Tulare County to lease former Kmart

Former box retailer site will allow Probation Department to consolidate offices, including its downtown headquarters

By John Lindt
Sierra 2 the Sea News Service

VISALIA –Tulare County is turning on the blue light special to the Probation Department. 

Yesterday, Dec. 17, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors was expected to approve a lease of the former Kmart building on Noble Avenue, now vacant, for use as the new county probation offices. Recently the former retail property was purchased by partners Paynter Realty and Sunny Basra and talks to lease the 85,000-square foot space have been ongoing for a few months. Kmart closed the store about a year ago.

The same partners and the county are working together on an office building on Main Street in Porterville that will house the DA’s south county office. The offices are currently under construction. 

The tentative construction schedule in Visalia could mean the probation department might be able to relocate to the remodeled Noble Avenue office by August 2020.

A county staff report notes that “the probation department has outgrown its 25,549 square feet of office space in Visalia and has identified the need to consolidate staff into a single location that offers improved functionality for the department and improved accessibility and service to customers.”

The department currently occupies space at the Visalia Courthouse, and in two leased facilities on Fairway and Center streets in Visalia. The lease at Fairway will expire next month and the landlord has indicated that renewal is an option. The lease at Center, however, will expire in August 2020 without an option to renew.

Moving from downtown

In August 2018, the county sold the Center Street building together with the 1930s Historic County Courthouse to a developer who is converting the property into a boutique hotel and anticipates utilizing probation’s current space as part of its operation. Developer Matt Ainley has said no one option on its reuse has been decided.

The county staff report continues, “Over the past year, staff have explored several options for probation’s current and future space needs, including purchasing an existing building, constructing a new building on county-owned property, and continuing to lease space at various locations. While initial property searches were unable to identify viable options to accommodate the business and square footage needs of a consolidated probation, recent interest expressed by the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) in co-locating mental health services near the probation office allowed staff to expand the scope of the search to include the acquisition of larger facilities.

“The leased facility would be situated in close proximity to the County Civic Center, is accessible by public transportation, and can accommodate the growing space needs of the probation department,” the report states.

Deal points 

The proposed lease has an initial term of 25 years with three five-year options for renewal, and includes the option to purchase the building after five years at a “floor fair market value” equivalent to the appraised value of the building at the time of purchase.

For the first five years of the lease, the county will only be obliged to pay rent on 64,626 square feet and the remaining 20,874 square feet will remain unoccupied but available to the county at the current rental rate, should it choose to utilize the space. At year six, if the county does not purchase the building, the county will be obliged to start paying rent for the remaining 20,874 square feet at the current rental rate.

Base rent is proposed at $106,633 ($1 .65 per square foot) per month and there will be a separate, fixed common area maintenance (CAMs) charge of $12 ,925 ($0.20 per square foot) per month, for a total rent of $119,558 per month. Both base rent and CAMs will increase by 2% annually. 

John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.

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