Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/26/2009 05:43:09 PM PST
SAN BERNARDINO – Some members of the business community may be gearing up to oppose the possible construction of a new government center on land currently occupied by Carousel Mall.
The San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce has created a committee to consider whether a new government center, or as some call it, a Taj Mahal, is a good idea. The Chamber may a take an official position in December or after the new year.
The center, if ever built, would house city and county offices and be one of downtown San Bernardino’s most visible buildings. Carousel Mall occupies land just east of the 215 Freeway between Second and Fourth streets.
The question for business and civic leaders is whether the proposal would be the kind of development that can promote further economic development, or if the freeway-visible real estate is too valuable for government offices.
“The idea that a new government tower is going to revitalize downtown San Bernardino is bordering on insanity,” said Tim Prince, an attorney and member of the Chamber panel that was formed to consider the issue.
Prince said he expects future improvements to the 215 Freeway will make the land more attractive to private developers. He also said the many government buildings that are already in San Bernardino prove that public-sector offices don’t promote economic vitality.
Downtown San Bernardino’s government buildings include City Hall, the San Bernardino County Government Center, and Rosa Parks Memorial Building, which houses state government offices.
The city’s downtown is also the site of California Theatre, two supermarkets, some retail establishments and a handful of restaurants.
There are also, however, a number of vacant buildings in downtown San Bernardino and the area is not as culturally or commercially strong as nearby Riverside.
In May, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris went before the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to ask for the county’s help in revitalization plans.
Mayoral chief of staff Jim Morris said Wednesday the mayor continues to support the new civic center concept.
“We have been in engaged in some active dialogue. With the departure of Mr. Uffer, I hope that doesn’t derail things,” said Jim Morris, referring to county supervisors’ dismissal last week of former county Chief Administrative Officer Mark Uffer.
The mayor’s April appearance followed closed-door supervisors meetings on the county’s potential purchase of the Carousel Mall site and a consulting firm’s presentation that promoted a joint city/county government center as “a monumental gateway that will welcome visitors and create a sense of arrival.”
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