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John Deere distribution center for Lathrop?
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LATHROP – A John Deere distribution center could be moving next to the Lathrop McDonald’s on Louise Avenue at South Harlan Road.

“Lathrop would be a prime location for John Deere because of its proximity in the Central Valley,” said City Planning Commissioner Dan Mac Neilage.

John Deere is “one of the prospective companies” that the developers of the 18.7-acre site behind McDonald’s on South Harlan Road have talked to, Mac Neilage said.

LBA Realty, which purchased the swath of land from Richland Planned Communities, wants to build a 383,000-square-foot industrial building at the site. But before they can do that, the development property needs to have its current freeway commercial land-use designation changed into general industrial to be consistent with the type of project that they are proposing.

The Planning Commission, in a 4-0 vote (Commissioner Jose Perez, the manager of the Lathrop Business Park adjacent to the proposed project, excused himself due to conflict of interest) approved LBA Realty’s request and forwarded their recommendation to the City Council for a final vote.

If everything goes as planned, LBA Realty could be starting construction of the concrete tilt-up structural framework by next spring, said Mac Neilage.

Representatives of LBA Realty told the commissioners at the public hearing they do not believe a freeway commercial designation at the site would be viable. Mac Neilage and the other commissioners agreed. For one thing, that particular business area is not conducive to the high-traffic maneuvers that commercial and retail businesses generate, he pointed out.

“That four corners area (Louise Avenue and Harlan Road) is a tough exit-and-entrance if you go to McDonald’s. To get in and out, you get to do a lot of U-turns,” Mac Neilage said.

LBA Realty and Mac Neilage have recent history to prove their points. The 18.7 acres was originally a part of the 335,500-square-foot Big Valley Factory Outlet Mall. It was going to be Phase 2 of that development. Phase 1 was the 134,600-square-foot Outlet Mall constructed in 1995 and helped put Lathrop on the outlet-destination map. Unfortunately, that project quickly died as soon as the bigger and more ambitious West Valley Mall in Tracy opened. Soon after, the Lathrop Outlet Mall became a ghost town.

In the late 1990s, the Outlet Mall became the Lathrop Business Park that it is today. It is now home to such learning institutions as ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, a chiropractic clinic plus a host of other professional offices.

That is not the best fiscal set up though as far as the city is concerned when it comes to generating revenues for city coffers. A fiscal-impact analysis of the LBA Realty project required by the city and conducted by a consultant, with the fees paid up front by the developers, indicated that a 383,000-square-foot industrial warehouse and distribution building such as the one being proposed would generate only $61,000 to the city’s general fund. Having office buildings with 244,000 square feet would be even worse. According to the study, this scenario would have a whopping $210,000 negative impact annually to the general fund. In contrast, retail commercial buildings at this proposed project site would bring in approximately $552,000 to the general fund every year.

The developers though are trying to convince the city that the retail commercial scenario is not viable at this site as has been demonstrated in the last two decades.

Immediately to the east of the LBA Realty project is Pilkington Glass, the former Libbey-Owens-Ford Company. To the south is the rest of the 528-acre Crossroads Commerce Center, formerly the Crossroads Industrial Park. To date, Crossroads is about 15 percent to total build-out, with Home Depot with its two warehouses, Medline and Swift Trucking among the biggest business operations at this commercial site bounded by Interstate 5 to the west and 120 Bypass to the south.

LBA Realty believes that their proposed change of land-use request is consistent with the type of industrial businesses that are already in place at their project site.