HANFORD — With the opening of Starbucks and Verizon, businesses are slowly starting to inhabit the Costco shopping center; but the area is still quite a way from being a commercial hub.
“It’s going to be a phased-in project that’s going to take some time,” said Michael Kennedy, vice president of Retail California, the Fresno-based company that's marketing the Costco center.
Starbucks employees said the store has been open since the end of June, and a Verizon store has already opened in the center on Lacey Boulevard as well.
However, the road to developing the center hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing.
When news broke that the shopping center would house Panda Express, Taco Bell, Subway and Starbucks, residents took to Facebook to voice their displeasure for the lack of variety and originality. Hanford already had two Taco Bells, two Starbucks, four Subways and a Panda Express.
Developer John Kashian previously told the Sentinel that the plan calls for constructing smaller-tenant spaces first, because those are the easiest to fill, and can be filled after the building is completed.
For larger tenants, the structures wouldn’t go up until the retailer commits to coming to Hanford. He said it’s a challenge to attract larger retailers to the area because of low median income and high unemployment.
Another bump in the road was the city’s zoning restrictions.
The Hanford City Council essentially killed two different types of businesses from locating within the shopping center: furniture stores and medical, dental or optometry businesses.
As part of a general plan and zoning ordinance overhaul, the council voted in April to set a 20,000 square-foot maximum on how much furniture floor space stores can have if they locate at the Costco center.
The restriction eliminates larger retail possibilities like Ashley Furniture HomeStore or IKEA.
The other restriction forbids any kind of medical, dental or optometrist offices at the Costco site, including a clinic with doctors seeing patients by appointment; which stopped a proposal by Adventist Health to locate a full-service health clinic in the area.
The policies were designed to encourage economic development in the city's downtown core by preventing many businesses from coming to Hanford's primary commercial areas, which are not located downtown.
Despite the restrictions, the work and development continues.
Work on a Subway restaurant that will be located between the Starbucks and Verizon stores is just getting started, so Kennedy said he doesn’t expect it to be open for at least another couple months.
An as-of-yet-unnamed sushi restaurant will also move into the other spot next to Verizon. Work is not yet complete on the restaurant, but there is a sign on the business’ window that says they are currently hiring.
Kennedy said work is nearly complete at the Panda Express, and he expects there to be an opening date within the next month, though he wasn’t exactly sure of the timeline.
Site leveling for the Taco Bell is currently underway, so Kennedy said it shouldn’t be too long before work begins on that structure.
Kennedy said he has a “handful of negotiations” with potential businesses for the site, but nothing concrete he can speak of as of yet, and he is actively seeking out business to locate in the center.
“We do have some interest and we’re constantly talking to people,” Kennedy said.