With final plans for the redevelopment of the Redlands Mall approved a few weeks ago, all that stands in the way of permits being issued and demolition beginning is the approval of a development agreement between the developer, Village Partners, and the city of Redlands.

The Redlands City Council is scheduled to vote on the final plan on Tuesday, July 19.

The Redlands Chamber of Commerce is committed to ensuring that the Redlands community is informed of the impacts this significant project will have on the future of the city.

Naturally, community members might have concerns on any number of issues. We believe businesses and residents have a right to know specific project details, as well as the impact to parking in downtown Redlands.

It would be hard to find anyone in the community who wants everything to stay exactly the same when it comes to the mall.

The real question is what process do we have to look at the bigger picture when it comes to the large amount of development projects in such a short period of time.

The city has a responsibility to ensure that each project, including the train, the mall, and others coming down the pike, are studied and approved with the kind of care and knowledge to ensure growth is achieved in the most holistic and effective way possible. The chamber’s position is this: preserve the past and embrace the future.

Our membership consists of businesses and residents already in town, and it’s our job to represent them, making sure they benefit from the proposed changes. As new opportunities are created, new businesses will also be welcomed. However, a priority of ours right now is to make sure decisions are made responsibly to achieve the best result for all community members, both now and into the future.

It is imperative that the 71,778-square-foot commercial floor area and rooftop restaurant house a generous proportion of local Redlands businesses versus chains.

The last thing anyone wants is to drive out local businesses that can’t compete with national franchises.

The City Council soon will hold a final vote on the development agreement. Yet, there are many questions that still have not been answered including:

1. How will this development affect the flow of traffic downtown? Will there be lane changes to Orange Street? Will the public parking structure being constructed on the corner of Redlands Boulevard and Orange Street be free, paid or validation?

2. How big will the apartments be and how much will they cost? How many will be considered affordable housing units?

3. Which businesses will be included in the development?

4. The day the fences go up around the construction site, and for the duration of construction, where will people park in downtown Redlands? For the surrounding homes on Eureka and Grant, will there be parking permits or protections for those residents?

For decades, downtown parking has been an issue. With this development, there is a net loss in public parking spaces.

It’s the chamber’s view that the city needs to provide specific short-term and long-term plans before construction begins on State Street Village so that businesses, customers, and residents are on the same page, and concerns are sufficiently addressed.

One of many solutions the chamber will be championing is to convert the current Redlands City Hall into a mixed-use business and parking structure that will serve State Street, State Street Village and performances and graduations at the Redlands Bowl.

In 2024, the City Hall will move to 300 E. State St, the old Redlands Federal building.

Just as the Packing House District parking structure will service train passengers and customers for the businesses across the street, the conversion of City Hall and the ancillary buildings could serve multiple needed functions.

In September, the chamber will hold a public forum on the mall redevelopment to engage with community members and help clarify any misconceptions.

More detailed plans for that event will be released as it gets closer.

Meanwhile, the chamber will continue to monitor this project and will be sharing updates on our website: redlandschamber.org.