A nearly 80-acre regional retail project on the east side of Merced moved forward this week, and members of the Merced City Council said it should have no ill effects on the city’s downtown district.
The council on Monday unanimously approved two agreements with the developers of Merced Gateway and a consulting firm, which are steps in a long process before buildings start to go up at parcels at the northeast and northwest corners of Campus Parkway and Coffee Street.
Though the 77-acre project is still in its early stages, some of the businesses connected to the plans include Bass Pro Shop, Tractor Supply, Holiday Inn Suites and an Arco gas station, according to city records.
Large retailers like that could be big revenue generators for the city. “This really is a game-changer, because we are competing with this regional (shopping) with other communities,” Mayor Pro Tem Josh Pedrozo said.
This really is a game-changer, because we are competing with this regional (shopping) with other communities.
Mayor Pro Tem Josh Pedrozo
A resident who spoke at the meeting argued that the project would lead to a sprawling city that would not benefit downtown businesses. The city should be focusing on development that promotes walking, the resident said.
Pedrozo said he disagrees. “The people that are going to go downtown for their services, I think they’re going to continue to go downtown,” he said.
The Merced Main Street Association, made up of downtown business owners, has not taken an official stance on the project, group president Daniel Kazakos said.
For a few years, the council has agreed to make the center its top priority, because Campus Parkway is expected to be an increasingly busy roadway as UC Merced continues to grow. That means the center also has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs to town if it is built out.
Councilman Mike Murphy also spoke in support of the project. “This is to attract people traveling up and down (Highway) 99 to bring their sales tax here,” he said.
For a few years, the council has agreed to make the center its top priority, because Campus Parkway is expected to be an increasingly busy roadway as UC Merced continues to grow.
The development will take years to come to fruition, but Councilman Michael Belluomini said the council should plan ahead to make sure the project is attractive to developers.
He said planning and answering as many questions as possible before developers come in would keep future councils from “tinkering” with the project. With enough planning, he said, the developers could face fewer public hearings and fewer hurdles.
“(Tinkering) introduces a level of uncertainty and risk on the part of the developer, but really serves no purpose,” he said. “We have an opportunity when putting together a master plan for this area to answer all those questions in advance.”
The plans show space for more than 20 retail stores, restaurants and fast-food eateries, as well as a fire station. There are also parcels for housing.
Area leaders intend for Campus Parkway to eventually connect UC Merced to Highway 99, as well as connect to the Atwater-Merced Expressway.