The Redlands Planning Commission unanimously decided last Tuesday (April 27) to back an exemption for a project that could allow for development of taller structures at the Redlands Mall site.
The commission voted to recommend to the City Council that the project fit an exemption in Measure U, which was approved by voters in 1997. The council will make a final decision on the exception’s appropriateness at a future meeting.
Village Partners’ proposal for State Street Village includes mixed-use, three-, four- and five-story buildings with up to 722 housing units, but the builder is open to revisiting the five-story features, according to company principal Don Henry.
Pedestrian paths would provide access throughout the site and to Downtown Station trainplatforms for the upcoming Arrow rail less than 1,200 feet north of the project.
The newest developer to take on the overhaul of the dormant Redlands Mallseeks exemption from a voter-approved initiative to build a mixed-use project that includes five-story elements and up to 722 residential units.
An RV is parked in the vacant parking lot of the Redlands Mall in June 2019. A developer is seeking an exemption to redevelop the site with buildings up to five stories and 722 residential units. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
According to a written report on the agenda item, plans call for apartments, ground-floor and rooftop restaurants, retail and office space, a pedestrian plaza, a six-level parking structure with 780 spaces, and subterranean parking for another 240 vehicles. The proposal includes open spaces with trees and pedestrian improvements.
The mall has been closed since 2010, with only a few tenants in the outbuildings. CVS Pharmacy, which currently occupies part of the site, will be moved across Citrus Avenue where a parking lot is now located.
The proposed mixed-use buildings will top out at three to five stories. A conceptual site plan shows only a few of the buildings will have five-story elements. For comparison, Redlands’ tallest building, located at 300 E. State St., is six stories.
The conceptual site plan for a project to overhaul the Redlands Mall shows State and Third streets running through the development, and parts of two buildings extending to five stories.
West State Street would be extended through the project, as would Third Street. The smaller blocks would be “more amenable to pedestrians and storefronts (similar to the existing historical blocks along East State Street),” according to the report.
The density of the residential units “supports the nearby commercial, retail, and restaurant uses,” according to the report. “For example, someone living in a residential unit upstairs can easily make multiple stops at a coffee shop, restaurant, bank, medical office, neighborhood grocery, pharmacy, Post Office, or cleaners all within a half-mile radius, in about one hour or less, and without needing a motor vehicle.”
The proposal, according to the report, is in “substantial conformance” with the in-progress Transit Villages Specific Plan, which will set design rules for the area when and if it is approved, which could happen in spring 2022.
When voters took up Measure U in 1997 the rules came with exemptions, including one for “development directly related to proposed Metrolink stations in the city,” said Brian Desatnik, director of Development Services. But, he added, “Measure U did not provide any detail as to how this phrase was to be interpreted.”
Staff and the city attorney say the City Council is the body to make that determination, Desatnik said, and staff thought it would be helpful for the council to have a recommendation from the Planning Commission on the issue.
Measure U otherwise requires a four-fifths vote of the council for projects that exceed two stories in height and 18 dwelling units per acre, not to exceed 27.
“Our proximity to the rail station guides our planning effort,” Kaitlin Morris, the builder’s development manager, told the commission during the virtual meeting. “We’re designing our project to maximize our connectivity to the rail.”
Brian Foote, a city planning manager, said the official environmental process will be followed, and Desatnik said the exemption would not relieve the developer from paying development impact fees.
Michael Morris, a Village Partners principal, told commissioners those fees would add up to more than $12 million, and $750,000 would come in annually from property taxes.
Kaitlin Morris said the project would harken back to a downtown Redlands before the mall was built with walkable streets, and three- and four-story buildings with mixed uses.
“We want to design a place that is true to the spirit and character of Redlands,” she said. “So we’re focused on showcasing space for the things that make Redlands so special: local businesses, heritage street trees, beautiful architecture, gourmet food and walkability.”
The developer seeks city approval of the Measure U exemption before moving forward with applications for the project.
Full submittal of project plans will come if the council grants the exemption, and approval of the project itself likely won’t go before the council until the end of the year.