As San Bernardino awaits a timeline to redevelop the Carousel Mall, vandals and bystanders have repeatedly broken into the closed mall and set small fires requiring emergency attention.
For the past few weeks, the San Bernardino County Fire Department, with whom the city has a contract for such services, has traveled to the downtown mall to respond to two to three small fires a week, a city spokesman Jeff Kraus said in an email.
These fires do not appear to be for heating or cooking, he added, but “just intended to destroy property”.
San Bernardino first made the decision to board up the Carousel Mall in late 2017 to prevent vandals and passers-by from entering the building, which at that time had only been closed for a few months. .
In 2020, city leaders discussed demolishing the gated mall to make the 43-acre site more attractive and “shovel-ready” for developers.
But no plan has been approved.
On Thursday, April 14, in response to a Facebook post regarding the current status of the Carousel Mall, Mayor John Valdivia, from his official Facebook account, wrote that the shopping center “must be demolished and unfortunately the city council did NOT support it”.
“I supported a demolition plan and it was stopped,” he added. “Rather than move forward, they (the city council) chose to study the termites and the grandstand.”
In March 2021, Renaissance Downtowns USA and ICO Real Estate Group were chosen to redevelop the property.
A few months later, the development team and San Bernardino approved an exclusive negotiation agreement allowing the negotiation and establishment of points of sale, terms and conditions for the sale and development of the site.
Company officials, who have proposed converting the area into a bustling center by creating a more walkable structure of small blocks where the quarters of the space have distinct characteristics, are now developing plans to tackle the highly anticipated project.
In the meantime, the vandals used a variety of power tools, grinders and saws to remove barriers blocking some entry points, Kraus said. City employees visit the mall almost daily – sometimes more than once – to secure compromised access points.
Yet burglaries persist, even with city-hired private security patrolling the property.
As such, more extreme measures are taken to seal the entrances.
Starting last week, Kraus said, the city began upgrading the barrier level at each access point.
City workers are currently sealing 98% of all entrances to the mall, Kraus added, which means “metal strapping welded all double doors to prevent them from being opened, welded roll-up doors with plates of metal and install wrought iron panels on all the wood main entrances to the mall.
Although the work is expected to be completed shortly, these efforts are already paying off, Kraus said.
Last weekend, for example, was the first time in 18 months that city employees weren’t called to deal with compromised entries, Kraus said.
“We are confident,” Kraus added, “that the latest measures to secure the building will further reduce the number of break-ins.”