Stores at the Riverwalk at Riverstone retail development near Highway 41 and Avenue 12 should begin opening by next month. Photo by Retail California

published on November 11, 2021 - 2:31 PM
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A new community in Madera that has been in the works for years is taking shape as restaurants, retailers and residents move in.

Riverstone is a master-planned community development off Highway 41 and Avenue 12 in Madera. It has already partnered with several homebuilders including Bonadelle Neighborhoods, Granville Homes, Lennar, Woodside Homes, Wathen Castanos, Wilson Homes and Crown Homes.

Situated on the corner of Highway 41 and Avenue 12 is a retail and office plaza, Riverwalk, designed to emulate Santana Row’s shopping, dining and living experience in San Jose.

Riverstone is one of two major community developments in the works for Madera County. The other is Tesoro Viejo, which has plans for about 5,200 homes. A community center there has been completed with plans for retail and other amenities at the new community that is a couple miles north of Riverstone.

Developer Tim Jones said Riverstone first broke ground in 2015 with the first home sales coming a year later.

There are more than 1,000 occupied homes at Riverstone, on the way to more than 6,000 according to plans. The community adds between 400 and 500 homes per year, and currently there are a couple hundred under construction, Jones said.

Lennar has plans to occupy close to 1,000 acres of land, which is now either owned or under contract. This land has the capacity to hold 3,700 homes over the next decade, said David Williams, president of California Commercial Land Sales.

Williams specializes in the sale of raw land for subdivisions and investment properties. The firm represents Lennar in all of its land acquisition in the Central Valley.

“I would say they’re all in. They’re fully committed. They believe in that area, they believe in the community and it’s obviously well received by their home buyers,” Williams said. “There’s nothing but good things said about it.”

The supply at Riverstone will help alleviate demand in years to come, and he believes there will be a strong demand in the area for many years.

“It’s a five-star community and location. Madera County has obviously opened up an area that is in close proximity to Fresno, you know, River Park, and so it’s opened up a new market to handle the supply problem that the local area is seeing,” Williams said.

Riverstone is unique in its attention to detail as it’s been developed, from landscaping to amenities. The Lodge, the existing residential clubhouse, is one of three planned clubhouses.

The community emulates that of the City of Irvine, and the team made several trips to Southern California in order to bring a similar feel back to Madera.

It will create hiking and walking trails and a river through the middle of Riverwalk, a 50-acre commercial zoned property.

The area is the future home to Papi’s Mex Grill, Dutch Bros, Judy’s Donuts, Fresh Fill, Me-N-Ed’s and Blast & Brew. There are still available spaces including an end cap with a patio next to Judy’s Donuts, which backs up to the south side of Avenue 12.

Riley’s Brewing will also be up the road from the already-constructed portion of Riverwalk.

“They’re going to do a really unique concept that’s two stories, just a beautiful restaurant and brewing facility that I think is going to be a showpiece of the area,” Jones said.

Jones expects most of the tenants to be open by the end of this month if all goes according to plan.

Jacob Cantu, head of marketing and events for Dutch Bros, said their plan is to open by the end of this month. It will be Dutch Bros’ first location in Madera.

The location will offer a drive through as well as seating inside and outside, similar to its Fresno location on Palm and Herndon avenues.

In addition to the existing commercial space, there are also plans for office space.

“We’re working on a 20,000-square-foot office building right now — just finished the design of it,” Jones said.

Between the office component on the south and the retail on the north there will be a project similar to Santana Row in San Jose, which will feature retail on the bottom of the building structures with retail or residential above.

“Between the north and the south just imagine a road that splits the east and the west side of it. And along that road, it’s going to have a median, and that median is going to be 90 feet wide, and it’s going to have, you know, sunglass huts and coffee deals and maybe a little wine bar and a river running through the middle of the road,” he added.

Riverstone’s commercial space has been in the works ever since Covid began. At the beginning of 2020, the retail center already had letters of intent to fill 100% of the space. Some nail and hair salons were planned to occupy the space, but got hit hard because of Covid-19 business shutdowns.

As restrictions eased and businesses learned how to operate under a new normal, Riverstone saw occupancy rise again.

“We’re just at the beginning stages,” Jones said.

Retail on the north side of the property will be accompanied by office space on the south portion of the property, with room to grow between the two areas.

Homebuilders have long been interested in the new master planned community, especially because of the schools.

John Bonadelle, president and CEO of Bonadelle Neighborhoods, said that interest in building piqued based on the amenities like The Lodge, walking trails, schools and parks.

“It is a true master planned community, like something you would see out at Irvine down in Southern California. It was very appealing to us,” he said.

The abundance of landscaping and walking space along the sidewalks, Bonadelle said, looks similar to that of Irvine communities.

About two years ago, Bonadelle purchased land for homes. So far the company has built about 125 homes and the next phase, which is being sold now, will eventually include 145 homes. The first residents for the second phase are able to move in next month.

Construction has also been an obstacle.

“Trying to work out supply issues from windows to bathtubs to electrical boxes, gas couplers — I mean just oddball things that you don’t normally think about that we buy off the shelf — suddenly were being allocated,” Bonadelle said. “It’s kind of an interesting world we’ve been living in for the last year.”

Water supply hasn’t been a concern for Bonadelle because the infrastructure was already in place before building homes in the community. He compared it to building in Fresno or Clovis, where all builders have to do is “plug into the system.”

“To us, it was a much easier way to go when you build in a master planned community because a lot of the work is brought over to the developer and not the homebuilder,” Bonadelle said.

Water rights, filtration systems and supply had already been accounted for at Riverstone.

“It’s really pretty unique for this area — a very unique concept. We think it’s going to be something that everyone is really going to be attracted to,” Jones said.

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