San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 11/03/15 – 12:38 AM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> A plan to dramatically redevelop the 42.6 acres downtown where Carousel Mall has sat since 1973 took a big step forward Monday when the City Council unanimously entered an exclusive negotiation agreement with two companies to develop the mall and adjacent Theater Square area.

The vote gives AECOM and The Fransen Company six months — and another six months if needed — to work with city staff to develop a plan for the two sites, including a mix of retail, market-rate housing and office space. During the exclusive negotiation phase, the developer will pay a non-refundable fee of $10,000 per month to the city, for up to $80,000 total, to pay for any consulting work the city needs for planning the project.

“The development is a much-needed shot in the arm for the City’s downtown area,” City

Manager Allen Parker said in a statement. “It has been a top priority for staff to move this project forward as part of our bankruptcy recovery and economic development plans. It sets stage for a new era for city residents and surrounding businesses.”

The agreement comes almost exactly one year after the city invited about 90 developers to give their plans for the property. Fourteen responded, with the vast majority calling for mixed use — office, retail and residential uses — according to Deputy City Manager Bill Manis.

That reflects a national trend away from enclosed malls like San Bernardino’s, which opened with 52 tenants in addition to three anchor stores, Manis said.

“Over the recent years, as the council is aware, the mall has really struggled form attracting shoppers and thriving,” he said. “This has really led to us being in the current situation we are in with the mall, where we have approximately six or seven tenants in those 52 stores right now.”

The vacancy rate for Inland Empire malls improved to 6.3 percent earlier this year from 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter 2011, according to Brad Umansky, president of Progressive Real Estate Partners, a commercial broker in the region.

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