Despite three closures in three days, officials say Redlands will be fine. Over three days last week, three important businesses in Redlands announced they will close. Yet city leaders contend Redlands has seen “strong business and retail growth recently.”

On Monday, Aug. 5, rePlanet recycling closed its 284 centers in the nation, including some in Redlands. Two days later, Transform Co. announced that 26 Sears and Kmart stores, including the Redlands location, will close in late October. On Thursday, Aug. 8, La-Z-Boy announced the end of a 53-year journey in Redlands.

Mayor Paul Foster said those decisions were all corporate business decisions made in corporate offices “far from Redlands” and that although it is unfortunate, the city has seen strong business and retail growth in recent years.

“It’s unfortunate, especially for those who will be laid off and left looking for work. … Business license applications last year nearly tripled over the prior year. Retail vacancies are at just over 5 percent, lower than the county average,” said Foster.

 “We are seeing exciting new retail and entertainment development in the heart of downtown with the Packinghouse District, anchored by Sprouts and PetSmart, almost fully leased and the second phase of that project now underway.”

Foster added that new restaurants opened recently are doing strong business and that downtown would be forever transformed in the following years, potentially attracting customers.

“Next year, Arteco Development Partners will open the Redlands Public Market food hall, which will house more than 20 unique food establishments under one roof,” said Foster.

He added that even the doughnut hole, an island of San Bernardino County property surrounded by Redlands, is thriving and growing.

“In the doughnut hole, the Citrus Plaza and Mountain Grove shopping centers are also growing. Under construction in the Mountain Grove center is an Aldi grocery store, with a Residence Inn by Marriot planned on the north side of the property,” he said. “Citrus Plaza recently welcomed Sephora and that center is 100 percent occupied.”

According to Cruz Esparza, Redlands’ economic development manager, 90 percent of the sales tax generated at the doughnut hole, goes to the city and the rest to the county.

Foster said buildings now occupied by Kmart and La-Z-Boy are of much interest for developing companies as the industrial market is running at historical low vacancy rates, “with demand for industrial space high.”

“According to the Economic Development staff, the city of Redlands industrial vacancy rate is currently 1.8 percent, with a 2018-19, 12-month average of 3.1 percent, with approximately 28 million square feet of industrial inventory,” he said.  “Economic Development staff will meet with and work with the real estate brokers once selected, to help market that site as well.”

Esparza said that the building at 301 Tennessee St., which housed La-Z-Boy for 53 years, could be fill within two years as it accommodates incoming businesses.  

“We hope it will sell fast and for top dollar. We may have another manufacturing company or it may be used as a warehouse as the Inland Empire is the mecca in logistics for being near the ports,” Esparza told a group of Redlands Chamber of Commerce members on Tuesday, Aug. 13, during a monthly breakfast.  “(Those buildings) will fill quick.”