Construction has started on a 24-acre site near Palmdale’s Auto Mall that will become a CarMax dealership and refurbishment center. City officials are excited about the project, expected to open in February, because of the jobs it will bring to the region. A total of about 100 employees would work at both facilities. Palmdale City Manager Jim Purtee said the refurbishment center will get vehicles up to par before they are sent out to other CarMax locations. “We are seeing more jobs than we would see from just a dealership,” Purtee said. Jennifer Bartusiak, a spokeswoman for CarMax, based in Richmond, Va., said the Palmdale location will be approximately 50,000 square feet and have 200 to 300 cars on the lot. CarMax, which calls itself the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, came into the L.A. market in 1999 with a business model that promises no haggling, guarantees the condition of its cars and offers a five-day money-back return policy. The closest dealership to the Antelope Valley is in Burbank, which opened in 2006 in a 20,000-square-foot building on 6 acres at Flower Street and Alameda Avenue. There are also dealerships in Bakersfield and Oxnard. CarMax has a total of 19 dealerships throughout the state. The reconditioning center will be the 11th in the state and serve the Palmdale market, Bartusiak said. “The refurbishing center is our standard area for detailing and repairing cars for resale,” she added. CarMax acquires its inventory of used cars from trade-ins and from local, regional and online auctions. The company also buys from wholesalers, car dealers and rental companies. “The used vehicle inventory we acquire directly from consumers through our appraisal process helps provide an inventory of makes and models that reflects consumer preferences in each market,” Bartusiak said. Post-recession recovery Kari Blackburn, economic development manager for Palmdale, said that CarMax had looked all over the Antelope Valley for a site. The company and Palmdale have been in contact since about 2007. “When the recession took full force, they went silent,” Blackburn said. “We knew they still wanted to be here but it was a matter of timing at that point.” The company identified Palmdale as an area it was not currently serving and was a good fit for the current growth plan of 13 stores to 16 stores per year for the next two years, Bartusiak said. In the city’s discussions with CarMax, the auto dealer liked that there was available land, proximity to the auto mall, and a city government that was business friendly, Blackburn said. Even when there was no movement on the project the two parties continued to meet, she added. “They knew we were willing to step up and do what was needed to meet their schedule,” Blackburn said. CarMax initially had been interested in a parcel of land within the auto mall that was owned by the city’s redevelopment agency. But when Gov. Jerry Brown abolished the agencies across the state, the land got held up in the wind-down process and could not be sold. The auto retailer then turned to a private landowner to secure a parcel, Blackburn said. “That is one reason why CarMax ended up across the street from the auto mall instead of in the auto mall,” Purtee added. The Palmdale Auto Mall is home to eight dealerships between 5th Street West and the Antelope Valley Freeway south of Avenue P-8. Dealers include Robertson’s Palmdale Honda, Antelope Valley Nissan and Rally Kia. Kimberley Maevers, the president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, called car sales a great equalizer that reaches across the demographics in the Antelope Valley. “Anytime we get a great brand it stimulates interest up here and gives us the ability to show that we can support those brands,” Maevers said. Having a CarMax across the street will mean more customers and exposure for the auto mall as a whole, city officials said. A person can sell their used vehicle to CarMax and then walk over to check out the new cars at the auto mall dealers, Blackburn said. Additionally, all the dealers create a synergy with each other and that will only multiply with CarMax, which has become a destination unto itself, she added. “People are a lot more brand agnostic now,” said Purdee, the city manager. “They just want a good quality car at a good deal.” In addition to the jobs and the increased sales at the auto mall, city officials outlined other benefits that CarMax brings. One is psychological in that residents and business people can see progress being made at the site. That economic development shows that the city is well on its way to recovering from the recession, Purtee said. Another is that the empty land the city owns at the auto mall may now become attractive to other car dealers who want to get in on all that is happening there especially when the CarMax advertising starts hitting, he added. “We are looking forward to potentially selling these redevelopment properties within the auto mall and bringing in more variety,” Purtee said.