Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/21/2010 06:01:12 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – It may not be the most ringing of endorsements, but the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce is pretty much in favor with the prospect of a new downtown civic center.

The Chamber’s board voted Thursday to adopt a resolution supporting a new County Government Center in downtown San Bernardino. Some city and county officials – including San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris – want to build a new government complex on property currently used by Carousel Mall, but that idea has not gained universal support.

Opponents, particularly San Bernardino attorney Tim Prince and his colleagues in the San Bernardino Downtown Business Association, have contended that the freeway adjacent mall property is too valuable for a government building.

The Chamber’s resolution is more of a call to keep the County Government Center in San Bernardino and an encouragement for government officials to pursue other planned downtown projects than a thumbs up for building a new government tower on mall property.

The Chamber’s statement doesn’t even mention the Carousel Mall site by name.

Instead, the business group affirms its support for an expanded civic center at the county’s current home near the crossing of Arrowhead Avenue and Sierra Way or “a new site that capitalizes on the opportunities to be offered by the consolidation and expansion of county facilities and employees in downtown San Bernardino.”

In other words: Just build something already.

“There’s a plan and there seems to be financing behind it and we seem to be closer than we’ve ever been,” said Robert Gastel, who is chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors.

San Bernardino County has more than $31 million stashed for a new civic center and other construction projects.

The Chamber’s resolution opposes any use of eminent domain and also supports revitalization of California Theatre, the former CinemaStar property next door and Omnitrans’ plans for a new downtown transit center and high-speed bus line called sbX.

The transportation agency’s plans foresee sbX being the first in a series of high-speed bus lines. If the plans are completed, sbX buses would pass through downtown on their way from the Cal State San Bernardino area to the Loma Linda University area.

Prince pressed his case against the civic center before the Chamber’s board voted overwhelmingly to adopt the resolution. Prince said it would be wrong to abandon the idea of replacing Carousel Mall with a mix of residential and commercial development.

A Florida-based company that sold the mall in 2008 had that kind of idea in mind. Prince predicted that kind of opportunity can return once the economy recovers.

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