Tulare is piecing together a puzzle that could lead to an economic boom in the future. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
With renewed residential activity and new businesses opening, bolstering an already well-established retail scene, Tulare is on track for a growing economy.
On the homebuilding front, single-family residential permits are up to 331 for 2018, up from 308 in the previous year, with similar numbers for multi-family units.
“I think there’s going to be more people moving into the area,” said Traci Myers, community and economic development deputy director for Tulare. “‘Affordable’ in Tulare is around $240,000 $250,000, and a lot of those homes in that price range are being developed now because developers are recognizing first-time home buyers, newly married couples and new families.”
The city is also focusing on affordable housing such as apartments, townhomes and multi-family housing for a diversity of options.
In southwest Tulare, the Liberty Hill Development project on Bardsley Avenue and West Street is planned for 384 single-family residences.
Myers said the city is running close on its 10-year housing supply, requiring land annexations or else the city will run short on property for housing.
Myers added that the city will be seeing more retail activity in the New Year.
Her office is working with four major retailers, but with three of them in the process of lease negotiations, she did not wish to disclose the names yet. She did mention that one would be a grocery store, and another a restaurant.
The Tulare Pavilion shopping center on Hillman Street and Leland Avenue saw some new stores come in to fill vacant big box buildings. Ross and dd’s Discounts took over the K-Mart building, which had been vacant for over two years, and a Harbor Freight tool store and a Dollar Tree went into the vacant Mervyn’s building, which closed in 2009. A third store is slated to take up the empty space left in the old K-Mart building, but because the deal between the store and Ross is being worked out, Meyers did not wish to disclose which store will be moving in.
There were 93 new business licenses and renewals for 2018 and the city gave over $180,000 in economic development assistance to new business.
Out of the $180,000 given in development assistance, $80,000 went to businesses solely in the downtown area.
A Starbucks opened on Prosperity Avenue and Hillman Street in the downtown area, one of three in the town.
This summer, the long vacant Linder building was purchased by Radiant Church in Visalia for church services, and the church also opened up a coffee shop in the building. In the vacant buildings next door, there will be a restaurant, a brew tasting room and an escape room business.
The city’s economic development assistance program has funds allocated from the general fund, and the city council chooses at its discretion what businesses will receive assistance, with the decision being based on job creation or sales tax generation that will go back to the community.
Donnette Silva Carter, CEO of the Tulare Chamber of Commerce, says that the city and the chamber aim to keep local retail and food business projects viable, and that there are a number of new businesses that will come to all parts of the city.
“We have a lot of small things coming in too. Little restaurants, little businesses that have opened in the community, and we like to keep those kinds of projects going that aren’t part of big chains but run by hometown people,” Carter said.
Along Highway 99, on Paige Avenue and Blackstone Street, a Flying J project has been approved, which is expected to generate $500,000 a year in sales tax revenue. Construction for the project is expected to start early into the New Year and be completed in 2019. There will be a restaurant in addition to gasoline and diesel pumps.
This past year also saw expansions for some industrial businesses in the area. Valley Tech Ag, a testing laboratories company, expanded their facility by adding a new 10,000 square foot addition.
Hydraulic Controls, Inc., a hydraulic equipment supplier, is in the process of adding another large warehouse to its footprint. CNS Steel also saw a major expansion, with its facility nearly doubling in size.
“I think what we’re seeing now is that a lot of the local industries are doing well enough to expand their businesses and add new employees,” Myers said.
The reopening of the Tulare Regional Hospital by Adventist Health, after a closure from October 2017 to October 2018, is expected to be a big economic driver for the city.
According to an economic impact analysis commissioned by the Tulare Economic Development Corporation, the reopening of the hospital could generate approximately $107.1 million in economic impact annually and support more than 660 jobs.
On Cartmill Avenue and M Street, a Hilton Garden Hotel has been approved and permitted since last year, and the property owner is in the process of securing their agreements with Hilton Gardens.
The Cartmill Avenue and Highway 99 area is a big focus for the city’s priority growth. The city has invested millions for the interchange itself, with another $9 to $10 million to be used to widen Cartmill Avenue to the highway. There is approximately 300 acres of land that developers are planning for retail, highway commercial and multi-family housing.
Bud Mouw, a local farmer in Tulare, has completed a site plan for property he owns on the southwest corner of Cartmill Avenue and Highway 99. The site plan has a hotel pad, a restaurant pad, fast food pads and some retail store pads.
Bill Morgan and Chuck Nichols, two developers in the Central Valley, are annexing 240 acres that they own in the Cartmill Avenue and Highway 99 area for retail.
With a strong small business community, a growing retail scene, expansion of industry, and more home building, Tulare can expect to see steady economic development for 2019.
“We are looking forward to increased economic and housing development and what that brings into our community,” Carter said. “Once you see more jobs created, more money is coming into the community, and those dollars circulate and make a more prosperous community.”