Clovis gives green light to mini race track in mall

The Fresno BeeOctober 7, 2013 

A plan to open a miniature race track in the former Gottschalks building at Sierra Vista Mall was approved by Clovis City Council members Monday night.

The City Council unanimously modified city codes and supported a conditional use permit that will allow MB2 Raceway to operate at the mall. The raceway will cover almost two-thirds of the former retail site, about 60,000 square feet, and will use electric karts.

The operators have similar raceways in Thousand Oaks and Sylmar in Southern California.

Mayor Lynne Ashbeck said she was concerned about the raceway use in a mall setting.

"I fear that if we put this in we will never have our beloved mall again," she said.

But Chris Browning, who represents the raceway, said similar raceways operate at other malls.

Greg Newman, the mall's general manager, said the raceway should not be considered an unusual use. He described it as an entertainment venue similar to the movie theater or concerts in the mall's park.

He also told the council that the remaining portion of the building will be easier to market with an active user next door.

"I think malls and commercial properties are always evolving based on the times, so entertainment-type uses are very commonplace in shopping centers," he said before the meeting.

"They (MB2 Raceway) are very successful and they are looking to expand the concept and they saw Clovis as an ideal location."

He told council members the raceway is regularly used for corporate events and it will bring families and shoppers to the mall.

"They drive a good demographic," Newman said. "The same people who will go to the theater, go to Sears and go to Kohl's."

Other council members had no qualms about the project.

Council Member Bob Whalen said people are not going to a mall only to shop, but for new experiences.

"This is another reason for people to go to the mall," he said.

An opening date has not been set.

In other action, the council:

• Sent plans for a 5.59-acre senior living center back to the Planning Commission for further consideration. The council is concerned about two acres proposed for a commercial use at the site at Ashlan and Locan avenues.

• Supported a plan to sell two parcels totaling 26 acres to Fresno-based Diversified Development Group for industrial buildings near Villa Avenue and Pontiac Way.

The projects are the first approved under the city's new development incentive program that reduces fees an average of 70% for developers in certain parts of the city.

• Approved a 50-home subdivision on 12 acres at the southeast corner of Shepherd and Temperance avenues.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, or @beebenjamin on Twitter

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