The Shops at Spanish Trail could transform not only Barstow but all of the High Desert. Supporters of the mixed-use development want to bring retail, commercial, and some residential development to the region, but first, they have to find out what sort of development residents will support.
Joseph W. Brady has a large profile in the High Desert, or, as he prefers to call the region, the Mojave River Valley.
Brady, a 31-year Victorville resident, is the founder and president of The Bradco Cos., the largest commercial development company in the region.
He is also a driving force behind The Shops at Spanish Trail in Barstow, a proposed mixed-use project at Avenue L and Interstate 15 on the west end of the city.
The Shops at Spanish Trail will be a combination of commercial, residential, and retail development, including specialty shops, hotels, and restaurants, according to the project’s website. Its residential component will consist of multifamily and senior housing along with Avenue L.
The project, one of the largest of its kind ever proposed in the High Desert, was approved by the city in December 2013, when the city council unanimously approved the project’s specific plan.
Barstow has also approved an environmental impact report that allows for multiple uses on the site, including hospitality, retail, quick-service restaurants, service stations, and self-storage businesses.
Other retail uses could include health fitness centers, automobile shops, furniture stores, indoor recreation, and stores that sell items made locally.
Brady, who is helping lead a push by business and civic leaders to bring more commercial development to the High Desert, said he began contemplating bringing a project the size and scope of The Shops at Spanish Trail to the region since the early 2000s.
“Barstow is out on an island, and it needs something like this,” Brady said. “I think people underestimate Barstow. With the right tenant mix, this will be a huge success, but it’s all about timing. We couldn’t do anything until Covid calmed down.”
“But I’ve promised the city I will build it, and I’m going to build it. I am going to keep my word.”
The Shops at Spanish Trail will start with a strong anchor tenant. The Home Depot at 1100 L Ave. is within the project’s boundaries.
It will also start with strong demographics: 67,000 residents, including all personnel at Ft. Irwin National Training Center, live within a 35-minute drive of the proposed site for The Shops at Spanish Trail.
Also, an estimated 86,000 vehicles pass by the proposed development’s designated area on a typical day, according to the project’s website.
Brady and other backers of The Shops at Spanish Trails are now making changes to the 2013 specific plan, trying to account for changes to the retail industry that have happened since then.
They have an agreement to buy 112 acres from the California State Lands Commission along with Avenue L and Interstate 15, about 13 of which must be deeded back to the state to account for on-ramps, off-ramps and other amenities for the freeway.
Fifty acres will be used for the first phase of The Shops at Spanish Trials. Brady declined to say how much the land will cost but said he expects escrow to close in the next 12 to 18 months.
What will happen with the remaining 49 acres hasn’t been decided.
About 30 acres of the proposed site has been designated an opportunity zone by the state of California, meaning any developer who builds there will be eligible for tax breaks they would not get in more developed areas.
Unlike much of the Inland Empire, the High Desert – and Barstow in particular – still has plenty of lands large enough to accommodate multi-phase commercial projects.
It also has enough successful retail to indicate that The Shops at Spanish Trail has an excellent chance of succeeding.
For example, The Walmart Supercenter at 301 S. Montara Road reportedly generates $75 million to $80 million years in gross sales, more than Walmart officials expected it to do when it opened, according to Brady.
“We believe those are accurate numbers, and if they are it’s a very good sign for our project,” Brady said.
Even hotels are a good long-term bet. Although Barstow has plenty of hotel rooms now, given enough time, the city [pop. 25,415] will need more hotels and motels, according to the website.
But it’s not enough to announce you’re building a mega-retail project. You have to find out what kind of retail people want, which is why Brady, a member of Barstow Community College’s board of trustees, asked the school to put together a survey to answer that question.
About 2,000 copies of the survey went out about one month ago via social media and email, and a copy was posted on Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce’s website, said Eugene Butticci, the chamber’s executive director.
The replies and recommendations will be broken down and analyzed all at once, probably in two or three weeks, Butticci said.
“We’re fully behind [The Shops at Spanish Trail],” Butticci said. “We think a lot of retailers are starting to look at Barstow, partly because of the success Walmart has had up here.”
Even without seeing the results, Brady said he is delighted with the survey.
“Barstow Community College did a fantastic job,” Brady said. “I think we should send this survey out every year, just to keep up with everything that is going on in retail. I think every city should do that.”