With residential construction -- the traditional economic engine for Hesperia during boom times -- still comatose, city officials are looking for commercial development to give the city a shot in the arm in 2012.


The High Desert Gateway shopping center is now 80 percent filled, Deputy Director of Economic Development Steve Lantsberger told city council members at a budget workshop Tuesday. Anchored by the Super Target store, the center now has 18 tenants, and officials are now working on the future of the shopping center.


"We're starting to do leasing activity for phase two," west of the current shopping center, Lantsberger said Wednesday. "A department store, [or a] soft goods-type anchor would be preferable. Obviously, we don't want to cannibalize the retailers who are existing in phase one, so we'd like some diversity."


Next year should also see Target's rival Walmart opening up a Supercenter store at the corner of Main Street and Escondido Road, after years of delays.


"The process has been very long, going through everything from legal challenges to the market," said Lantsberger. "We think it's a matter of getting the last few details flushed out."


The store's site and building plans have been approved by the city. According to City Manager Mike Podegracz on Tuesday, the company's goal is to submit their construction permit requests in March and open in 2012.


Walmart will be going at it alone, at least initially: Home Depot was originally set to be the shopping center's second anchor store, but the down economy and company concerns about the store cannibalizing sales at the chain's three other Victor Valley locations led to them pulling out.


Further down Main Street, officials expect a groundbreaking in June for a 12-screen movie theater located across from Hesperia Civic Plaza Park. The theater complex would open in mid-2012, and be the anchor for a shopping center of its own.


"Our goal is to develop more of a specialty retail. They don't have enough acreage for a big-box retail" store like Target or Walmart, Lantsberger said. Instead, the other businesses would be "smaller-scale, more boutique-type, specialized retail, as well as restaurants that need a daytime population that would feed off a number of folks coming to the theater."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.