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2013 could see surge in retail growth
Courthouse seen as catalyst for developments
City and civic leaders continue to be bullish about prospects for retail and industrial growth in the city this year.
Fueling that bullish outlook is the opening of the $90 million South County Justice Center at Plano Street and Olive Avenue. That nine-room courthouse is expected to be open for business the first week of October, bringing new jobs and scores more people daily to the downtown area.
And, several projects that began in 2012 are coming closer to fruition and residents could see those new businesses popping up this year.
“I see a boom coming to the downtown area,” said Porterville Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Donnette Carter. “I think things are absolutely picking up. A lot of people are contacting the chamber looking for office space, retail space and restaurant space,” she added.
The synergy being created by the courthouse continues to build, admitted City Manger John Lollis, who rattled off a good list of potential retail projects this year.
“I see a lot of stuff moving this year,” he said, including possibly the beginning of construction of a Super Walmart at the River Walk Shopping Center at Jaye and Highway 190. That project, explained Lollis, could be a catalyst for other projects in that vicinity, including a large retail store in the center, a fast-food restaurant and maybe even a sit-down restaurant.
“I think there will be several projects at River Walk,” he said.
Currently, Super Walmart is held up by a lawsuit filed by two Porterville residents who are challenging the environmental review document on the project. Lollis said a ruling could come as early as this spring and if the ruling is favorable to Walmart, then construction might begin in the fall.
Right now, a lot of focus is on the downtown area, closest to the courthouse. Carter said there is already some evidence of how downtown might evolve with the new Subway sandwich shop under construction at Main Street and Oak Avenue, as well as the recent work on the old Palace Hotel building.
The Subway is expected to open sometime this month.
Officials believe the courthouse will mean more law offices, legal service businesses and restaurants. At full usage, the courthouse could bring a couple of hundred people downtown every day, and many of those will need to go to lunch somewhere.
The courthouse will be a full-service facility, handling misdemeanor and felony cases. As many as six judges could be assigned here and there could be multiple trials at one time, similar to how the courthouse is utilized in Visalia.
However, Lollis pointed out there will be new developments all over town.
Walgreens is expected to begin construction on its second site at the corner of Henderson Avenue and Prospect Street (the old Ginger’s Corner); the long-awaited AM/PM mini-mart should be built this year near Home Depot and Les Schwab Tires is working on building a store in that same vicinity. Auto Zone and Family Dollar are expected to go into the Vallarta Shopping Center, Carroll’s Tire is planning a new store at Plano Street and Vandalia Avenue and Dollar General has plans to build a new store at Plano Street and Date Avenue.
There is also talk of a fitness center going into the Town and Country Shopping Center on West Olive and a Leslie Pool Supply store in the Porterville Marketplace shopping center on West Henderson.
A large multi-use project is quickly moving forward at Henderson Avenue and Newcomb Street, but it will need City Council approval before work can begin. That project includes multi-family (duplexes and fourplexes), retail, offices, and a mini storage. Lollis said the developers there want to start on the multi-family portion before the end of this year and 50,000 square feet of that project would be for retail.
There are also talks of possibly two new banks coming to town in the next 12 months and Bank of the Sierra is looking for more land downtown to expand its business office.
Lollis said the widening of Plano Street from Highway 190 and including the Plano Street bridge, could stimulate even more growth in the area of the courthouse.
There are still a couple of industrial prospects looking at the city as well, but nothing on the immediate horizon.