Businesses on the move on Mooney

Planning Commission will vote on CarMax, Aldi and more commercial spaces on Mooney Blvd. at April 13 meeting

By John Lindt
Sierra2theSea News Service

VISALIA – Retail may have come to a halt on Mooney Boulevard but other businesses are racing to get projects in line for available properties. 

On April 13, the Visalia Planning Commission will consider three projects at the intersection of Mooney and Visalia Parkway. The first is a request by CarMax to amend the city’s zoning ordinance allowing “Car Sales New & Used” in the Regional Commercial zone throughout the city. The nation’s largest used car retailer wants to develop a used car lot and service center on a 5-acre parcel on the southwest corner of the intersection. 

CarMax was launched by the founder of Circuit City in 1993. There are some 195 CarMax locations in 95 media markets including both Bakersfield and Fresno. Rumored to be interested in Visalia for a decade, the company has sought a Mooney location with high traffic count along a retail corridor, rather than the traditional auto sales area on both the eastern and western ends of town. That is where, at least in the past, the city encouraged theses type of uses.

More than a decade ago Visalia said it would no longer encourage auto-related sales along the Mooney strip. In this case City Manager Randy Groom says ”it may be a technicality but this application address is along the Visalia Parkway, not Mooney.” But he says the City Council may have to make the decision.

The commission will also consider a request by developer Lars Anderson & Associates, Inc. to subdivide a 28.7 acre site into an 11-lot commercial shopping center. The developer is planning three retail buildings, a credit union building (Kern Schools Credit Union), a gas station/convenience store, a sit-down restaurant, two drive-thru restaurants, and an automotive tires and sales store (Les Schwab), on parcels with less than the minimum 5 acre requirement, including a parcel with no public street frontage, affecting 17.43 acres of a 28.7 acre site in the C-R (Regional Commercial) Zone. The project site is also located on the southwest corner of Mooney and Visalia Parkway.

Across Mooney from the CarMax site, Aldi Groceries wants to build a new store. Aldi is appealing the City Planner’s determination that the proposed use does not meet the classification as a Specialty Food Store. Current zoning does not allow supermarkets or grocers in regional commercial zones but there is an exception for specialty stores.

Aldi has been rumored to want a Visalia location for more than a decade. The proposed Aldi grocery store is seeking to locate within a future Master Planned Development located on the southeast corner of Mooney and Visalia Parkway. They now have opened stores in Porterville, Hanford and Fresno but never pulled the trigger here – until now.

With over 11,000 locations worldwide the Aldi grocery business is owned by a German chain that owns Trader Joe’s but has different model than their sister firm. Known as a no-frills store with extremely low prices. Aldi has over 1,600 stores in the United States and on track to become the third-largest grocery chain in the U.S. by store count by 2022. Aldi has already open locations in Porterville, Hanford and Delano.

The average store is about 12,000 square feet, much smaller than a full-size 50,000-square foot supermarket. The company does not mind going head to head with Walmart or Costco and this location is just blocks from both in Visalia. The strategy will likely mean an Aldi store into southern part of Visalia and one in future – in the north.

In addition to the items at the Planning Commission meeting, there is also news about two older retail buildings on South Mooney in Visalia that will be demolished to make room for a new 5,100-square  foot Sherwin Williams Paint store according to a preliminary plan filed with the city. The older stores at this location, all rentals, include the Smoke Shop a tattoo parlor and mobile phone store. Sherwin Williams has store nearby at 1800 S. Tulare Ave. that they would vacate.

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

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