Shopping was supposed to be the overriding activity at a 255-acre, mixed-use project northwest Coffee and Brimhall roads. Not anymore.
Instead, a developer involved says the proposal formerly known as Bakersfield Commons will be less about retail and more about wellness, dining and entertainment.
The pivot toward a live-work-play concept results from studies suggesting the area does not need the kind of large stores that would have come with the retail-intensive development property owner World Oil Corp. envisioned at the site as recently as last March.
Practicality played a role, too.
“The project is being substantially reduced in size and scale to make it financeable and deliverable within a reasonable amount of time,” said Brad Cox, senior managing director at Trammell Crow Co., the project’s master developer.
While the project’s actual components remain up in the air, Cox said, the idea now is to build a “gathering spot” where families can go on evenings and weekends to visit a “wellness campus,” restaurants and, yes, shops — perhaps even a grocery store. He declined to be specific about what specific tenants might be part of the development.
There will be some kind of residential element, he said, adding the project’s emphasis will be on serving surrounding neighborhoods rather than become a major regional attraction, which had been the idea earlier.
The change is the latest twist in the project’s long-running effort to define itself and get off the ground. Three years ago the site was going to be home to a baseball stadium, 1.4 million square feet of retail, 600,000 square feet of office space, 80 single-family homes and 324 multi-family residential units built over 20 years.
Cox said project consultants are busy studying exactly what kind of tenants might fit within the new concept. “We’re waiting for those reports to be complete in the next week or so,” he said, adding a new project application will probably be filed in June. He would offer no estimate of when construction would begin.
Bakersfield Planning Director Jacqui Kitchen said the latest discussions between World Oil representatives and the city suggest the project will be a “leisurely kind of restaurant experience” that may include a movie theater.
To her, the latest plan seems to reflect modern planning and building design concepts, specifically a “lifestyle center” that’s pedestrian-friendly and comfortable.
“The idea here would be more of a ... restaurant-entertainment sort of focus,” she said.