County supervisors hear update on Gran Plaza Outlet project

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CALEXICO - The Imperial County Board of Supervisors May 23 discussed a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Calexico and Imperial County regarding an application for federal funding to expand and enclose the current Gran Plaza Outlet Center and develop a new Gran Plaza Power Center.

According to the board agenda fact sheet from Imperial County Community Development, the city of Calexico sought for advice and help from the County asking it to first submit a grant application as co-applicant to the U.S Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) for the amount of $3,000,000 in funding for offsite infrastructure improvements on West Second Street in Calexico. The city also requested Imperial County be the lead administrator for the EDA grant application.

The estimated cost for infrastructure improvements is predicted to be $6 million, including prevailing wages. However, this amount exceeds the $3 million grant funds available through the EDA Public Works and Economic Assistance program. It is then that the City of Calexico and the developer will be solely responsible for all remaining costs for the project, as reported by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

Although the execution of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is completed, the plans and specifications for the job creation portion are not finished, but are expected to be completed this upcoming June, according to Esperanza Colio Warren, director and manager of the Imperial County Community & Economic Development.

Colio-Warren told the supervisors that the delay on completion of plans and specifications is a result of the location being moved east, adjacent to the outlets. As stated in the MOU between Calexico and the County, the city asked to include in the EDA application 210,000 square feet of retail stores to be called Gran Plaza Power Center, and a water loop to increase water pressure. The proposed project is hoped to generate sales tax revenue and is estimated to expand employment opportunities up to 600 new jobs.

Aside from the Gran Plaza Power Center project, Calexico and County officials met on May 12 to discuss a potential HCD Over-the-Counter (OTC) grant application to enclose the current outlet center.

“It is understood, the enclosure of the outlet center is necessary to retain businesses that are struggling to remain in the market due to the harsh weather and could potentially bring 11 more businesses to the current outlet. Additionally, this project is expected to include a theater and a gas station,” said Colio-Warren.

Colio-Warren stated that Calexico has requested the County to apply on its behalf, and HCD staff did decide the County is eligible for the grant. The grant becomes a loan because the improvements are being built on private property. If improvements were to be built in the public right-of-way, the funding would be a grant. The developer’s payments become a program income for the applicant agency which can be used for any open CDBG grant activities, according to Colio-Warren. The estimated cost for enclosing the outlet center is $7.1 million without prevailing wages.

Ryan Kelley, supervisor for District 4, asked Colio-Warren if this project will survive depending on the developer and said that with all the costs of ventilation installments, expansion and enclosure improvements, he thought the estimated cost was very low.

Colio-Warren affirmed that all plans and specifications will be ready by June of 2017.

“The County is ready to go and we’re ready to apply. We’re just waiting for more information on the city of Calexico and from the developer. Hopefully, if it’s done, it’ll increase business and together we can make this thing successful,” said John Renison supervisor for District 1.

Calexico resident Miriam Mendez said she is a regular shopper at the Gran Plaza Outlet Center, and she thought the enclosure of the plaza was a great project for the city, especially in the summer time.

“Most of the businesses here are all on the same street, and in the summer, the heat is so extreme,” Mendez said. “So by having an indoor outlet center, people can enjoy their shopping and invite more people to our city from Imperial Valley and Mexicali.”