Long-time Visalia residents may recognize the Shannon family name. Developers have all but finished building out the enormous Shannon Ranch community.
Now, the family wants to begin construction on a similar master-planned neighborhood in up-and-coming north Visalia. Plans include thousands of homes, shopping centers, a high school, an elementary school, and if everything goes right, a Costco.
On Oct. 2, the Visalia City Council approved the specific plan for 507-acre Carleton Acres. Eric Shannon, managing member of Hayes Ranch Partners, the landowner, described the vision for the neighborhood, especially the project’s considerations for the environment.
“We have a very walkable community, a bicycle-able community, and we incorporated a lot of things, bio-swells and stuff like that where we can be eco-friendly and keep as much water going through natural permeability,” Shannon said.
Mix of Single-Family Homes, Apartment Complexes
The name Carleton Acres comes from Shannon’s grandfather, Carleton Shannon, who purchased the land decades ago from local resident Helen Hayes. Carleton Shannon grew wine grape and row crops on the land.
The plan area spans Riggin Avenue to the south and Avenue 320 to the north, bordered by Shirk Road and Akers Street. Built around homes “maybe a step or two up from entry level and a mix after that,” according to Shannon, the project would be delivered in two phases across 15 years.
That translates out to 1,182 residential units — both apartments and single-family — in the first phase and 2,080 units in the second phase.
Tulare County supervisors are expected to approve the annexation to Visalia in December. Kingsburg-based West Star Construction is the contractor.
Housing would be nearly evenly split in the first phase between low-density and high-density lots. And being near the industrial park, Shannon sees jobs in the area being a big driver for housing.
“I think there’s quite a demand for multi-family, and I would believe that the city’s done a real good job of growing the industrial park and probably a big need for some housing for people that aren’t quite ready for homeownership yet,” Shannon said.
Shannon hopes to begin prepping the land in spring 2024.
The plan focuses heavily on landscaping, said Brandon Smith, principal planner with the city of Visalia.
The project boasts 17 acres of parks, trails, and recreational facilities, according to the specific plan.
Half-acre and one-acre parks will be scattered throughout residential areas.
Twenty-two-foot-wide biking and walking trails will connect the proposed high school to the proposed elementary school and to different neighborhoods. Trails will run along a ponding basin and connect to retail.
“There’s a lot of emphasis that’s been put into things like the landscaping, the landscaping treatments and signage and treatment of open spaces,” Smith said.
Costco Discussions Moving Along, Developer Hopes for Announcement Soon
The project also reserves 35 acres for commercial development at two locations.
At Shirk Road and Riggin Avenue, builders hope to bring Costco. Talk of Costco going to the northeast corner there has circulated since Visalia officials first teased the project in April 2022.
The project description also calls for a car wash, drug store, additional retail, and restaurants. In the second phase, a more neighborhood-focused shopping center at Akers Street and Avenue 320 would provide retail, services, and restaurants on 6.4 acres.
While the Visalia City Council and the planning department have been doing leg work on Costco ahead of any announcement, the wholesale giant has yet to file an application, said Smith.
“They do need to get a conditional use permit, which needs to go through a public hearing, but once they do that, they already have an approved environmental report to rely on,” Smith said.
Costco had begun working with property owners to find a place appropriate for them. The plan was to have them open in two years.
Planners prioritized widening Riggin Avenue to four lanes on the assumption Costco would come to the area.
But Shannon said he hopes to have negotiations finished soon.
“It’s ongoing and it’s promising,” Shannon said.
Two Schools Possible at Carleton Acres
With the additional 3,000 housing units comes the inevitable need for schools. Land has been set aside for a future high school and elementary school. Ridgeview Middle School is the area.
Visalia Unified School District doesn’t yet have the money set aside for construction, but Smith doesn’t think housing will reach the elementary school site for five years.
The plan predicts construction to occur at a rate of 100 of the low-density homes a year. In total, Shannon predicts a 15-year rollout, a bit faster than the 20-year completion timeline for Shannon Ranch.
“In a perfect world, hopefully, we’d see dirt start moving and the infrastructure getting done hopefully late next spring and hopefully, see a lot of activity going on late next spring going forward,” Shannon said.