Council to vote on hiring help to find tenant for vacant building

Taft's Kmart is closing, taking with it more than 50 jobs and more than $125,000 annually in sales tax revenue to the City of Taft and leaving it with 80,000 square feet of vacant retail space.

Now the City is going to hire a consultant to help in the search to bring new retail businesses to the empty Kmart building.

The City Council is expected to approve a $135,000 contract with Retail Strategies to help out with economic development and retail recruitment at its meeting Tuesday night.

The City came into contact with Retail Strategies Executive Vice President Joseph Fackel shortly after the Kmart's closing was announced in early January, but there have been discussions within the city to hire outside help with business development.

Fackel has met with City Manager Craig Jones and Director of Planning and Community Development Mark Staples as well as the city's ad hoc economic development committee.

Marketing the vacant Kmart building is going to be a challenge. The size alone is going to be difficult to fill in a small, economically depressed community like Taft, and Jones said the 25-year-old building needs energy upgrades and the parking lot needs work.

One option to attract businesses involving dividing the store into two smaller retail spaces.
It has two entrances -- the main entrance toward the north and the garden entrance at the south, to create entrances for separate businesses.
Jones said there are construction firms that specialize in building partitions.

The Council's consideration of the consulting contract comes after it holds a study session on economic development.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Civic Center council chambers.