Kevin Valine

January 2, 2014

Modesto News: City revved up over grand prix

Modesto’s first superkart grand prix is eight months away, but residents can learn more about the race next week at a DoubleTree Hotel news conference.

Modesto News

Issues affecting the city, the economy and quality of life

Modesto’s first superkart grand prix is eight months away, but residents can learn more about the race next week at a DoubleTree Hotel news conference.

Modesto is working with Southern California-based SuperKart USA on the Aug. 1-3 race. About 300 superkart racers are expected to compete. The karts look something like miniature Formula One race cars. But there is nothing puny about their performance. They can reach speeds of more than 100 mph.

City and SuperKart USA officials will reveal the downtown race route and race logo at the Jan. 10 news conference at 2 p.m. in the hotel’s Napa Room. The public is welcome to attend. There will be two superkarts on display as well as a video from November’s supernational superkart championship in Las Vegas.

Modesto officials have said they expect the August grand prix to draw 10,000 spectators along with 1,560 drivers, pit crew members and race officials, whom the city estimates will spend $968,000 during their time in Modesto. That’s based on the out-of-town visitors each spending $50 a day on food and other items, as well as $100 a night on lodging.

Modesto has estimated its costs for putting on the race at $286,000. But it expects to raise about $338,000 through ticket sales and sponsorships, allowing the city to net more than $50,000.

Save Mart Supermarkets and the DoubleTree are sponsoring the news conference so it won’t cost the city anything, said Andy Johnson with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department. Johnson is in charge of raising the estimated $286,000.

On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to decide whether to approve The Marketplace – Berberian Holdings’ project for an 18-acre shopping center at the southwest corner of Sylvan Avenue and Oakdale Road. The center would have 170,000 square feet of retail and office space, including a 51,730-square-foot grocery store.

The project has drawn protests from nearby homeowners. They say the shopping center will generate too much traffic and is not needed because of the tens of thousands of square feet of vacant retail and commercial space in east Modesto.

And today, council members will hear from some other project foes: The owners of The Lakes Shopping Center, which is about a mile from The Marketplace. The Lakes sits on about nine acres and opened in 1987. It has 104,000 square feet of retail and office space, including a 34,000-square-foot Save Mart grocery store.

“We’re concerned. It’s obvious there is no need for a new shopping center,” said Thomas R. Ryan, a managing partner with Rybar Modesto Associates, the Southern California firm that owns The Lakes.

Ryan is scheduled to meet with five of Modesto’s council members. Councilmen Dave Lopez and Dave Cogdill Jr. were not available. Ryan echoed many of the homeowners’ concerns – Modesto has too many vacant storefronts and building more could lead to blight.

He cited a report prepared by a San Francisco commercial broker that showed more than 450,000 square feet of empty retail space throughout Modesto. Ryan said these buildings were each at least 20,000 square feet.

Some people believe Save Mart will close its store at The Lakes and open a new one at The Marketplace. Save Mart officials won’t confirm that, only saying the grocery chain is interested in the new center. Ryan declined to say what his talks have been with Save Mart.

Marketplace proponents say the shopping center will be a showcase, exceeding Modesto’s design standards. They add that Berberian Holdings would not build the center unless it expected to make money, and that empty space eventually gets reused, such as Hobby Lobby taking over the space once occupied by Mervyns.

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