Permanent retail space is a step closer to reality on the Madera District Fairgrounds.
A task force of state officials, hired guns, fair board directors and its chief executive officer are making strides toward developing commercial property on the fairgrounds.
The Madera District Fairgrounds, 1850 W. Cleveland Ave., has been investigating the feasibility to convert part of the grounds into retail space.
"The Newman Group of New York and San Francisco has been given an exclusive negotiation agreement to develop the property" said Scott Sample, CEO of the Madera District Fair. "I believe it is a 120-day agreement."
The proposed working title for the shopping center is "The Commons at Madera Fair."
In addition to retail buildings and parking, the process will reconfigure the rest of the property so the fair can continue to operate, he said.
"Areas of our land is under utilized," he said.
Presently, the acreage of the fairgrounds is more than 110 acres. The proposed development would build on 28 to 35 acres of the property.
The team working on this project is Lisa Drury of the State of California Fairs and Exposition agency, attorney Dick Hyde, real estate adviser Andy Plescia, consultant Bob Johnson, author of the fair's master plan, Madera Fair Board Directors Tony Machado and Skip Pettit and Sample.
Sample stressed that this is only a negotiation process.
"The point I want to get across is we would prefer to keep our fairgrounds intact and protect it and in a perfect world we could," he said. "The reality is we need to generate revenue to improve our fairgrounds. The rent from this commercial venture will go right back into capital improvements of the fairgrounds."
The State of California is the governing body that owns and controls the fairgrounds and Sample is a state employee.
"We do not receive one penny from the taxpayers to operate the fair," Sample said. "The money comes from the Department of Fairs and Expositions, who derive its revenue from the horse-racing industry and pari-mutuel betting."
The annual budget for Madera District Fairgrounds is $1 million. They receive $124,000 from the state. The balance of the budget comes from leases, rents and the annual fair.
"That is a lot of concerts, flea markets, wedding receptions and quinceaneras," Sample said.
The first five years, the "The Commons at Madera Fair" is slated to pay $925,000 per year in rent. An increase of 10 percent will be added after year five and every fifth year thereafter, Sample said.
The fairgrounds is currently being annexed into the city. Presently, it is a piece of state land, located on a county island, inside the City of Madera.
According to Sample, this is the first retail development of a state-owned fairgrounds in California.
"Sacramento is keeping a close watch on this project," he said.