News Article | 4/6/2007

Rialto getting ready for its renaissance

Everyone looks to benefit from a deal to pave the way for major economic development in Rialto – from the city to the developer, to even another municipality.

All appear to be ready to cash in on Rialto’s closing its airport, allowing the city to take advantage of the economic renaissance expected from using the site for a far more profitable, massive multiuse project, a la Renaissance Rialto.

Tens of millions of dollars are at stake, and we only hope the arrangement wasn’t hammered out so quickly that someone ends up getting cheated of their rightful share of the pie.

Federal legislation allowing Rialto to close its underused airport requires the city to pay 45 percent of its value to San Bernardino International Airport. But determining the value of its airport has led to perhaps the biggest bone of contention for Rialto.

Rialto officials initially thought Rialto Municipal Airport was worth $66 million. But after negotiations with San Bernardino airport officials, all agreed it was worth $120 million, minus $10 million for development costs.

The new figure leaves Rialto paying SBIA $49.5 million, or nearly double what it would have paid using its original numbers. The discrepancy in values bears some explanation to a doubting public.

In the meantime, Rialto will be able to split the difference with the developer, Lewis-Hillwood Rialto LLC, in an uncommon sharing of the costs. Lewis-Hillwood is a partnership between the Lewis Group of Cos. and Texas-based Hillwood.

To top it off, Rialto has been guaranteed it will walk away with at least $26 million for its sale of the airport to Lewis-Hillwood.

It looks to be a win-win situation for all concerned.

Judging from how fast this all went down, however, we can only hope it doesn’t turn out to be too good to be true. And that corners weren’t cut in the rush to seal the deal, leaving some to rue the details later.