,200 hardware stores in about 70 countries. Ace stores have been filling empty Orchard Supply buildings up and down California, including recent stores in Fresno and Thousand Oaks.
The other former OSH building in Modesto on Sisk Road remains empty and boarded up. According to county property records, the building was purchased by Mad Monk Holdings in February. The holding company is run by Berkeley entrepreneur Ken Sarachan, who operates the new and used music/movies chain Rasputin and new and used clothing store Anastasia. He also owns several buildings along Berkeley’s famed Telegraph Avenue.
Sarachan purchased both the old Babies R Us space and OSH store on Sisk Road this year. In February it was announced that the Modesto Rasputin store, which has been located two doors down from Trader Joe’s on Dale Road since it opened 2014, would move to the empty Babies R Us site. The new space will be a merged Rasputin and Anastasia store. At the time representatives had hoped to make the move this spring, but the company has gone through restructuring since. Rasputin stores in Stockton, Fairfield and Newark have closed.
Modesto store manager Ryan Hewitt said while the move to the new space is still planned, there is no set date yet. He said staff have been clearing out the old Babies R Us store, which was owned by now-defunct parent company Toys R Us, and still had fixtures and other furniture inside. They plan to hire more employees to staff the new site, and are looking for clothing buyers in particular. Interested parties should email email@example.com.
Hewitt said the company has not announced what it plans to do with the Sisk Road Orchard Supply site yet. But for the time being, it has been used to store items from the closed Rasputin locations and other sites.
Next door to the old Orchard Supply on Sisk Road, the Toys R Us building also remains vacant. But it too was purchased earlier this year by an outside buyer.
Corbin Holdings picked up the property in late December 2018. The privately held Miami real estate investment firm has purchased a string of old Toys R Us/Babies R Us buildings in California, Iowa, Connecticut, Virginia, Florida and Louisiana. The company website touts the purchase of the approximately 46,000 square-foot building in Modesto just of Highway 99 for its high-traffic location between Vintage Faire Mall and the nearby Walmart and Kohl’s stores.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Bitwise 41 in Downtown Fresno is taking shape. Offices are getting closer and closer to completion in the building formerly known as the Old Spaghetti Factory.
“We are inside, so the glass is in, lights are up, doors are on, windows are set and you can tell it is starting to look like a finished building which is super exciting,” said Channelle Charest with Bitwise.
The new building is adding to Bitwise Industries growing footprint in Fresno. They have four campuses total and two of them are currently under construction including Bitwise 41 on Ventura and R street. It’s located just steps away from the Hive and State Center Warehouse.
“Accessibility is key, anyone can get here, it is super easy to see right off the freeway and it is a historical building in Fresno,” said Charest.
Business FresYes reality has already announced they’re moving in along with 150 agents, they’re taking up the entire second floor. They’re not the only ones, Express Employment Professionals is also calling the building home and, More tenants are on the way. Bitwise is staying tight-lipped but is dropping some hints.
“It will be a mix of our base tech tenants which is great,” she said. “They will be focusing on education and also expanding our startup community in Fresno as well.”
In addition, they’ll also have others moving in that will support their current occupant base. Bitwise 41 is scheduled to open August 1st of this year.
Following closely on its announcement of a third facility in Stockton, Prism Logistics of Danville says Thursday that it has opened a fourth facility in the inland port city.
“The lower cost of real estate in California’s Central Valley is particularly attractive for our growing consumer product goods customers. And we’re happy to invest in controlled, steady growth to support their success,” says Jeremy Van Puffelen, vice president of business development for Prism Logistics.
This acquisition brings the Northern California third-party logistics provider’s total capacity to 1.6 million square feet of food-grade, safety-certified warehouse capacity. Prism operates eight facilities throughout Northern California and convenient to port, rail and highways serving the entire major metropolitan region and international gateway.
The company’s facilities are in Hayward, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and Livermore.
Prism did not identify the seller or the financial terms of the deal.
“It’s like a California version of the New York versus New Jersey thing—but maybe worse,” Smith says. “You’re so close to one of the biggest metro areas in the country, but never quite there.”
Like many of his generation, Smith, 37, moved to bigger cities in search of opportunity. In his case, he sought work in urban planning and commercial development in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. But as he developed a passion for downtown revitalization, he began wondering, why not Bakersfield? He returned to his hometown in 2014 with a hunch that the city was ripe for redevelopment, and soon began work on what would become the 17th Place Townhomes.
Since opening in 2016, the high-end three-story, 44-unit downtown development represents the first market-rate housing built in the city’s core in decades. It’s not every day the city gets new housing, complete with a dog park, fountains, and a fire pit. Now that the development is fully leased—not a small accomplishment for new housing asking the highest rent in town, at between $1,630 and $1,830 for a two-bedroom—its success has convinced Smith and his firm, Sage Equities Real Estate, to break ground later this year on a new 53-unit project downtown.
“What we’re doing is a real niche product,” he says. “But you can really start seeing people get excited about this neighborhood.”
A bet on Bakersfield and rebuilding downtown
Smith’s bet on Bakersfield represents a new era of development, however small, for this Central Valley city. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found Bakersfield to have one of the highest rates of millennial movers and homeowners, setting off a series of stories written with a tone of “wait, that Bakersfield?” as if it were a shock that somebody might find the city was both a good value and a good opportunity.
After all, compared to coastal California, where were the high-paying tech jobs and new homes? When California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s troubled high-speed rail project would focus on the Bakersfield to Merced section, connecting two Central Valley locations, many rail supporters felt Newsom was saying the train would never connect to LA or San Francisco.
The 17th Place Townhomes helped bring more attention to a newly christened neighborhood, Eastchester, that’s beginning to blossom, and includes restaurants, coffee shops, and new businesses. In this formerly industrial stretch of town, business owners are finding new uses for old buildings, including Cafe Smitten, another Smith project, and Dot x Ott, a just-opened seasonal kitchen that sources its produce from a farm 10 miles away.
Though tiny, the downtown turnaround is palpable, says Debbie Lewis, a wealth manager who moved back to Bakersfield a few years ago.
“The downtown that I grew up hearing about and knew as a young adult was a ghost town that people were hesitant to visit and a place that businesses had a hard time sustaining,” she says. “Now, it appears to be growing at a slow but steady pace and an inspiring amount of businesses have are continuing to decide to take that leap, get creative, and get in on the action. People are starting to see the positive impact of investing more care, money, and time in our downtown.”
While the city’s current growth spurt has been out, not up, as nearby farmland has been turned into housing developments, there are a lot of buildings with good bones downtown, according to Gunnar Hand, an urban designer with architecture and planning firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Hand led a team that devised a new downtown plan for Bakersfield in 2016, in anticipation of the arrival of high-speed rail. They found the beginning stages of placemaking investments had already laid the groundwork for the nexus of new downtown development.
“This is, for lack of a better term, a third-tier city that’s only now coming around to urban revitalization,” says Hand. “Los Angeles is 20 to 30 years into revitalizing its downtown. Kansas City, [Missouri], my hometown, is 10 years in. Bakersfield is in, like, year one.”
Moving back and making a new start
When talking to Bakersfield residents who left town for college or careers and have now returned as older adults, affordability is a constant theme.
It helps in California to have housing that’s actually affordable. With a median home value of $241,000 as of last March, and median starter homes beginning at just $145,300 according to Zillow, it’s no surprise that the median age of a first-time buyer in Bakersfield is just 33. The city’s sprawling growth pattern has played a big role in creating cheap housing; as the city and metro region grew out, Bakersfield’s population ballooned from 70,000 in 1970 to more than 380,000 today.
According to NAR researcher Nadia Evangelou, these newly arrived millennials can afford to buy nearly 15 percent of homes currently listed for sale in Bakersfield, compared to only 4 percent in Los Angeles.
“Millennials still move to big metro areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco,” she says. “But we see that they don’t stay in these areas, because of weak affordability conditions.”
But the real draw goes beyond affordability. Cheaper housing enables many of the Bakersfield boomerangs to buy rather than rent, have a better quality of life, and start businesses, all of which might be unaffordable in other California cities.
For Jessie Blackwell, a cofounder of Dot x Ott, the seasonal restaurant and market just a few blocks from the 17th Place Townhomes, now is the perfect time to open a new kind of business in town. The restaurant, which opened last month, is taking advantage of the region’s wealth of farms and fresh produce in a way that just wasn’t really done here just a decade ago
“There’s a food movement here,” she says. “You can see it in the revitalization of downtown, and the handful of farm-to-table restaurants that have come to town. In the last five years, you’ve just seen this boom in farmers markets and so many more local options.”
Melissa Delgado is a product manager for an agriculture company who returned to town in 2011 after studying in San Diego. She found that the city, with its low cost of living, was perfect for growing her career. With the $2,000 or more she would be spending per month on rent elsewhere, she’s been able to buy a house.
“When I first came back here, I hated it,” she says. “I wanted to go right back to the city. But I’ve been able to grow my career here, and the style of living is just so much better.”
Daniel Cater, an architect and designer who recently returned to town with his wife three years ago, has found great opportunity since moving home (Smith hired him to design the townhome project).
“You’re beginning to see a city of half a million support innovation and change,” he says. “For me, it’s exciting to watch a city that hasn’t really found itself, where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive. It’s fun to be in a place where you can get to know the people making an impact, and make an impact yourself.”
Placemaking and the Padre Hotel
Most of the Bakersfield residents interviewed for this story noted that a lot of the new energy downtown comes from people who have returned after moving away, not a flood of new arrivals from other parts of the state or country. There’s still a relatively tight-knit circle of businesses and entrepreneurs in town, often built on local networks. Smith’s dad, for instance, is city Councilmember Bob Smith. And compared to the urban renaissances touted in other cities, Bakersfield’s new developments are not linked to any kind of broad apartment-building boom or big economic expansion yet.
But the catalysts for such change seem to be in place: Two local groups, Kern Economic Development Corporation, a traditional local business group, and Be In Bakersfield, a grassroots nonprofit that promotes new local businesses, have started marketing the city as a place of opportunity.
With some additional investments in transit and placemaking, Bakersfield also has the potential to truly activate its downtown. According to SOM’s Hand, when the firm studied the city in 2016, it found that much of the infrastructure for downtown growth was already finished or in the works. As part of a larger community redevelopment project, Bakersfield developed Mill Creek, a River Walk-style public space and linear park lined with theaters and new businesses. It opened in 2010.
Many of SOM’s suggestions—to create new transit links, connect the city’s already impressive bike lane network, and tie together disparate parts of downtown—have already been done or are in development.
“Our main suggestion was to create infill that brings together Mill Creek with the downtown core,” he says. “That’s already happening now, without the rail station being built.”
In addition to larger urban plans setting the table for more dense development, the successful redevelopment of the Padre Hotel also served as a marker and milestone for downtown. A landmark from the ’20s that reopened in 2010, the ornate hotel at 18th and H streets, a four-star property in the Central Valley, showed many that the city’s stock of old buildings held promise.
“The 17th Place Townhomes and the Padre Hotel are landmark projects for a town this size,” says Hand. “They signal something to the market that didn’t exist before, and it’s starting to snowball. There are local developers taking note.”
Continuing challenges to building a better Bakersfield
Bakersfield has gained momentum, but it still has a ways to go. Like many Central Valley cities, such as Merced, it’s pushing to diversify economically and build new industries, as well as regain the attention of state government after being ignored for many years.
As part of a larger demographic trend statewide, however, these Central Valley cities have seen more attention from new arrivals. Interior metros like Riverside, Fresno, and Sacramento have seen net domestic migration rise from 2012, when this region collectively lost 4,000 people, to 2017, when 38,000 arrived. At the same time, coastal parts of California have grown at a much slower pace, two-thirds less in 2017 than in 2012.
To capitalize on its growing population, Bakersfield’s economy needs to expand beyond health care, agriculture, and oil, and the region needs to invest in creating a more educated workforce. According to the Brookings Institution, among those ages 25 to 34 in the Bakersfield area, 29 percent are in poverty and only 14 percent graduated from college. The city’s persistent problems with air pollution, some of the worst in the state and nation, give potential residents pause.
“We have historically relied on cyclical industries like oil and agriculture, but the truth is, that’s not the future of where the world is moving,” says Anna Smith, a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian, and Austin’s wife. “We need to diversify, and bringing new minds here who have lived in other places is key to the 21st century.”
Anna Smith, like others, has pinned some hope on Newsom’s commitment to the Central Valley, including high-speed rail and other economic plans. Proposals at the local level, like Measure N, an initiative to revive state-funded community development, and a forthcoming update to the city’s general plan, could help finish out some of the placemaking plans SOM and others have proposed to knit together Bakersfield’s downtown.
“Newsom has the opportunity to show us that he can make connections here,” says Smith.
Coming back to feel more connected
The small cadre of new businesses, and Bakersfield residents returning home, suggests a similar story—like those in places like Memphis, Tennessee, or Louisville, Kentucky—is starting to play out. Bakersfield hasn’t had a downtown boom, at least not yet, but the seeds have been planted.
As Debbie Lewis, the wealth manager, suggests, there’s a hunger among young adults to make a mark on their environment.
“They don’t just want to be one of the millions of people swallowed by social media and all the reminders that we’re broke and don’t have any money,” she says. “All that negativity is pushing people to connect with a place and make a difference, and I think that’s possible here in Bakersfield.”
Or, as Anna Smith suggests, affordability isn’t the entire answer, it’s just the beginning. Without the pressure to pay for increasingly high rents, having more time to focus on passion projects and community engagement makes a real difference.
“If you want to say it’s just about affordable housing, that’s not all there is the Bakersfield,” she says. “Young professionals can come here, start a business, and find lower barriers to entry. Most importantly, they can feel connected to the community and make a real impact.”
BoxCar Cafe serving sandwiches and tri-tip for lunch and breakfast, opened in the spot vacated by CHARburger on the corner of Kern and L, while GG’s Food Factory will serve Mediterranean and Armenian food, next door at 2139 Kern St.
First came the tri-tip sandwiches. Soon, you’ll be able to get an Armenian favorite: a bread boat filled with a warm cheese and egg mixture.
These items are on the menu at two new restaurants opening on the same corner in downtown Fresno. Both are at the northwest corner of Kern and L streets, part of the Hotel Virginia building.
The first, BoxCar Cafe, opened about a month ago, shortly after its predecessor, CHARburger closed in late March. Keep reading for more about BoxCar.
The newbie restaurant next door is GG’s Food Factory. It opens at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 9 at 2139 Kern St. It’s in the space that Tree of Life left behind when it moved north to 6640 N. Blackstone Ave.
The food here is Mediterranean, with some Armenian favorites and options for people who just want a hamburger or pizza.
That eggy, cheesy concoction? It’s called adjaruli khachapuri, though you can just say egg boat if that’s easier. It’s technically from Georgia (the country next door to Armenia), but is a common dish in Armenia, said Tigran Hovhannisyan, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Ripsime Oganyan.
He recommends tearing off a bit of that dough and dipping it in the warm gooey mixture.
Also on the menu: Plates of barbecued meat like pork ribs, cubes of lamb and chicken lula kabob served with rice pilaf. You can also get a hamburger and a lamb burger, salads and pizza.
A few other dishes on GG’s menu that you won’t find at many other Fresno restaurants? Lahmajoon (an Armenian flatbread smothered in ground beef) and potato pie (technically called piroshki). It looks like a roll, but it’s stuffed with herbed mashed potatoes and then deep fried for a crunchy bite.
If the name GG’s Food Factory sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the big red food truck of the same name around town. The same couple runs it and many of the dishes sold on the truck will be available at the restaurant.
They’re putting aside the truck for a while to focus on running the restaurant.
“That’s my dream,” Hovhannisyan said. “I’ve been cooking for a long time.”
He owned a restaurant in Armenia before coming to Fresno in 2000. After starting the food truck, customers started asking for something more.
“They keep asking about a restaurant, because they want a sit-down restaurant,” he said.
For the next month or so, GG’s will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
For downtown diners looking for dinnertime options, don’t fret yet. The couple hopes to get there eventually and be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.
But they’re also expecting a baby in about a month and between that and opening a new restaurant, they decided to start small and ramp up.
The BoxCar Cafe at 901 L St. is a quick place to grab lunch. It opened about a month ago.
Its lunch menu has just six options: A cheeseburger, veggie burger, tri-tip sandwich, grilled chicken club, a “ham stack” sandwich and a sourdough Joe made with bacon, Swiss and American cheese with grilled onions on sourdough bread.
It also serves breakfast quesadillas and breakfast sandwiches, though people are still discovering that it’s open for breakfast, said owner Donna Willis.
The restaurant doesn’t have a prominent sign yet, but look for the restaurant that’s right on the corner of Kern and L streets. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with breakfast items served until 10:30 a.m.
If the restaurant name BoxCar sounds familiar, it’s probably because you remember the little cafe painted to look like a boxcar on Hamilton Avenue. Most recently it was called Keith’s BoxCar Cafe & Barbecue, though it closed years ago.
Willis opened the first BoxCar on Hamilton before it went through a succession of owners.
While you can’t bowl at Turlock’s new Ten Pin Fun Center just yet, you can find a job — more than 100 of them, in fact.
As finishing work continues on the large family entertainment center being built just off Highway 99 in the Monte Vista Crossings shopping center, hiring has begun to fill some 125 jobs. Applicants are invited to attend a multi-day hiring fair from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 2 to April 5 at the center, at 3700 Countryside Drive.
The center will be hiring restaurant hosts, servers, bartenders, cooks, bowling and gaming hosts, game technicians, bowling mechanics and more. Job seekers must be at least 16 years old, but those under age 18 require a work permit. Take a resume and identification, and be prepared for on-the-spot interviews during the event.
The new Ten Pin Fun Center building has been under construction since September 2017. The 62,000-square-foot space will have a full-service restaurant, 34 bowling lanes, more than 60 arcade and interactive video games, a two-story laser tag arena, three full bars, an outdoor beer garden, a bocce ball court and a covered patio.
The long-gestating project was first proposed in 2010 across from California State University, Stanislaus, on land that has since become the student housing complex The Vista. Since work began on the Monte Vista Crossings site across from Hobby Lobby, the center has been hit with unexpected construction delays that pushed it past a number of proposed opening dates.
Published On March 25, 2019 – 11:58 AM Written By The Business Journal Staff
A new California organization has been formed to help investors and developers take advantage of federal Opportunity Zones.
CalOZ “will promote competitive, equitable and sustainable Opportunity Zone investments in California,” according to a release from the organization.
“Our state must embrace new strategies to rebuild an upward economy that works for all Californians,” said Kunal Merchant, president and Co-Founder of CalOZ. “Opportunity zones offer an important new tool, not only to promote economic mobility and the green economy in areas of our state that need it most, but also to re-evaluate and re-imagine how business, government, and community work together to foster a more competitive, equitable and sustainable economy in California.”
In President Donald Trump’s 2016 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he outlined what was labeled Opportunity Zones, which offered tax breaks on capital gains for investments in distressed areas.
In Fresno, a number of the areas were established, including the Kings Canyon and Blackstone avenue corridors.
On average, Opportunity Zones have a poverty rate of nearly 31 percent with families making 59 percent of the median income for the area, according to the release, citing information from Economic Innovation Group.
“Opportunity zones offer an intriguing new pathway for our state to expand our middle class and restore the California Dream for all residents,” said Ashley Swearengin, Central Valley Community Foundation’s CEO and former Mayor of Fresno. “I’m thrilled to see CalOZ showing leadership on this issue and excited to support their work both in the Central Valley and state as a whole.”
CalOZ’s first priority will be coordinating with the state to create “high-impact” policies in addition to the ones being offered by the federal government. The plan is to create a “triple-bottom line mindset” for social, environmental and financial opportunities, according to the release.
“With more than three million Californians residing in opportunity zones, California can and must seize the chance to deploy an unprecedented source of private capital into the communities that need it most, “ said Jim Mayer, President and CEO of California Forward. “We’re proud to partner with CalOZ to support state and local action to ensure California emerges as a national leader in this program.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury certified more than 8,700 qualified areas throughout the country. Of those, California has around 10 percent within its boundaries. And Fresno County is ranked third in terms of having the largest designated Opportunity Zones, according to Merchant.
Those designations will last through the end of 2028.