Chili's adds to new businesses coming to SW Bakersfield

Chili's adds to new businesses coming to SW Bakersfield »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — There are signs of life for business construction in southwest Bakersfield. A new Chili's Grill & Bar is coming to a shopping center that's been filling in slowly. And, experts say more new businesses can draw in even more development.

Dirt work for the Chili's is just getting started in the Gosford Village center in front of the Kohl's store on Gosford Road, near Harris.

"The more the better," shopper Michael Leggett said on Tuesday afternoon. He was surprised and glad to hear about the new restaurant.

Elvira Martinez also likes the idea. "Well, that's good for more employment," she said. She also said the area is growing and could use more businesses and shopping opportunities.

But, commercial and retail development has been slowed to a trickle in the last few years, due to the economic downturn.

"Pretty much everything dried up at that point in time," Bakersfield Planning Director Jim Eggert told Eyewitness News. "We didn't see a lot of activity."

He said some very big stores have continued to come in, but the centers haven't seen the smaller "pads" fill up.

When they do get businesses in, it seems to start with the smaller sites along the front of the centers. That's like the new Chili's location on Gosford.

"As things picked up economically, these are the first to go in," Eggert said. He said in the "back" next to the anchor stores, it seems tougher to get the larger-sized vacant spots filled. Those sites take bigger stores that have been slower to commit.

But, some development areas still have entire big projects apparently on hold.

At Gosford, south of Harris, Castle and Cooke has a site that's empty. And, at Gosford, south of Panama Lane, another developer also has a location with no activity. Meanwhile, east of Gosford and north of Panama, a sign announces Bolthouse has a 17-acre retail site.

Eyewitness News contacted all those developers and only heard back from Castle and Cooke. A spokeswoman said they're not currently working on the site.

But, not too far away there's more sign of new business.

The WinCo Foods is almost finished at Panama and Ashe Road. Eggert said it'll be interesting to see what other small businesses are drawn to that area. He also said the building activity at Ashe could have ripple effects over on Gosford.

"It will be interesting to see how that plays out with what kind of interest starts coming in farther west," he said.

Over on Gosford, a Chili's spokesperson said they're looking forward to bringing that restaurant to the shopping center.

"I can confirm a Chili's Grill & Bar will open in southwest Bakersfield later this year," the spokesperson responded in an email statement. "This location will be the brand's second in Bakersfield, and we are excited to expand our reach to more guests in the area and welcome new team members to the Chili's family."