Riverside warehouse center loses key British tenant
One of the lynchpin tenants of an Inland Empire reuse plan to turn the former March Air Force base into a regional shipping hub has withdrawn, citing slow development and the high cost of water at the site.
Wild Rocket Foods, a British produce supplier that was set to build a 208,000-square-foot distribution center in the Meridian Business Park just south of Riverside, said this week that the firm would be looking for another location in Riverside County for its first foray into the U.S.
The firm, which still plans to hire up to 350 people to produce packaged salads and other produce for British grocery retailer Tesco, estimates that it will save $5.6 million by finding another location.
Tesco, one of the largest grocery chains in the UK, announced plans last year to venture into the American market, starting with dozens of stores in the Southwest. They are currently building an 800,000-square-feet distribution center at Meridian.
Wild Rocket was one of two British firms planning to move into the 1,000-acre Meridian development to support Tesco.
The firm was already facing more than $1.5 to open a temporary facility while it awaited the construction of the Meridian facility. The final blow came last week when Wild Rocket learned they would be facing $4 million more than expected in wastewater disposals at the Meridian site.
At a cost of $16.20 per gallon per day, the produce company would have had to pay $3.1 million this year based on the amount of water it planned to use, Jeff Sims, assistant general manager for the Western Municipal Water District told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
“I do believe it was a surprise for them,” Sims said. By 2011, Wild Rocket would have been paying $4.8 million, he added.
The second Tesco related firm, 2 Sisters Food Group, is still moving forward, according to business park records.
The March Joint Powers Authority, set up to handle reuse plans for the former air base, oversees development at the Meridian Business Park.
A community group called Health First has sued all three British companies and the authority, claiming environmental and traffic congestion impacts were overlooked in the developments.
Wild Rocket told the Press-Enterprise that the decision to move had nothing to do with the lawsuit.