San Jacinto Valley ripe for commercial development

Steady gains in new business are a welcome sight

Photos by Matt McPherson/The Valley Chronicle
New commercial construction, such as this Taco Bell, bodes well for Hemet.

■ Matt McPherson / Columnist

The expansion of warehouses in Perris and Moreno Valley, combined with the development of new industrial facilities in Temecula, hint that big things may be headed to the San Jacinto Valley. Vacant buildings along Florida Avenue are selling, and restaurants, retailers, and medical facilities continue to fill the gaps, slowly but surely pushing the local economy forward.
Downtown Hemet, the Hemet Valley Mall, East Florida Avenue, and multiple commercial and industrial developments throughout the city of San Jacinto indicate an upcoming surge in commercial real estate.
The catalyst in Hemet was the sale of Ramona Plaza on the northeast corner of Florida and San Jacinto avenues back in January for $11.1 million, which set the stage for downtown commercial at $108 a square foot. Other notable commercial sales that have definitely contributed to the economy are Popeye’s on the west end, which is consistently busy from opening until closing. Jimmy John’s and Les Schwab Tires are also warmly welcomed businesses that are anticipated to grow out on the booming west end.
Another positive visual is the recent refacing and remodel of the Hemet Valley Mall, which is expected to attract more tenants, but some are speculating that the national decline in Sears may lead to the loss of its dominant anchor tenant.

Temecula industrial development may trend toward San Jacinto Valley
One major indicator that industrial development may be right around the corner for the San Jacinto Valley is the recent acquisition of an 8-acre parcel of land in Temecula, which is slated for a 140,000-square-foot industrial center. MCA, a real estate investment and management company, has initiated the first industrial development in Temecula in eight years, according to Tyler Mattox, MCA Realty principal.
“We were extremely involved in the entitlement process for this site, and we obtained the final land entitlements prior to acquisition. This was a time-consuming process in today’s highly contested development environment, and speaks to the strength of our design and construction team,” said Mattox. “By creating a product that can accommodate a variety of tenants, we hope to capitalize on growing occupant demand throughout the region. This also allows us to immediately break ground on the property, reducing the entitlement risk to our investors.”
With industrial and manufacturing zoned land becoming more and more expensive throughout San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Inland Empire has become an affordable and ideal location for manufacturers and distributors. Centrally located to the southwest region of the country and proximity to freeways and airports have made this area an ideal location.
With available industrial land becoming scarcer throughout Temecula, Murrieta, Perris, and Moreno Valley, the San Jacinto valley looks to be the next potential location. Given the San Jacinto Valley’s large expanses of available and appropriately zoned land, development of industrial and distribution facilities could be coming our way any time. This would be a godsend to the valley, considering it could potentially create thousands of jobs and stimulate a stagnant and struggling median income throughout the area.
“This acquisition is demonstrative of the fact that industrial users are migrating north to Temecula as a result of rising prices and limited supply in North San Diego. The lack of available supply throughout the area is also placing upward pressure on rental rates, which are up 28 percent from 12 months ago,” explained Lauren Burgos, junior account executive for Brower, Miller & Cole of Newport Beach. “The asset will be constructed to feature the latest in industrial design, including 32-foot clearance heights, 120-foot truck courts, ESFR sprinklers, and 15 dock-high loading doors, among others.”

Photo by Matt McPherson/The Valley Chronicle
Repurposing existing restaurant space, such as turning Millie’s into a Wild Crab seafood restaurant, can be an economical move if the existing structure is sound.

Hemet’s Burlington building to expand
AD Engineering, the engineering firm for the Hemet Burlington Coat Factory, Sprouts, and Ulta Beauty building, just finalized plans for a 40,000 square foot addition to the east of the existing shopping center. One large 24,000-square-foot building and two 8,000-square-foot buildings will expand this already successful retail center.
A dialysis center recently opened just behind Sprouts and Ulta, and more medical facilities are expected to join the quickly-growing center. The KPC group, which owns numerous commercial, retail, and medical facilities throughout the valley, owns the former Kmart building and speculation about what’s to come is being fueled by the recent activity there.
The old Ramona Lanes/Frey’s Antiques building was freshly painted and is on the market for $1.8 million. Patty’s Barely Used Home Décor just relocated to the high traffic area on the southeast corner of Harvard Street and Florida Avenue. A new business is popping up next to Oryz eatery and North Harvard Street slowly progresses with new tenants every month.
Vacant pieces of land stretching down East Florida Avenue are catching the eyes of many commercial developers, investors, and retail chains. Home Depot offered more than $6 million for the highly desirable southeast corner of Cornell Street and Florida Avenue back in 2007, but numerous factors such as the recession stymied the deal. New interest from developers has resurfaced on the property and a large commercial center may be on the way. Expect to see a surge of activity on Florida Avenue east of Cornell Street stretching past Fairview Avenue, as the region of east Hemet and Valle Vista is primed for development.

What residents want to see
Locals were quite vocal about what they would like to see come to Hemet. Olive Garden seemed to top the list with more than 12 people feeling that the old Mimi’s building is an ideal location. Also considering that Popeye’s on the west end often has customer lines extending past the doors, one on the east end would ideally do just as well. Russ Lage thinks the burnt down El Patron site on East Florida Avenue is an excellent location for the spicy chicken franchise if El Patron doesn’t rebuild there.
Mona Hogan-Twombley made an interesting suggestion for a Kaiser Permanente facility to accommodate the thousands of residents who have to drive out of the valley to be treated. Dennis Callin thinks it’s important to have an emergency veterinary clinic because the nearest such services are in Redlands and Temecula, and as with humans, every second counts when your pet faces an emergency.
Costco, Sam’s Club, Kohl’s, Harley Davidson, Bev-Mo, Bass and Brass, Color Me Mine, Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, and Souplantation were all very interesting suggestions and definitely underserved markets here in the valley.
One thing everybody seems to agree on is that a place for the kids and family to recreate, such as a miniature golf course, go-carts, or trampoline park, is desperately needed. The Frey’s Antiques store would be a very well-received location for such a business. A large sporting goods store on the east end was also a great suggestion, considering the proximity to Idyllwild at the base of the recreational mountain location of Idyllwild and Lake Hemet.
Numerous attempts to contact Hemet City Manager Alex Meyerhoff about future retailers and development have received no response. However, San Jacinto Councilman Andrew Kotyuk gave this response upon his return from retail convention International Council of Shopping Centers, recently held in New York City: “The convention. There are about two dozen interested retailers, but it’s too early to release details before they are inked. San Jacinto had their A game this year. With clarity retailers stated it is ‘go time’ now where previous years it was, “things are getting better slowly.’”
With more and more commercial properties going into escrow, the next year should be exceedingly prosperous for the San Jacinto Valley. Economic factors, crime, and a low income demographic continue, but the success of businesses like Popeye’s, combined with the affordability of commercial land and retail centers, are beginning to catch the eyes of larger investors, developers and commercial chains. Stay tuned for a pleasant transition here in the valley over the coming months.

Matt McPherson is a licensed real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Associated Brokers, BRE # 01362837. Reach him at (951) 315-7914 or McPhtown@aol.com.

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