Planning process moving forward in Merced County to bring new life to the Castle Commerce Building

MERCED COUNTY (KFSN) -- Plan to bringing more businesses and thousands of jobs is one step closer to becoming a reality. In a unanimous vote, the Merced County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the planning process of bringing life into the Castle Commerce Building.

Once home to an air force base, the Castle Commerce Center looks desolate and empty. But the Merced County Economic Development Department said the plan could make the old air base into a new centerpiece for the North Valley.

"That's revolutionary, not just the county, but could have an impact on the region and certainly the state," said Mark Hendrickson, Merced County Economic Development Director.

Hendrickson said the plan to revitalize and develop the Castle Commerce Center could mean about 7-million square feet of developmental space and at least 9,000 jobs.

In a unanimous vote, the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the recommendations to move forward with the planning project. Supervisor Daron McDaniel said the Castle Commerce Center has been his priority since he came into office and said if they would have had this plan 20 years ago they would be reaping its benefits.

"The frustration was that we didn't have a plan, now we have a plan. Now let's go do it."

The recommendations include working to complete the Atwater-Merced expressway to better improve connectivity, discuss updating the layout of the commerce center with the FAA, and zoning to create more developable space. All of these things, Hendrickson said, is vital to move this plan forward.

"We've got to get some of those answers in place so we can actually present that business plan to the financial community. We've gotta have every hole filled and every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed."

The commerce center currently has 70 tenants and generates more than $2-million. Some of those tenants spoke at the meeting saying they agree with improving connectivity but are scared about cutting up the airport itself.

"And I hope in the ongoing process in the future, that at least the users, the tenants that pay the bills, can be part of the discussion process," said Mayor Stan Thurston, City of Merced and Tenant.

Hendrickson said they will now move forward and the county will start working on those recommendations to hopefully bring more jobs and business to the new area.

"The Valley is the next frontier for economic development in California. That's where we're headed."
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