It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since I was first elected to the Visalia City Council. Back in 2009, we were in the midst of a recession, Mooney Boulevard looked like a ghost town, and consumer confidence had bottomed out. What a difference eight years make! As part of this column’s annual New Year’s tradition, I invite you to reflect back with me on Visalia’s business and retail accomplishments during 2017.

MOONEY BOULEVARD: Sportsman’s Warehouse recently opened just west of Costco. Across the street, north of Costco, is a Surf-Thru Car Wash under construction. I enjoyed the ribbon-cutting for the new Smart & Final Extra, which backfilled the old JoAnn’s location after JoAnn’s moved to the old Circuit City location. We are also now enjoying the grub at the new Outback Steakhouse on the corner of Mooney and Cameron Avenue. A bridge over Packwood Creek is proposed in the Sequoia Plaza Shopping Center (Walmart) to give better access south onto Cameron. “The Commons” regional retail project on the southwest corner of Mooney and Visalia Parkway continues through the entitlement process. The project currently calls for 11 acres of residential, roughly 15 acres of new commercial, and about one acre of greenbelt. It will have numerous anchor pads, a number of drive-throughs and various other retail uses. The old Weatherby’s site at Walnut Avenue and Mooney has been demolished, and new retail/food tenants are expected there.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN: The former Caskey Paper building is the new home of the Planing Mill Artisan Pizzeria, office space, and soon a martial arts studio and gym. More proposals are being made for residential space upstairs at various downtown locations, with House of Sciacca opening six apartments upstairs in the old Link’s building. Provoke Salon and Blend Wine Room are downstairs. Suncrest Bank moved into the old Citibank building on Main Street, with classy improvements such as Tazz Coffee. In the new microbrewery overlay area on East Main, BarrelHouse Brewing Co. opened its taproom and beer garden. Perhaps the most exciting downtown news is that the old courthouse annex on Court Street and surrounding properties are in the process of being sold by the county to private developers. Plans include opening a boutique hotel, preserving its 1930s era art deco architectural style, with 28 luxury suites, a rooftop pool and bar, downstairs restaurant and other amenities.

NORTH VISALIA: The stormwater basin at Riverway Sports Park has been filled in, and the park’s final phase— four new lighted softball fields, concession stands, restroom facilities, parking and an additional picnic structure are coming in 2018. A new Del Taco opened nearby. Tulare County Office of Ed’s Early Childhood Education Program opened at Oval Park. Visalia Emergency Aid Council is adding additional warehousing and office space to its site on N.E. 3rd. Ave. Kaweah Delta Health Care District is adding a 6,100-square-foot urgent care facility, and a senior care facility just north of Lowe’s on Demaree and Riggin. A new Burger King opened on North Ben Maddox Way.

INDUSTRIAL PARK: UPS purchased 58 acres at the northeast corner of Plaza Drive and Riggin for future expansion plans. Golden State Overnight is building a 62,840-square-foot distribution center making Visalia its main hub, with room to double in size in future years. Seventy jobs will be created when it opens. DDG is completing a 402,000-square-foot spec building project at American Road and Riggin. Rumor has it that the developer has already signed occupants to fill most of it, including International Paper Company. There are currently more than 1,000 acres of zoned industrial land that are shovel-ready for more businesses to locate here. Marriott Residence Inn is being built on Plaza Drive and a Holiday Inn Express is completed and open for business behind Adventure Park.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS: Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen is under construction in the Kmart shopping center. Visalia City Billiards has joined Fit Republic and Quantum Leap in the old Vons shopping center, which has become a new entertainment center including, Roller Towne, Chuck E. Cheese and restaurant options. Planet Fitness opened in the old Young’s Market at Walnut and Demaree.

Visalia’s Water Conservation Plant upgrade is finished and awaiting final state approval. It will recycle liquid waste into 99% pure water for irrigation purposes.
We wish outgoing city manager Mike Olmos a happy retirement, he’s done a great job for the city. We welcome our new city manager, Randy Groom, in January.
I’m out of space, so next month I’ll write about some of the proposed 2018 developments in Visalia that will knock your socks off!  Happy New Year 2018!

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