SAN BERNARDINO – For a city striving to build its middle- class employment base, industrial development in northern San Bernardino is a give-and-take situation.
The sight of gigantic concrete walls being raised along the west side of the 215 Freeway is most likely just the beginning of development, bringing with it a fresh supply of jobs.
Huge distribution centers and truck fleets are popping up all over, while other land parcels are sporting “for sale” signs.
But the open space that once filled the Verdemont neighborhood of the city is slowly disappearing.
Instead of driving by a hodge-podge of properties with large front and backyards, local commuters will soon be dealing with an increase in road congestion, truck pollution, and eventual wear and tear on the streets they drive.
“We think it’s an untapped resource of the city,” said John Magness, senior vice president of Hillwood Investment Properties, about tracts of land north and south of University Parkway. “The benefit of that is that it’s adjacent to the freeway and very close to the interchange of both the 210 and 215, and 215 and 15 (freeways).”
Cement trucks have made their towering presence known on streets adjacent to the 215 Freeway for the past few months, delivering cement to construction crews working on projects totalling more than 4.4 million square feet of new industrial space.
Within these projects, construction is well under way on two major business parks by Hillwood development company.
InterChange Business Center, just southwest of the University Parkway exits of the 215, will bring more than 2 million square feet of industrial space, with its flagship building already spoken for by Michelin tire company. The company will use its 801,581-square-foot building for distribution.
Hillwood’s other project, North San Bernardino Industrial Park, is straddled by Glen Helen Parkway and Cajon Boulevard, near where the 15 and 215 freeways intersect. The park’s first building is under construction – 184,641 square feet of warehouse and office space that FedEx will move into.
Another 1.4 million square feet of space is slated for construction in that industrial park next year.
San Bernardino’s northern corridor is one of a few areas left in the San Bernardino Valley where land hasn’t been developed or bought.
“There’s just no vacant space out here right now,” Magness said
Clark Neuhoff, vice president and CEO of Alere Property Group LLC, agreed.
His company is building a gargantuan 844,150-square-foot warehouse project, Industrial Parkway Distribution Center, between Cajon Boulevard and Industrial Parkway. No tenants have signed leases, but Neuhoff expects them to come on board soon after construction is finished.
“The market is extremely tight for this type of building,” Neuhoff said.
He anticipates up to 500 jobs will come to the area because of that project.
McShane Corporation and other developers also have left their footprints in the northern corridor. McShane completed its 250,000-square-foot industrial and office space complex on Shenandoah Way in April.
The projects are examples of San Bernardino’s effort to capture warehouse development over the past few years, which some community leaders say will help restore a city devastated by the departure of jobs from Norton Air Force Base, which closed in 1994.
Nonetheless, the area’s open spaces are a boon for big-box companies.
“A company that moves in there that needs to get its goods to market, it’s got several transportation options,” Magness said. “These are big, brand-name companies that are going to be here for years to come.”
However, the effects on infrastructure from these developments might also last for years to come.
Besides the initial clutter and damage to streets by construction debris, big rigs will eventually leave their marks on both old and resurfaced roads.
“You’re going to have some real damage to road surfaces as the construction takes place,” said Jim Mulvihill, professor of urban planning and economic geography at Cal State San Bernardino. “You’ve got dozens of trucks and heavy university traffic, and that’s going to be a nightmare for transportation.”
The final 210/215 freeway intersections will be finished in the next few years, and by that time, there will be possibly more industrial, retail and residential development.
“It’s all a clear road to economic-development people,” Mulvihill said. “But for citizens, it’s more noise and congestion. You’ve got (more) jobs, but you’ve got the truck traffic.”
More trucks on nearby roads isn’t something residents of the Verdemont Neighborhood Association are looking forward to, said Mary Solis, president of the group.
“Most people up here are real concerned about what the increase in traffic will be,” she said. “Just with Cal State San Bernardino, we already have a tremendous amount of traffic.”
As far as Solis can remember, Verdemont residents have never fought industrial development.
“We just never touched it,” she said. “I think it’s going to happen no matter what we do.”