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San Bernardino starts to deal with state violations related to mall property

December, it appeared San Bernardino was on track to solving its seemingly never-ending Carousel Mall problem.

After a debate about whether to restore the former downtown mall or level it, the city council settled on the latter option, at a cost of $8 million.

With a developer in place, it looked like the city would finally achieve the goal it had been chasing for more than a decade: convert the dilapidated property next to Interstate 215 into a mixed-use commercial-residential development.

In time, city officials believe such a project will revive San Bernardino’s downtown and make it a destination location, something city officials have wanted for years to make happen.

But San Bernardino’s attempts to fix Carousel Mall – which opened as Central City Mall in 1972 and shut down in 2017 – has been a series of abandoned plans and false starts.

This time, the roadblock came in the form of a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The March 16 letter informed the city that its plans to restore Carouse Mall included four violations of state law, the most serious transgression being that it failed to include enough affordable housing in those plans.

The state also alleges that San Bernardino failed to negotiate with two developers – BLVD Capital and Alliant Strategic Development, both developers of affordable residential space – and that it spoke with other prospective developers before declaring the mall property surplus land a violation of state law.

Finally, the state maintains that San Bernardino failed to provide the state with important information regarding its development agreement, which ultimately went to Renaissance Downtowns USA/ICO Real Estate Group in the spring of 2021.

Based on those issues, the Department of housing and community development revoked its approval and gave San Bernardino officials 60 days to correct the problems.

Shortly after the letter was made public, on March 16, San Bernardino officials said they would address the issues raised by the state agency and proceed with demolition as soon as possible, but a start date has not been announced.

Cerritos-based Resource Environment has been awarded the demolition contract. In the meantime, San Bernardino officials are planning to hold a workshop to address how to correct the state violations.

A date for that session has not been announced.

During the city council’s April 5 meeting, Councilwoman Kimberly Calvin apologized to the city regarding the latest negative developments with Carousel Mall. She called for the city to practice “more transparency” regarding the mall property, which San Bernardino officials must be restored successfully to ensure the city’s economic future.

Most of all, Calvin expressed her frustration with not being fully informed by about the city’s negotiations with developers who expressed interest in the Carousel Mall project, among other omissions, by city staff.

Specifically,  Calvin said she and other council members and staff did not know that two developers who specialize in affordable housing had contacted the city about possibly bidding on redeveloping the property..

“I feel duped,” said Calvin, who chairs a three-member ad-hoc committee – council members  Theodore Sanchez and Fred Shorett are the other members – that oversees the city’s efforts to restore the former mall property. “I believe the ad hoc committee was locked out of negotiations and mediations during 18 months of reports.

“Never were we able sit down and have a conversation [with developers], never did we know what direction we were going.  I couldn’t tell you what they look like, because never once were we able to meet with them.”

San Bernardino has a history of creating problems that last for decades, and the only way to change that is with more transparency and greater accountability, according to Calvin..

“That is not what I signed up for,” Calvin told the council.  “I did not walk as many steps and ask the people of this community to support my campaign in order to get to this dais and then fail them by not being able to be accountable for what it is the city has done.”

San Bernardino has waited long enough to see the Carousel Mall property restored, said Donald Monti, president, and chief executive officer of Renaissance Downtowns USA.

“We should do everything we can to ensure that this process moves forward,” Monti told the council. “My concern is that the council might restart the overall process, but there’s no need to do that. There are solutions that can be worked out.

“We are absolutely committed to this project and this community, and we aren’t going anywhere. Just let me show you what we’re capable of doing.”

The Carousel Mall property is “outstanding” because it’s downtown and so close to a freeway, but it also presents a lot of challenges before it can be restored, said Brad Umansky, president of Progressive Real Estate Partners in Rancho Cucamonga.

“It’s quite a piece of real estate with a lot of potentials,” said Umansky, whose brokerage specializes in real estate transactions in the Inland Empire. “What’s important is that everyone – the city council, staff, economic development – are all on the same page because restoring a property that size was never going to be easy.”

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18 comments

  1. About time the city did something with it. To bad they can’t transform it into senior apartments.

    • No this is our city not a retirement center, there are other properties more suitable for retirment housing. I am 78 years old and i belive in my opinion. That property is more suited for the rebuilding of San Bernardino as a city., not a retirement group center.

      • I totally agree with you.it would help revive the city that really needs it at this time . only problem you need a lot of security that would provide a lot of jobs.

        • I work at zthe courthouse near the old mall. And all of us employees would love the mall to be restored. We need to have a place to go eat and shop that is near by. It’s sad to see many areas near the courts closed down San Bernardino needs to be revived. Soon I hope

    • Redlands Riverside and Ontario are doing a lot better running those cities than the people managing San Bernardino. So sad

  2. Please put to fix new in big time Mall will be celebrating reopening and change name ?

  3. How about clean up the city all trash and the homeless. I’ve been here for 8 years hoping that someday to see our streets clean and homeless not being everywhere I look. It’s not safe here how are you going to bring more business here. So homeless can light fires and let all the disgusting trash everywhere I’m front of these business so they can leave again. Start with the problem first.

    • Samantha Crawford

      So try it was a nice place but San Bernardino gave up on it my first two kids and I loved my third kids don’t get to in join it for the violence came to take it and then homeless but I think the buses was no help cause no security the cara saw was beautiful in their kids. Love to ride it then when route 66 came in it was nice. San Bernardino is nothing what it used to be.

    • Natalie Erickson

      I moved to the IE 46 years ago. Once a teenager I practically lived at the mall. Worked in San Bernardino so spent most of my hourly lunches there and introduced my kids to it. Participated in the Route 66 car show for years. I would say that for probably 39 years most of San Bernardino has not been the best. Not only homeless but a lot of prostitution. Im in the high desert now and haven’t been there for several years but can just imagine what it is like now.

  4. Why can’t you turn it into a homeless shelter? There are a lot of homeless people out there. My brother is one of those people. Thank You.

  5. Well everyones hands need to be greased not just a few. Come on guys lets get everyone into the huddle. Then we can decide whos gonna get what. I already had the trucks waiting , now there goes my free F150

    • Shirley Gillespie

      What will happen to the Harris company building that is on the national register of historic buildings? Historic buildings cannot be destroyed but some already have been. My grandfather used to take me to the Harris company at Christmas time and the large windows that faced East Street were always decorated for Christmas.

  6. How about we dont put stypid housing that is just going roi be turned inti the gutter, we need a civic cultural center and an affkrdable concert venue

  7. Let’s see the carousel Mall beautifully amplified can’t wait 💜

  8. How about turn it into different education building that helps are young youths have guidance and help with career choices have it be programs ran to help the youth start their lives working and making money help with vehicles ,homes goals and support. As we all know these are things that should come from home, but a lot of youth don’t have from home lets focus on working not gangs not drugs be proud of who you are and represent the good values in life not the miserable ones, the homeless should have an opportunity as well but not many, its should be used on the understanding to better yourself, not to abuse to have pride in your self and your families and if they cant do it show um the courthouse were there life will probably be called home!

  9. They need to fix the whole city, San Bernardino is the worst crime rating. Isn’t that more important than a darn mall

  10. The historical Harris building is the tragedy in all this. I wish and hope they would consider at least saving that building. Someone in an earlier comment mentioned other cities managing situations like this much better. And it is true. Riverside in particular is very good at revitalizing and preserving their historical buildings and repurposing them. And the buildings keep their classic beauty. All the while, San Bernardino just keeps tearing their stuff down. The Harris billing will be another tragic example- if attempts are not made to preserve it.

    • Fresno is the same way. Very little appreciation for its heritage. They’ve had the revitalization of downtown thing going for 20 years now … and prior to that had no qualms about razing so many historical homes and buildings.

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