White River Plaza, the new retail commercial development situated on a 7.3-acre parcel along Highway 99 in Earlimart, continues to grow. The newest tenant is McDonald’s, which plans to start construction on a state-of-the art restaurant there late this year or early next year.
Billed as “a destination place, a neighborhood place, a familiar place,” White River Plaza has had its share of attention in recent months. AutoZone opened the doors of its 7,500-square-foot building in the development with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 12. Dollar General opened the doors of its 9,100-square-foot building there with its own ribbon-cutting ceremony on February 15.
In May, the McDonald’s Corporation approved plans for the construction of a restaurant in White River Plaza that will be approximately 4,000 square feet and include a drive-thru component. Late last month, a McDonald’s construction team met with Michael Washam, Tulare County economic development manager, and other county officials at a project review committee meeting to discuss the construction phase of the restaurant.
“All went well and McDonald’s current plan calls for breaking ground during the first quarter of 2015 and to open later in the year, however, Patrick Diffley, area construction manager for McDonald’s USA, indicated that the schedule could be moved forward to the fourth quarter of 2014,” said Washam. “McDonald’s is going to build a new restaurant design that will be the first of its kind in the Western United States.”
Eric Coyne of the Tulare County economic development office noted the new jobs that McDonald’s will bring to the area. “These are jobs with a certain corporate structure and training. These are things you take with you to bigger and better things.” He added that with its three main tenants, the plaza now has the top national food restaurant (McDonald’s), the top general merchandise store (Dollar General) and the top auto parts store (AutoZone).
“Once you have premium tenants, other businesses – the mom and pop’s – want to be there in the high traffic area,” Coyne said. “Those other spots are going to fill up quickly.”
White River Plaza was approved by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in 2013. The project is being developed by two local economic development professionals, Tom Hocking and Max Bacerra.
Efforts are underway to add a national branded gas station, additional fast food restaurants (sandwich and pizza), specialty sit-down restaurants, a full-service grocery store, family and children’s clothing stores, business services, beauty and grooming services, additional retail stores, a pharmacy and entertainment.
“We don’t fit an urban model,” said Washam, explaining that most retail businesses are concerned with the population within a three-mile radius. “Here it may be 10-12 miles.”
Businesses, such as McDonald’s, also benefit from having their sign visible along Highway 99.