Highland has several strengths that are attracting developers to build in the community, according to Highland Community Development Director Lawrence Mainez who was the guest speaker for the Highland Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic development update Tuesday morning, Dec. 10.
Mainez gave a brief update on several developments within the city before turning the presentation over to Tom Robinson of TREH Partners, which is working with the city on further developing the Lowe’s Shopping Center.
Mainez shared that Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant now has all its permits required from the city and is expected to reopen its new store within a few days. The new building was built at the same location as its previous drive-in, 26539 Base Line, but features a larger dining room, a drive-thru window, patio seating and a bakery. Pepito’s can now accommodate seating for 70.
The restaurant has been training new employees and getting food delivered in preparation for the reopening, Mainez said.
According to owner James Ramos, “Pepito’s is one step closer to opening day, but they are currently hiring and training new employees."
Mainez also shared that the area of Greenspot Road from Boulder Avenue to the East Valley Water District headquarters has 550 new housing units in the works. The Mediterra project, directly across Greenspot from EVWD, accounts for 316 of those units.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Highland City Council approved an amended tract plan and development document for the project.
Base Line may soon also see the development of a soul food restaurant and an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Mainez added.
When discussing what draws development, Robinson listed good government, high quality housing and strong schools. Speaking of Highland specifically he highlighted San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the San Bernardino International Airport as important economic drivers that draw development and attract tenants.
“Our company came to Highland about 13 years ago. We looked at the property right off Greenspot,” Robinson said, referring to the Lowe’s development.
“We don’t do a lot of projects but we tend to hold on to the projects we build, so we look long-term at the communities. We look at the government, the city council and look at what could come in the future. Highland is one of the places that, although a lot of people are passing on, we think it’s a jewel in the Inland Empire.”
“Schools, I think, are the most valuable piece of property in a community,” he added.
In January, TREH plans to break ground on the sixth and final phase of the Lowe’s development. It will include building a restaurant for Mountain Mike’s Pizza.
“I’m very encouraged. There are certain things that have to happen in Highland. There has to be more housing, some of that is happening, but I wish it’d go quicker,” Robinson added. “Once we see more housing we’ll see a higher level of tenant coming to Highland.”
TREH Partners is also working with the city on the purchase, for development, of a 22-acre County Flood Control property on the north side of Greenspot Road east of State Route 210.
Purchase was delayed by three years when an environmental study found endangered kangaroo rats on the property. About half the property is now part of a mitigation area, Robinson said.
The Highland City Council approved an amended purchase and sale agreement and joint escrow for the property at its Dec. 10 meeting.
TREH expects to finish purchasing the property in January, according to Robinson.
“Our goal isn’t just to develop another shopping center but to kick off the ‘Golden Triangle’ because if the ‘Golden Triangle’ doesn't kick off our assets across the street, which includes Lowe’s and LA Fitness, are less valuable and less wanted by retailers,” he added. “We wanted to do a high quality project to kick that off.”
TREH hopes to begin the building process next year.
“It’s hard to layout an overall site plan when you don’t know the land you’re going to have,” Robinson said.