Empty stores, dusty windows and half occupied shopping plazas were all very familiar sights in Turlock a few years ago.
Recently, however, that trend seems to be changing.
Turlock has been on an upswing when it comes to filling formerly vacant commercial buildings, said Maryn Pitt, assistant to the city manager for housing and economic development.
“We had definitely hit bottom,” said Pitt. “Not every single sector is booming, but we are definitely on an upswing.”
In particular, Pitt mentioned a reduction in the vacancy rate for downtown Turlock. In 2008, during the peak of the recession, the vacancy rate reached a staggering 38 percent. Now, the number is around 10 percent.
Pitt credits investments by the City of Turlock, work done by the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association and the city's Business Incentive Program, for the recent success of the downtown economy.
“I think we’re going to see this trend continue,” said Dana McGarry, spokesperson for the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association. “We’ve got some new long-term investment in these properties.”
The Business Incentive Program — $1,000 grants given to new businesses that fulfill certain requirements — has helped 27 businesses open shop in Turlock, creating 58 local jobs, according to Pitt.
“When it comes down to it, it’s all about jobs,” said Pitt. “They are what drive our local economy.”
Rustic Roots, a local vintage boutique, opened its doors in downtown Turlock earlier this month and co-owner Kristina Horn credited the Business Incentive Program as one of the major reasons she decided to open up shop.
“The City of Turlock has been so great,” said Horn. “They’ve really helped in so many ways.”
Pitt said that within the last five years the downtown environment has shifted from a “small town market feel” to more of a “business district coupled with food, entertainment and retail component.”
However, filling vacancies is not just limited to the downtown area. According to Al Seaton, director of the Alliance Small Business Development Center in Turlock, small businesses have been opening up along Geer Road and in Monte Vista Crossings.
One of the most visible signs of business recovery is the construction currently underway at the old Mervyn's site on Geer Road, between Tuolumne and Minnesota. The 62,000 square foot site will soon become a Walmart Neighborhood Market; welcome news after the building sat vacant since 2009.
Along with the market, Sutter Gould is set to open a new state-of-the-art health center on Golden State Boulevard.
Seaton said the recent successes are largely due to the economic development efforts of the city, the SBA and the Downtown Property Owners Association.
“It truly is a collaboration,” said Seaton. “It’s like the perfect storm. Everyone is on the same page.”