Saturday , September 30 2023

Can San Bernardino’s downtown thrive again?

One of the unique advantages the City of San Bernardino has going for it is the fact that it is the county seat.  Because it is the capitol city of San Bernardino County, many of the county’s operations are housed there including the main administrative building where the Board of Supervisors host regular meetings of elected bodies.

The main county courthouse is also located in the city and in recent years a new multi-story justice center was constructed, providing an economic benefit to the region.  However, a walk around the downtown area makes it clear there are only a handful of law offices, bail bonds and related services. Not nearly the number you would expect to find in most similar downtown areas with the same amenities.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of law firms that want to locate nearby mainly due to the fact that the leases rates in these buildings in downtown San Bernardino are relatively affordable, but it is a fact there are less than one would normally see in this type of downtown area,” said Rick Lazar of Lee and Associates.  “It is somewhat shocking that we do not see more legal and related businesses.”

Longtime Inland Southern California attorney John Tulac who has tried many cases in the San Bernardino Courthouse is very happy to have business at the facility due to the staff and amenities at the center, but otherwise can see why many lawyers don’t locate nearby.

“There is no there there,” said Tulac via Gertrude Stein as she famously said of the City of Oakland.  “The options for getting a drink after work or being in court, going to lunch or dinner nearby are nearly non-existent, at least in walking distance so once you get in your car, you leave.  Most major law firms located to Riverside years ago.”

The piecing together of a thriving downtown is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces have to all be there and fit or it does not work.

“This is going to be a process to bring the downtown of San Bernardino back but the city does have the advantage in being relatively low cost and having centers, if not the capital of, at least legal and government-related sectors that draw people to the area,” said Jay Prag – Professor of Economics and Finance at the Drucker School.

“Clean up the streets, bring in a few restaurants, bars, specialty shops that are nearby and you will have something to build on.”

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