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Big truck-stop development moves forward

The Madera Travel Center project on Avenue 17 at State Route 99, also known by the name of it’s largest anchor operator, Love’s Travel Stop and Country Stores, is moving forward according to a development agreement and ordinance that was reviewed Wednesday evening by the Madera City Council.

The project received final approval from the Madera Planning Commission in August, and construction is scheduled to begin in mid 2017. The truck plaza could be open for operation as soon as the end of 2017, according to City of Madera Community Development Director David Merchen.

The vacant site was previously annexed into the City of Madera in 2007 for the ill fated Gateway Galleria Retail Shopping Center mall which was to host 450,000 square feet of retail space in some 20 buildings. The shopping mall was never built due to the 2008 economic collapse.

The Love’s project is a total of approximately 48 acres on the southeast corner of State Route 99 and Avenue 17 and will contain five different components, along with adequate parking, appropriate landscaping and good traffic flow according to city officials. Five acres have also been set aside adjacent to the west side of the property as roadway easement to eventually complete the construction of Sharon Boulevard through to Aveune 17.

Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores has purchased 25 acres of the development, and will operate an approximately 12,000-square-foot Love’s Travel Stop Plaza building offering convenience type items and containing a 4,000-square-foot food court with brand name restaurants (currently unleased), and a drive-through window. Gasoline, diesel fuel and propane will be sold on site, with nine covered fuel islands for trucks, nine separate fuel islands for automobiles, truck scales, an oil-water separator, an RV dump, and both above-ground diesel fuel tanks and underground gasoline tanks. All large truck maneuvering will be segregated from car traffic and non-trucker personnel for safety.

• A tire shop and truck area will be operated as an ancillary component of the Love’s Travel Stop, in a separate area from the Travel Stop building. The tire shop and truck area will provide parking facilities for tractor-trailers and general services for big rig tractor maintenance, including the sale and installation of tires. There will be no heavy maintenance or engine rebuilding activities conducted on-site. Access to this component is separate from the general passenger car and truck visitors to the travel stop.

• A separately owned hotel project is proposed. A free-standing 81-room, four-story hotel has been approved with amenities that include an outdoor swimming pool, picnic arbor, free breakfast for guests, fitness center, meeting facilities, and business center for travelers. The hotel tenant-operator has not yet been determined.

• A separately owned, free standing brand name restaurant with drive-through lane of approximately 4,400 square feet is proposed in the northwest corner of the site with a drive-through window and long queuing driveway. That owner or tenant has not currently been identified. Both restaurants will have the option to serve alcohol according to the recently approved plan.

• A separately owned gated RV, boat and vehicle and storage facility, is proposed and will include seven canopy-covered, open-air storage buildings that would provide a total of 307 storage spaces. A small office building and a wash area would also be provided, and security fencing would be installed. On-site security will consist of monitored camera surveillance along with dedicated keypad entry/exit that controls rolling iron gates. Decorative wrought iron with stone pilaster fencing would be included along all street frontages in support of required landscaping.

• A historical pedestrian plaza at the southwest corner of Avenue 17 and Sharon Boulevard would include a walkway that would address a part of the history of Madera, including metal plaques that would describe the logging history of the Madera area. This feature would serve as an entry, and would be designed to improve the appearance of the plaza.

The revenue sharing agreement outlines an approximate $8.1 million shared investment in the construction of the facility, with some of the costs being reimbursed to the city over a period of time.

The project is major and a good return on investment according to Merchen.

“This project represents a great economic development opportunity for the city,” Merchen said. “This development agreement is a strong tool that will help make the project feasible. The city will receive a good return in the near term and over time. At least half of the city’s initial investment comes back in the first few years. After that the entire amount, expected to be approximately $800,000 annually in sales and occupancy tax revenues will come to the city. There will likely be some (project) delay as CalTrans requires widening of the northbound ramps onto SR 99,” Merchen said.

The proposal is scheduled for a final vote and likely approval at the Dec. 21 meeting of the city council.

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