Pinnacle of Luxury

Reproduction of an article appearing in the Press-Enterprise

Two decades ago, it looked like apartments and shoddy tract houses were going to be the future of Verdemont, the rural enclave on a sloping plateau below the San Bernardino Mountains in northernmost San Bernardino.

The area just south of Verdemont, around Cal State San Bernardino, was quickly filling with apartment buildings and modest housing tracts, and Verdemont residents dreaded what they saw coming.

It took a lawsuit to change the course. A judge halted development until the city updated its general plan to determine what kind of development would be allowed.

In public hearings, some residents fought to preserve Verdemont’s rural character, arguing for lots no smaller than 1 acre. Others wanted urban-size lots to maximize the sale prices of their land.

A compromise was struck, and after the 1990s recession, Verdemont boomed.

Today, it bristles with new housing: big homes behind landscaped walls in compounds called Paraiso, Verdemont Heights Estates and the like.

Equestrian trails with white split-rail fencing loop through new neighborhoods. Small parks and greenways sprout.

“We’re building a city up here, a city within a city,” Councilman Chas Kelley told me on a recent tour.

Last week, the planning commission approved the latest feather in north San Bernardino’s cap: a gated community of 54 upscale homes to be built by Toll Brothers, a nationally known builder of luxury homes.

Planning Commissioner Mike Sauerbrun praised Toll’s “absolutely beautiful homes” and called the project “the most exciting thing that’s come to this town” yet.

Commissioner Larry Heasley said he hopes it will attract more builders of luxury homes.

The community will be called the Pinnacle at University Park, signifying the pinnacle of luxury — with prices from $700,000 to $1 million — and its location on a plateau above Northpark Boulevard.

Developer James Watson said Toll Brothers was attracted by the proximity of Cal State, envisioning a synergy with the rapidly expanding university, and the spectacular views of the mountainous Cajon Pass.

Nearby along Northpark, Watson plans the Promenade: a center with shops, restaurants, artists’ studios and living spaces, townhomes and a 4,500-square-foot luxury condo where university officials can entertain. Walking trails, parks and public art will be among the amenities, Watson said.

For years, San Bernardino’s judges, lawyers, executives and business owners who once lived near the Arrowhead Country Club have been selling and moving to Redlands.

Some believe the Toll Brothers project signals San Bernardino has turned a corner and could reverse that trend.

“I think what you’re going to see is a change over the next five to 10 years,” said Arrowhead Credit Union President and CEO Larry Sharp.

Development will follow the 210 freeway, as it did in north Fontana; upscale homes and stores will reach San Bernardino, he said. “I think you’ll see people coming back the other direction” from Redlands to San Bernardino.

Homes for buyers with high incomes will help the city’s economy grow, said Mike Gallo, president and CEO of Kelley Space & Technology Inc.