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SAN BERNARDINO, CA-In a deal that has been anticipated for some time, Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Investments has signed an agreement naming it as the master developer at the former Norton Air Force Base.

The former air base is the site of a Hillwood development called AllianceCalifornia that is already under way, but the agreement clears the way for Hillwood to continue acquiring land for development from the Inland Valley Development Agency, an umbrella group of local jurisdictions that controls the former military site.

AllianceCalifornia is planned as a transportation and logistics hub of up to 2,200 acres. It already includes a 652,000-sf Kohl’s Department Store warehouse that the Menomonee Falls, Wisc.- based retailer will use to stock the 30 or so stores it will open in Southern California next year.

The former Norton air base could be developed into up to 10 million sf of distribution and transportation space under the AllianceCalifornia plan. Under the recently signed agreement, Hillwood gets exclusive negotiating rights with the development agency and the right to acquire land from the agency, parcel by parcel, as development proceeds.

Hillwood and the Inland Valley Development Agency negotiated for approximately two years before formalizing what was essentially an informal agreement that permitted the Texas company to continue development efforts during negotiations. The executive director of the development agency, T. Milford Harrison, explained that the deal took so long to complete because it was “a difficult and complicated process” involving Hillwood and three different governmental entities: the development agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority. It was also complicated because it involved questions about who would be responsible for various aspects of the environmental clean-up of the property.

Besides Kohl’s, Hillwood is also vying to attract other companies to the project, including Build-To-Order Inc., a Los Angeles-based company with plans to become the nation’s newest auto maker. Hillwood offered the auto company a $53 million package of public and private incentives to locate its manufacturing operations at AllianceCalifornia, which is modeled after Hillwood’s AllianceTexas, a 15,000-acre development near Dallas that is home to 110 companies employing more than 20,000 workers.

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