Kings County Supervisors approved the 415-acre Jackson Ranch Specific Plan in January at Utica Avenue and I-5. The Jackson Ranch project will bring two gas stations, a truck stop, two hotels, two restaurant pads, three retail pads and three fast food pads. Rendering contributed
Written by Edward Smith
A new truck stop, retail center and industrial hub off Interstate 5 aims to bring development to an oft-forgotten portion of Kings County. Developers and county officials alike hope to bring 1,600 industrial and retail jobs, relieve congestion headed to the Central Coast and provide water to a disadvantaged community.
Kings County Supervisors approved the 415-acre Jackson Ranch Specific Plan in January at Utica Avenue and I-5, four miles from Kettleman City.
The Jackson Ranch project will bring two gas stations, a truck stop, two hotels, two restaurant pads, three retail pads and three fast food pads, according to a site plan overview submitted by developer Utica J.L.J. LLC. They are currently in escrow with the gas stations and truck stop, according to Jon Lash with Utica J.L.J. Based out of Southern California, Utica J.L.J. is made up of Lash, Larry Bross and John Markley.
Design for the project is a nod to agriculture in the area with decorative silos, barns and wells throughout the shopping center. Designs outline buildings in a “modern farmhouse” style.
The project would also develop 113 acres for industrial uses —including logistics centers.
Lash estimates they will break ground this summer with a grand opening in Q4 of 2022.
Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Lash had seen the potential for business growth along I-5. He recognized a need for retail as well as space to accommodate the movement of goods. Covid has only exacerbated the need for logistical space, Lash says.
The original plan was to start with the gas stations, truck stop, hotels and restaurants, with the second industrial phase coming online after that. But the significant demand for industrial and logistics lead them to develop concurrently, Lash said. Considering the interest in the area, Lash anticipates a lot of the buildings will be build-to-suit.
Utica J.L.J. is using Cushman and Wakefield as brokers for the industrial development and Avenue Realty Group as brokers for the retail development.
One obstacle to development in western Kings County has been workforce.
Nearby Kettleman City itself has a population of just over 1,100 people.
Labor for the restaurants, gas stations as well as Bravo Farms often comes from Avenal, Lemoore and Corcoran, according to Greg Gatzka, Kings County Community Development Agency Director.
The county worked with developers to provide labor for businesses.
Many workers utilize a State vanpool program called CalVans to get to work.
An affordable housing element in Corcoran also has a need for jobs, Gatzka said.
A labor study done for the project estimated that workers would be willing to drive between 45 to 60 minutes to work at Jackson Ranch.
This would include workers from Hanford and Lemoore.
Lash personally feels that the quality of jobs could attract workers from an even bigger radius, perhaps 60-75 minutes away from the site.
The project would also reduce congestion at Kettleman City, county officials surmise.
Trucks traveling via I-5 often have to pull into Kettleman City to rest or refuel. The Jackson Ranch project would allow them to stay on the interstate.
“Kings County does not have a major truck stop,” said Greg Gatzka, Kings County Community Development Agency Director. “This is a large investment to help long-hauling trucks with an easy on-and-off ramp to help avoid coastal [Highway] 41 traffic.”
One of the hurdles for developers is the lack of infrastructure. The 415 total acres of the project are currently farmland and don’t have electrical, sewer, water or drainage, according to Gatzka. Even more of a challenge will be bringing natural gas. The only natural gas line is on the other side of I-5. Running gas line across the thoroughfare will require cooperation from Pacific Gas & Electric.
The project’s need for clean water will also mean clean water for nearby Kettleman City. The community has long relied on groundwater with dangerous levels of arsenic and benzene — though a wastewater treatment plant installed last year has helped abate the level of contaminates.
Rights for the project grant 140 acre-feet of water yearly to Jackson Ranch. Water would be run through the Kettleman City wastewater treatment facility with an unused portion going back to citizens there.
At full build-out, the Jackson Ranch project will only require 35-40 acre-feet of water, Gatzka estimated.
This would give them ability to send excess to the community.
A second phase for Jackson Ranch has 211 acres reserved for ag uses. This may mean nut or fruit trees, said Lash, but it could also be used for agritourism.
Bravo Farms in Kettleman City features a cellar of premier wines from over the hill in Paso Robles. Richard Valle, Kings County supervisor, hopes to include tasting rooms and farmers markets to showcase local ag.
Another 56 acres is zoned for an airstrip overlay. Lash says there has been interest in creating an airstrip in the area, but nothing is finalized.
Valle calls the west side of Kings County “underutilized.”
“This is a prime opportunity to bring jobs and sales tax [revenue],” Valle said.