By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: 08/14/16 – 2:13 PM PDT |

REDLANDS >> A lot is happening in downtown Redlands.

Several long-anticipated development projects are getting underway, all of them set to bring in more business and activity to the city’s historic core.

“Assuming the economy stays active, I think within a couple years we should really see a whole rejuvenation of downtown,” Mayor Pro Tem Jon Harrison said.

Over the past few months, plans for the Redlands Packing Plant and Redlands Packing House District have been announced; Safety Hall and the neighboring San Bernardino County-owned building have gone into escrow; progress has been made on bringing passenger rail service to town; and the city is continuing discussions with the owner of the Redlands Mall.

The projects all seem to be coming together at once, but for various reasons. Much of it has to do with the economy, Harrison said.

“The economy coming back is a big contributor,” Harrison said. “The key is we have to keep these projects moving along and ensure and hope that the economy continues to remain strong for several years so that they have a chance to get built and established.”

Property One LLC — with investment from Esri owner Jack Dangermond — purchased the land west of Eureka Street, between Stuart Avenue and the 10 Freeway, where it plans to build the Redlands Packing House District — a packinghouse-themed retail and restaurant center.

A project formerly known as the Redlands Promenade was approved for the same site nearly a decade ago but was never developed. Construction on the Packing House District is expected to start this year.

Meanwhile, Pomona-based Arteco Partners plans to buy one of the city’s historic packinghouses, the MOD Packinghouse on Third Street, rename it the Redlands Packing Plant, and transform it into a food-lovers destination with restaurants and specialty-food shops. The sale of the MOD Packinghouse, owned by the city’s former redevelopment agency, was on hold for years while the city waited on direction from the state after it shuttered redevelopment agencies across California.

The MOD Packinghouse is one of a few prominent buildings receiving attention after sitting vacant for years.

In June, the City Council approved a purchase and sale agreement for Safety Hall, which has sat vacant on the corner of Brookside Avenue and Eureka Street since 2008.

The city is still waiting on a proposal for the Redlands Mall, between Citrus Avenue and Redlands Boulevard off Orange Street. The mall has been vacant since 2010, except for the CVS Pharmacy. Brixton Capital, a San Diego-based firm, purchased the site in 2014. A mixed-use project with residential and retail is expected.

“I think that people are intentionally looking for the downtown area of Redlands because it is a very popular site,” Mayor Paul Foster said. “They know that to have a development in downtown Redlands is going to be a successful project and they’re seeking Redlands out.”

Plans for passenger rail service, which will have a stop in downtown, also are attracting developers and businesses, Foster said.

San Bernardino Associated Governments, the lead agency on the project, anticipates construction to begin in 2017 with operations starting in 2020.

The rail service makes the long-term future of the Redlands Packing Plant especially exciting, Ed Tessier, Arteco Partners vice president of community relations, said during an interview in July.

“This is one of the things that’s going to expose more people to the exciting food culture here in Redlands,” he said. “You won’t just be an isolated, secret success much longer.”

Harrison said some of the last remaining properties for commercial or mixed-used projects in the city are located downtown, an area he says goes beyond popular State and Orange streets.

“It’s creating what I’m calling a ‘greater downtown,’ ” Harrison said. “The long-term goal is really to go all the way from the Fox building up to the freeway with commercial, offices and residential to really create a vibrant area in our town.”

City Council members and city staff have been involved with the projects during the early stages of planning to ensure they meet their vision for downtown. That vision sees downtown as a destination for entertainment and unique businesses and as a liveable and walkable community, the mayor said.

“I think that is the message we’re making very clear to any developer that’s looking at the downtown area that in order to get their development approved,” Foster added. “It’s going to need to be something that fits the vision the City Council has for the downtown area.”

For example, Foster and Harrison sat on a subcommittee to determine the new owner of the MOD Packinghouse based on their proposed project and available funding.

City officials are working with the purchaser of Safety Hall and the San Bernardino County building next door, asking the owner to agree to not build a drug store, fast food restaurant or grocery store.

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