After nearly 10 years of talks and 5 years of false starts, one of the area’s oldest shopping centers is finally nearing completion in its transformation from an enclosed mall back to an open-air shopping plaza.
Originally opened as an outdoor mall in three stages during 1956-57, the Riverside Plaza was the city’s first large-scale shopping center. After 30 years of shopping under the sun (and occasional rainstorm), the Plaza adapted to long-evolving changes in shopping trends by adding a permanent roof in 1984.
Within the next decade, however, the Plaza began to slowly whittle away in the face of stiffer — and much larger — competition. The city’s primary shopping center, the Galleria at Tyler — which opened in 1970 as the Tyler Mall — was greatly expanded via a second level in 1991. At about the same time, the Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate (1992) was built on land on the city’s eastern edge that was once home to Riverside International Raceway. At over 1 million square feet each, both malls dwarfed the smallish, single-level Plaza.
Likewise, the 1996 opening of the mega-sized Ontario Mills didn’t help. Although situated 15 miles to the northwest, the 2 million-square-foot-plus outlet mall created an instant retail hub that is still sending reverberations through the region’s retail market today.
Thus began the current transformation. Upon completion, the newly rebuilt and once again outdoor Plaza will sport some long sought after establishments, including Borders, California Pizza Kitchen, Chipotle and Citrus City Grille (rumor has it that a Cheesecake Factory is also in the works).
Slideshow: Riverside Plaza – Razed, Rebuilt, Revived
Sources: Riverside Public Library, Riverside Plaza, The Press-Enterprise