Murrieta and French Valley residents awaiting a new choice for shopping will have to wait longer.
Despite that, it was still good news for Regency Centers, the developer responsible for Murrieta Marketplace, a sprawling 548,055-square feet shopping center planned for Winchester Road and Max Gillis Boulevard. The city of Murrieta Planning Department on Monday approved an up to five-year extension for the project.
The commercial center, which will be anchored by retailers Target and Lowe's, was first approved by City Council on Dec. 5, 2006. A construction agreement was set to expire in December.
Under a revised contract, Regency Centers received a two-year extension with the possibility of three, one-year extensions, during which it will need to begin substantial construction. At a Nov. 15 City Council meeting, a temporary extension had been granted.
Associate City Planner Cynthia Kinser said staff worked with Regency Centers to review the plans prior to holding a public hearing Monday.
"It has been reviewed and deemed consistent with today’s code standards," Kinser said, adding that a previous environmental report was also ruled sufficient.
The marketplace will boast a wine country theme, in line with adjacent French Valley and Temecula Wine Country.
Regency Centers started construction on the project in 2008, but stalled in 2009 when some key tenants pulled out, according to John Mehigan, vice president of investments.
"We had tenants we were negotiating with," Mehigan said. "Unfortunately in 2008, the global recession hit."
According to Mehigan, Target is still a solid tenant, as it owns its piece of real estate. Lowe's is also still committed, he said.
"We hope to build soon; it is a project we have been working on for seven years."
Riverside County's plan to to Winchester Road will also help, Mehigan said.
"One day, when the road pokes through, it will be a great intersection. Time will cure this project."
At a Nov. 1 City Council meeting, Riverside County Director of Transportation Juan Perez said land acquisition for the Clinton Keith extension is wrapping up.
"We are completing right-of-way acquisitions of segments," Perez told City Council members. "We have gotten 27 of 28 that we need. There is one parcel that we are in litigation--imminent domain--over, which is delaying the project."
Perez said the price tag for the roadway is in the $40-million range now. The project will need to be designated transportation uniform mitigation fees, or TUMF, to get underway, he said.
"It depends on the ability we have to put TUMF dollars on it," Perez said. "It will depend to some degree on the economy improving to the point that the county can sell bonds to fund. I am confident that we can fund parts of it in the next year or two.
"It is a high priority for the county. If we were in different economic times we would probably be cutting ribbons."
For now, a small, paved sliver of Clinton Keith Road lies behind a row of homes near the planned shopping center, ready to take on the activity.