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City’s economic development manager shares update on business in Citrus Heights

By Mike Hazlip—
Despite the impact of pandemic-related closures, the city’s economic development team sees light ahead for Citrus Heights.

Meghan Huber

Meghan Huber, economic development manager for the City of Citrus Heights, presented an overview of what’s happening in town at a neighborhood association meeting Tuesday night, highlighting current development plans like the 260-home Mitchell Village and the recently opened Green Acres. She said increasing population density will make the planned Sunrise Tomorrow concept for redeveloping Sunrise Mall more attractive to potential retailers.

Huber cited the increase in demand for single-family homes fueled by pandemic shutdown orders as another positive sign of future growth. Multiple reports by The Sentinel show the current housing market is extremely competitive as Bay Area workers look to create home offices away from the city.

“We’re seeing folks, [due to] COVID, not wanting to be in that extremely dense multi-family environment. They want breathing room,” Huber said.

Related: Has the pandemic affected plans for Sunrise Mall redevelopment?

Another strength, Huber said, is the number of small businesses in the area. She said more than half of Citrus Heights businesses have less than 10 employees, while about 90% have less than 50 employees. Huber called Citrus Heights a “small business powerhouse.”

Despite activity in the small business sector, Sunrise Mall remains largely vacant. The shopping center has seen a 40% decline in economic impact over time, according to Huber, and a 40% vacancy before the pandemic shutdown orders took effect in the first quarter of 2020.

Huber said she is working behind the scenes with the city to change the course of the 100-acre regional mall.

“If we were to leave that mall to market, it would most likely decline into industrial and warehouses,” Huber said. “When you have very large floor plates that can be used for large industrial uses, that’s the lowest hanging fruit.”

Huber said the city is working with property owners to expand the zoning of the area to include office, residential and hotel uses. The site’s current retail zoning does not allow any uses outside of shopping, according to Huber.

Other regional malls across the country have seen a similar fate, and Huber is well-aware of the challenge of redevelopment in an area that is 98% built out.

“We don’t have room for error,” she said. “We don’t have land that we get to dedicate to a lesser than best use. You need to be so much smarter with your strategy.”

During her presentation, Huber also announced $11 million in grants from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments for the second phase of the Auburn Boulevard Complete Streets project and improvements to Old Auburn Road. The grants are the largest award Citrus Heights has ever received at once, according to Huber.

Related: Citrus Heights awarded $11.1 million in grants to fund roadway projects

Huber’s presentation was made during the monthly meeting of Citrus Heights Area Seven-Eight-Nine (CHASEN). The neighborhood association, formerly CHASE, recently voted to merge with area nine, and now represents a large area of the city, north of Greenback Lane and east of Sunrise Boulevard.

Citrus Heights is made up of 11 neighborhood areas, three of which have combined over the years. Each holds monthly meetings to discuss topics affecting their areas.

Unlike fee-based homeowner’s associations, the neighborhood groups have no required dues — and anyone residing, working, or owning property within the neighborhood’s boundaries is able to be involved in the association.

To learn more about the city’s neighborhood associations, see prior article: Neighborhood groups REACH out to connect Citrus Heights residents

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