06:40 PM PDT on Wednesday, July 20, 2011

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL
The Press-Enterprise

Developer Don Ecker has rarely hidden his enthusiasm as he has reached benchmarks to build a medical campus on former March Air Force Base property, from the first agreement to first negotiations to the first building demolished.

Wednesday was no exception.

The March Joint Powers Authority, a governing board overseeing the reuse of former Air Force base land, unanimously approved Ecker’s final map showing where buildings and necessary infrastructure will go, as well as an addendum to the plan’s environmental impact report.

“This is truly a historic moment for all of us,” Ecker said before approval was granted at the meeting that attracted a capacity crowd at the authority’s board room. The project was first approved in 2009.

The approval allows Ecker to begin buying land from the March Joint Powers Authority and immediately resell it to other developers to build 3.55 million square feet of hospital space, medical offices, a hotel, retail space and more. Construction on the infrastructure — pipes, utilities and roads — is expected to begin by the end of the year.

There is one more administrative step, though. Final approval of the specific plan amendment will be considered at the authority’s Aug. 3 meeting with an item on the consent calendar.

At Wednesday’s meeting, there was no indication that any interested developers were ready to buy. Ecker, managing director of March Healthcare Development, has signed numerous letters of intent, but only Riverside Medical Clinic has officially signed on to participate in the project so far.

Several people affiliated with the project spoke in support of the campus as well as members of the public, including leaders of a few construction unions in the region who said they supported the project for its potential to create jobs for their members.

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