July 24, 2014

Builders, buyers focus attention on Merced’s G Street

A gas station on G Street that has remained empty for more than three years is seeing upgrades this week under its new ownership. A parcel that sits a few blocks north on that street is also drawing the attention of buyers.

One of Merced’s main routes across town – G Street – is receiving some visible attention in preparation for new businesses.

A gas station at 21st Street that’s been empty for more than three years is seeing improvements, while buyers have made their pitch for improving the car wash at 23rd Street.

David Gonzalves, director of Development Services for Merced, said the gas station’s new owner has plans for upgrades on the location that includes a roughly 1,000-square-foot mini-mart. He said the brand for the station has not been finalized, but the owner is pushing to open it within the next few months.

“It’s a site that’s been abandoned for quite some time,” he said. “It’s a good project to add to that area. It’s something we’ve been wanting to have taken care of.”

Also this week, the Merced City Council heard pitches from two developers looking to buy the parcel at G and 23rd streets, where the city owns land left over from the underpass project near that intersection.

The $18 million underpass runs underneath the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks, allowing drivers to travel between north and central Merced without having to stop for trains.

The 1.92-acre parcel encompasses a car wash, laundromat and single-family home.

Though the city purchased the land for $2.4 million, according to city records, it has been appraised at $600,000 in its current state. Gonzalves said the appraisal price dropped because the underpass severed some of the access to G Street.

Under imminent domain law, he said, the city had to buy up the land and existing businesses at a fair price. “We had to purchase existing businesses,” he said. “(We) had to buy out businesses, because, in essence, we closed them down.”

One proposal came from the owners of Pro Lube Oil Change locations in Modesto, Lodi and Chico, according to Loren Gonella, a real estate agent working with the owners. “Pro Lube wants this to be their flagship location,” he said.

The proposed Pro Lube would include an upgraded carwash, sandwich shop, gated park and pet-grooming center. The owners have plans to move their corporate offices to the Merced location, Gonella said.

The owners estimate investing $2.6 million into the location in two phases, he said.

Jim Abbate, whose company, Alia Corp., operates McDonald’s restaurant franchises throughout Merced County, also proposed buying the parcel.

He estimated spending between $2 million and $2.5 million on construction costs to upgrade the car wash. The location would offer $4 to $5 automatic car washes, as well as higher end washes that cost $20 or more, he said.

“Part of this proposal has to take into consideration the financial strength of the person involved,” he said. “My credentials in regard to financial strength are unparalleled in the community.”

He said his plans would allow for retail stores that could include a sandwich, floral, nail or other shop.

Both proposals included car washes that use recycled water.

Gonzalves said either new business would be a good addition to Merced and signify economic growth.

The City Council did not make a decision Monday. City staff will make a recommendation to the council, Gonzalves said, and the sale could be wrapped up by September.

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