After more than a decade of debate and lawsuits that tried to stop it, a 40.6-million-square-foot warehouse project is set to break ground this year in Moreno Valley.
First proposed in 2012 and approved by the Moreno Valley City Council in 2015, the World Logistics Center — which would be one of the world’s largest logistics centers — is scheduled to start construction at the end of 2023, said Eric Rose, spokesperson for the center’s developer, Highland Fairview.
In the years since city approval, the developer has dealt with lawsuits, which have now all been settled to pave the way for construction of the center. Planned for the area between Redlands Boulevard and Gilman Springs Road, south of the 60 Freeway, the warehouse project will cover 10% of the city’s land, roughly the size of 700 football fields.
The project has been controversial among residents and environmental and conservation groups, who alleged that the warehouse complex would bring traffic, air pollution and negatively affect local wildlife. Supporters said the center would bring much-needed jobs and stability to the city.
Highland Fairview, a Moreno Valley-based developer, has hired Santec, a design and engineering company, for the project. The firm will bring “future-ready” and sustainable practices to the center, a Santec news release states.
The warehouse project plans to be a carbon-neutral facility by adding solar power to its rooftops, reducing water usage by 70% and including 1,080 charging stations for freight and logistics vehicles, employees and visitors, the release states.
More than 33,000 construction and operations jobs will be created, the release states.
The center will have 27 buildings with the option of connecting them via a skybridge, according to the World Logistics Center website.
Skechers already has committed to expanding in Moreno Valley with its second and third warehouses in the city at the logistics center. Its first building — a 1.8 million square-foot center — would be connected with a skybridge to the World Logistics Center, the center’s website states.
Though construction is set to begin in late 2023, the project will add 6 million square feet per year until it’s completed in 2030. Buildings will be leased throughout the construction phases, Rose said.
The community will benefit from about $22 million in property and sales taxes going to schools and colleges annually, the release states. An estimated $3 billion will be pumped into the economy, the release states.
It’s been a bumpy road for the project.
In 2018, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon J. Waters threw out a previous environmental impact report. It wasn’t until 2020 that the Moreno Valley City Council approved the revised report.
In 2020, current Moreno Valley Mayor Ulises Cabrera was the only councilmember to vote no on the revised report.
Today, Cabrera is hopeful for the logistics center’s future.
“Overall, I’m glad that litigation was resolved, and both sides came to an agreement resulting in additional environmental mitigation measures for the project …” Cabrera said.
A slew of environmental and conservation groups filed lawsuits over the council’s approval in 2015, including the California Clean Energy Committee, Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Coalition for Clean Air.
In 2021, multiple lawsuits were settled between Highland Fairview and environmental groups.
Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez, who represented a coalition of environmental groups that settled with Highland Fairview, said he hopes the settlement agreement is implemented.
Martinez and the coalition settled for $47 million. The agreement required the developer to reduce the logistics center’s impact on air quality, local wildlife and residents, invest up to $12.1 million in electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging and install rooftop solar panels.
“There is still a lot of work to do to implement the agreement,” Martinez said by phone. “I think we hope the settlement will provide some relief … to provide healthy air in the region,” he said.
Another settlement required the developer to set aside 2,737 acres for wildlife in western Riverside County, including areas within the logistics center’s footprint. Though Susan Nash, attorney for the Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley said the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife rejected the land.
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Nash said she was “blown away” after county and state agencies refused the land, which allowed the settlement agreement to expire in August 2022.
The conservation authority’s board had concerns, including the fact that some of the land was outside the logistics center’s footprint, a report to the board states.
Deputy Executive Director Aaron Hake, of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, which manages the conservation agency, said that because the commission was not part of the lawsuit, it was not bound to follow terms of the agreement.
Though the land wasn’t accepted, the lawsuit remains dead and will have no effect on coming construction plans