Construction is set to begin today on a long-delayed $1-billion business park adjacent to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.
Developer Lennar Partners, a unit of LNR Property Corp., will start by building 5 million square feet of warehouse and light industrial space on 250 acres. Buildings in the $100-million first phase should start opening early next year, and Lennar is negotiating with potential tenants for more than 3 million square feet of space the company would build for them, said Curt Stephenson, the Lennar executive overseeing the development.
The entire March Business Park project -- 16 million square feet of development on 1,000 acres -- is slated to be completed by 2014.
For nearly a decade, planners have been working on converting part of the base that is no longer used by the Air Force into a business park. The project is expected to produce as many as 15,000 jobs, creating opportunities for local residents and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy, according to officials of the March Air Reserve Base Joint Powers Authority.
The authority is made up of representatives of Riverside County and the cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley and Perris. It was formed to redevelop former base land and recapture jobs for the region that were lost when federal officials converted the base in 1996 to reserve status.
The groundbreaking "is absolutely a monumental occasion for all of us," said authority representative Phil Rizzo. "This will be a first-class business park."
Construction was further delayed this year by a lawsuit filed by community and environmental activists. The complaint was dropped in August when the authority agreed to concessions intended to reduce air pollution and congestion. Among other things, the authority has promised to limit warehouse space to 187 acres, build facilities away from homes and schools, create a 48-to-60-acre regional park with sports fields and set aside space for a police station and fire substation.
Newport Beach-based Lennar Partners is involved in the development of four other former military bases, including the U.S. naval station on Trea- sure Island, Mare Island Naval Shipyard and Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, all in Northern California.
Miami Beach-based LNR Property is the former commercial property division of Lennar Corp., one of the largest home builders in the United States.
Shares of LNR on Wednesday rose 2 cents to $41.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.