Probation Department Becomes Anchor Tenant in Premier Downtown Development
2/5/14 – $ 4 million in taxpayer dollars have already been spent by the City of Banning to secure the former San Gorgonio Inn site on Ramsey Street, with the declared intent to turn it into a prime retail and office complex named “Village at Paseo San Gorgonio”. The City took a $ 2.9 million loss in 2012, when they sold the 5 acre site to developer Art Pearlman for a mere $ 1 million – no money down (see previous story).
But today, two years later, no commercial tenants have signed up. Instead, the developer has signed a 15,000 sqft. office lease with the Riverside County Probation Department. Council member Don Peterson has gone public questioning the City’s direction in regards to this development.
COUNCIL MEMBER DON PETERSON ALERTS THE PUBLIC
On February 2, 2014, Council member Don Peterson sent out an email to his constituents (view), alerting them of the fact that the Probation Department will become the new anchor tenant in what was supposed to be Banning’s prime development.
Peterson points to a May 17, 2013 Record Gazette article (view) which identifies potential tenants for “Paseo San Gorgonio”. The article gives examples of restaurants like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Guys Italian Dinner House, Chevys Mexican Restaurant, Elephant Bar, P.F. Changs, Johnny Russo, Rubios, Olive Garden, and Macaroni Grill and Chili’s as being solicited as potential tenants.
The article further states that hotels like Hampton Inn, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Marriott, Starwood, and Radisson Inns have been approached.
Peterson asks : “Do the people of Banning really want a County Probation Office in a shopping center that is supposed to draw residents and visitors in to the downtown area??” In other words : was attracting the County’s Probation Department ever the “vision” for Banning, when $ 4 million taxpayer dollars were spent to secure the project ? The plain answer is : NO.
This development was sold to the public as Banning’s crown jewel, well worth the “investment”. Yet, “Paseo San Gorgonio” will now be the destination of choice for convicted felons from all surrounding areas.
MAYOR FRANKLIN AND COUNCIL MEMBER WELCH SUPPORT LEASE TO PROBATION DEPARTMENT
Mayor Debbie Franklin and Council member Art Welch apparently see nothing wrong with this scenario. They are promoting the idea of the Probation Department being the anchor tenant.
Before the San Gorgonio Inn site was purchased by the City, it was Mayor Debbie Franklin who brought developer Art Pearlman to the City of Banning. But today, many years later, the project is clearly running behind schedule. With Franklin being up for re-election this fall, her political survival largely depends on the development going forward – at any cost.
Council member Art Welch is not only supporting the County Probation Department lease, he is apparently upset with Don Peterson for having made the issue public : instead of thanking Peterson for bringing the issue to light, Welch has complained to the City Attorney about Peterson’s email, questioning his right to address the public in this manner. Can it get anymore insane ?
It is obvious that Art Welch – a notorious Banning good-ole boy – would much rather see controversial subjects like this one remain covered up.
CITY STAFF INSTRUMENTAL IN OBTAINING COUNTY PROBATION LEASE
City Staff strongly supports the County Probation lease. In a memo dated January 27 (view), Economic Development Director Bill Manis outlines the details of the transaction. He points out that Community Development Director Zai Abu Bakar was instrumental in helping developer Pearlman secure the County Probation lease.
In closing, Manis states that he believes that Banning’s “downtown should indirectly benefit” from this use – a use that generates no sales tax revenue whatsoever for the City.
In this context it should be noted that the $ 3 million subsidy (loss) allocated to the project was financed by redevelopment bonds, with the idea, that sale tax revenue will pay the interest. This is obviously not going to happen – so watch for Franklin and Welch make up for lost tax revenue by increasing your utility rates rather sooner than later !
The lease to the County’s Probation Department marks the final sellout of Banning’s efforts to revitalize downtown. Criminals from all over will set the scene for what once was heralded as Banning’s Crown Jewel development – “Paseo San Gorgonio”.
Only in Banning does the taxpayer subsidize bringing convicted criminals downtown.
Rapists, burglars, thieves … is this what you had promised us for our downtown, Mayor Franklin?
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