Major construction cropping up in north Visalia

A stop sign at the intersection of Shirk Road and Riggin Avenue on the northwestern side of Visalia.(Danielle Gutierrez)

Costco, two major warehouse projects are set to break ground on farmland surrounding the intersection at Shirk and Riggin sometime this year

VISALIA – While it doesn’t look like much now, the intersection of Shirk Road and Riggin Avenue may soon be one of the busiest in Tulare County.

Currently, three of the four corners of the intersection are farm land – two have been fallowed and the other is planted to trees – while the fourth is a subdivision on the southeast corner.

But in the past year three major big box projects have been filed including a new Costco with gas station/car wash and separate fast-food stores, and a 500-home subdivision. All are expected to break ground this year.

Costco recently moved their project forward by filing for a conditional use permit with the city. The store’s exterior layout will no doubt try to separate the retail activity from the nearby industrial blocks, where up to 3 million square feet of warehouses are on the drawing board. This combination could be cause for concern as shoppers and commuters will intersect with workers, big rigs and delivery vans from Amazon and UPS. It will be a signalized intersection but already has rush hour level traffic from Amazon’s fulfillment center.

Costco will likely build a 150,000 square foot store expected to cost around $100 million, according to the box retailer’s industry standards. Costco is currently ranked No. 12 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. As of April, Costco owns 876 warehouses worldwide, including 604 in the United States.

Costco, as well as the other annexations, had been on hold for over a year following a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club which blocked annexations. On July 21, 2022, Tulare County Superior Court Judge David Mathias ruled against the city’s decision to forego charging ag land mitigation fees to developers who want to bring farmland into the city for urban development.

Under the city’s initial 2030 General Plan, the document guiding the city’s growth, developers – primarily home builders – would have had to pay into a fund that the city would then use to preserve ag land somewhere else in exchange for allowing other farmland to be developed.

This kicked off a year-long process for the city to bring in consultants to develop and plan the implementation of this policy, which is balancing development with agriculture needs. Visalia City Council approved the policy in May 2023 and it went into effect last summer.

On the northwest corner, the developer Seefried has filed an EIR for a 3.8 million square foot industrial project on 280 acres with commercial uses including more drive-thrus and gas at the corner. This project is not in the city limits and will require annexation once the final EIR is adopted. The project is expected to employ 4,100 at build out.

By the way, Seefried has similar ambitions in Kern County, where it filed a 3.5 million square-foot industrial project outside of Bakersfield. Seefried is a major player in the industrial real estate sector, with a portfolio of 190 million square feet of Class A build-to-suit and speculative projects all over the nation, but particularly in the West. This includes a dozen markets in California being managed out of its western hub in Phoenix.

As of this week, a negative declaration has been filed for a 1 million square foot industrial center at the southwest corner that should be approved by council May 20, 2024, and move to annexation in a matter of months. This third project has been filed by YS Industries and Butch Oldfield.

In the years to come, the corner of Riggin and Shirk is likely to rival the traffic count of Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Avenue, the busiest in the county currently.

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