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What’s happening with economic development in Citrus Heights?

Meghan Huber, economic development manager for the City of Citrus Heights, answers questions during a live Q&A on Nov. 20, along with Planning Manager Casey Kempenaar, left, and host Alison Bermudez, right.

Sentinel staff report–
From plans for redevelopment at Sunrise Mall, to a 260-home development off Arcadia Drive and the revitalization of several aging shopping centers, the city’s economic development manager says she sees a bright future for business in Citrus Heights.

Meghan Huber, who was hired on as economic development manager last year, joined Planning Manager Casey Kempenaar for the city’s latest Facebook Live session on Wednesday, answering a wide range of questions regarding economic development in Citrus Heights.

“We’re really excited with the next two years, what the next years are going to bring it into Citrus Heights,” said Huber in wrapping up the 25-minute live session. “There’s so many great projects, there’s so much movement and there’s so much potential.”

Highlights from the Nov. 20 live session are included below. The full video can also be watched on the city’s Facebook page.

What is economic development?
MH: Economic development really is about four things: business attraction, business retention, marketing and startup support. So we do our best in economic development to make sure our commercial business community is happy and healthy and growing.

What’s happening with Sunrise Mall?
MH: Sunrise Mall has a huge opportunity for redevelopment and there’s been desire to redevelop it in the past, and also a lot of barriers. As an example, not many people know that Sunrise Mall isn’t owned by a single entity. It’s actually owned by five different owners. So, what that means is it’s very difficult to redevelop, because, as you can imagine, there’s a variety of interest or non-interest from these different parties to do things. Some could be perfectly happy with where they’re at, but we’ve gotten to a point where it’s not necessarily working for our local community.

Vacancy rates are high and its economic impact has declined about 50% over the last 13 years or so. So as a team and as a city and as a community, we decided that now is the time to help things along, which is how we embarked on our Specific Plan process.

To learn more about the Specific Plan, see article: City takes next step towards major redevelopment of Sunrise Mall

What’s the next step?
CK: Right now we’re doing a market analysis, and that’s really key at understanding what the mall can support, what type of uses would support — whether it’s retail or residential or office or what type of uses really make sense at the mall. So that’s the first part of this project and we will be moving forward and will be presenting that to the public early next year through a community workshop that invites all the public to come and hear what the market will support, as well as solicit ideas of what would be good there…

It’s a joint vision between the city and the owners and the community. And we want to make sure that that vision is heard and understood equally by all. So that exact date hasn’t been pinned down yet, but it’ll be early next year and we’ll make sure we broadcast it widely.

What’s being built off Arcadia Drive?
CK: Off Arcadia last year, the City Council approved a development called Mitchell farms. It’s 260 homes on 55 acres. Of that, 20 acres of that is preserved for open space and it’ll have a trail that goes through there as well as some passive park and some play areas and the trail will connect to both Sunrise Boulevard and Fair Oaks Boulevard as well as the city’s future Electric Greenway. They’re under construction. They’re moving dirt. It’s really exciting to see that get moving.

For more, see story: Massive housing project in Citrus Heights sold to new developer

What’s being built next to Applebee’s at Stock Ranch?
CK: At that site they’re building a four-tenant, multi-unit commercial building. And that will have a variety of restaurant and retail uses in it. At this point, I don’t believe they’ve announced any users, but we know there’ll be a couple of restaurants in there.

For more, see story: Here’s what’s being built outside Costco in Citrus Heights

What’s going on with Studio Movie Grill?
MH: I know our community was a little bit concerned because it was a little bit quiet out there, but they were just sorting some stuff out. And if you’ve been out there lately, you see extensive construction and they’re hitting it really hard, which is exciting. So from what I understand it’s being projected that they will open late-spring next year. Of course that is dependent on how construction goes and the weather.

For more, see story: Studio Movie Grill moving forward with planned 2020 opening in Citrus Heights

What do you think will happen in that center in the future?
MH: I think that center is in the middle of a really great renaissance. It’s a microcosm, really, of a common story that’s happening with aging retail where you have a big box store vacate and the center becomes much quieter and less impactful. And then when a large and impressive tenant like Studio Movie Grill comes in to revitalize the site, it has a ripple effect with the rest of the center.

So what we’re seeing now is other property owners expressing interest in improving the exterior of their properties. There’s also a really exciting signage project that is in house right now with planning, all of which will really uplift the center visually. But what it really does is support the existing tenants and attract additional tenants with that new synergy. So, that’s, that’s one of my favorite business happenings to watch in Citrus Heights. I love predicting what will happen there. And I think it’ll be an even better story once we get a year from now…

And the improvements don’t just stop at the shopping center or boundary. We also have our Auburn Boulevard phase two improvements that are on the books to begin construction in fiscal year 2022. So that is something to look forward to as well, bringing the improvements that we did that first time down to that second half. And that will include a traffic signal there at the shopping center too, increasing ease of access even more and helping to support that center.

To learn more, see story: Citrus Heights moving forward with $22M plan to revitalize Auburn Blvd

What are some specific goals the economic development department has?
MH: …The City Council sets our strategic planning goals [and] from an economic development perspective, the one that’s probably the most relevant is to diversify Citrus Heights for a changing economy. That can mean a lot of different things depending on the angle that we’re looking at, or the time of year or, the economic factors at play at any point in time.

What that means for us generally is to ensure that we are building new industry segments in addition to taking care of our existing ones. So as an economic developer, I love fun, mildly geeky facts. I can tell you what our top five industries are:

So, number one is the medical segment. An example of that is the new Dignity Health medical office building that just went up here, right in front of City Hall on Greenback. It created about 260 jobs, which is fabulous for us. So it pushed that medical segment up to the top.

Number two is the government sector. Number three is construction and home improvement. Number four is accommodations and food services. And as my Citrus Heights community knows, we do not currently have a hotel, which means we are gang busters in the food services department: there is no shortage of places to eat in Citrus Heights.

And fifth is retail. So it’s interesting, because, I think if you asked someone who lives or works in Citrus Heights, they might wager or guess that retail is our top industry segment just based on what we see driving around. But that’s, that’s in fact not the case. There’s a lot of other hidden industries and employment generators hidden in plain sight in Citrus Heights. So that’s part of my job too, to reach out to them and foster them and grow them even more.

For more, see story: City’s new hire seeks to boost business in Citrus Heights

What’s happening with small businesses in Citrus Heights?
So, 64% of our businesses have less than 10 employees, 90% have less than 50. What that tells me is that Citrus Heights is a small business power house, which brings us back to that category of economic development of startup support.

Hopefully everyone can see that we’re starting to offer more services to small businesses. We periodically pull through educational opportunities, partnering with Small Business Development Center and the Small Business Administration. And it’s our goal to continue to do more of that and build that even more.

What’s the latest news on the surgery center?
CK: We are seeing a trickle down effect from the medical office being located in the city. What we’re seeing is interest in other development in that sector. So, starting very soon, there’ll be a construction of a surgery center located at Sylvan Road and Stock Ranch Road. So, right there on the corner next to the SBA building, that’ll be where people can go get surgeries. And they’re affiliated with the hospital as well, so it’s really exciting to see that move forward.

For more, see story: Plans for new surgery center in Citrus Heights move forward

What’s going on at Sunrise Village (Sunrise/Madison)?
CK: At that location they’re proposing a really big facade improvement, similar to what they did at Citrus Town Center a few years ago. They’re really sprucing up the building, attracting new tenants. They’re also going to build a new drive-thru, a multi-tenant space at that location for variety of restaurants and other types of users there. So they’re putting a lot of money and effort into fixing that center up and making it modern and convenient and have a lot of really cool tenants coming.

For more, see story: New 50,000-square-foot sports club planned at Citrus Heights retail center

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