South Valley city seeing commercial growth


Commercial realtor Marty Zeeb says 2010 was one of the worst years he's seen in commercial real estate. But 2011 has brought a resurgence.

"2011 has started off with new interest -- people are getting back comfortable with spending money. The retailers are getting out and looking at new sites again and that's why we're leasing space finally," Zeeb said.

The national retail chain Walmart has just closed a deal for the former Costco building on Mooney Boulevard. The building has been vacant for 9 years.

"From what we hear they're going to start the improvements so they should be opening up first quarter 2012," Visalia Economic Development Director Ricardo Noguera said.

Visalia's second Walmart will not only bring hundreds more jobs, but also help out this struggling shopping center.

Over the last few years, Visalia's Mooney Boulevard was starting to see more boarded-up buildings. This year, the city's commercial strip is experiencing a wave of new businesses that are hiring hundreds of people.

A new restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings, opened this week and hired 140 employees. The Habit Burger opened earlier this month and hired dozens more.

"We're definitely seeing a turnaround since January," Noguera said. "We've seen over 200,000 square feet absorbed."

With the new Walmart coming to Mooney, Noguera estimates up to 500 jobs have been created just in the last nine months.

The City of Visalia has made big changes to try and lure more businesses to the area. The city has broadened zoning ordinances to allow for new types of businesses and schools.

There are still dozens of vacancies along Mooney Boulevard but Noguera hopes this recent surge of new business will act as a catalyst to bring other retailers into town.

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