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New 7-Eleven seen as lifting up troubled corner

One of Bakersfield's hottest real estate trends is helping rehabilitate a commercial property south of Bakersfield that suffered a devastating fire four years ago.

Construction recently began on a new 7-Eleven at the southeast corner of H Street and Brundage Lane. It joins a growing list of combination filling station-convenience stores going up around the city.

The project has won notice for improving the appearance of a busy intersection. Even the owner of a gas station across the street conceded the development would be an improvement except for the fact it's competition for him.

The 7-Eleven will by itself replace what had been a multi-tenant strip center that had housed small businesses including a barber shop, a jewelry store, a dental business and a smoke shop.

Two of the businesses were heavily damaged when a fire big enough to require six fire engines and two fire trucks broke out there early on the morning of May 19, 2017. Neighboring businesses say another fire swept through some time afterward.

The property sat lifeless for years until a development partnership named 1631 Brundage Lane LLC purchased the property in summer 2019 from a local investor who had bought it 14 years earlier and since moved to Colorado.

The new owners assembled three properties on the corner, including a former residence, then demolished the properties and executed a ground lease with Dallas-based 7-Eleven, which did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

City records show the project will consist of a 4,000-square-foot convenience store and a six-pump gasoline station.

A principal with the project's property owner, local retail broker Vince Roche, noted developers have built gas stations with attached convenience stores on many corners across the city. He said 7-Eleven has put in several around town in recent years — and that the company plans to add others in the Bakersfield area.

He said the one at H and Brundage is unofficially expected to open as soon as September.

"It's a nice, busy commercial corner and so it was eventually going to upgrade sometime soon," he said, adding that redeveloping existing centers can be an attractive investment because such properties already have curbs, gutters and utilities.

"There was just a lot of problems with those properties so it's nice to be able to start fresh and come in and make a significant investment," Roche said. "To build a store and put in gas pumps and stuff is a significant investment so (7-Eleven) obviously believes in the station long term."

Community activist and former City Councilman Mark Salvaggio said he was surprised a developer would take on a property he saw as an eyesore and blight.

"It'll brighten up that whole intersection to see another business go in there," he said.

Victor Singh was less enthusiastic. He owns the Arco AM/PM gas station and convenience store across H Street from the 7-Eleven, and for him the new 7-Eleven is "not good."

Nor has the increase in new filling stations and convenience stores in Bakersfield escaped his notice.

"Too many — every corner," he said, adding city officials should stop permitting so many new businesses like his.

"It's gonna be killing us with a big franchisee, 7-Eleven" Singh said. He said the redevelopment project is otherwise fine.