The past two weekends saw us at opposite ends of Riverside. Last weekend, we had the chance to take in the reopened Arlington Branch Library. While there, we took a few photos of the nearby Arlington Village commercial area. This weekend, we spent some time downtown checking in on the refurbishing of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall.
About 5 miles southwest of downtown Riverside sits Arlington Village. Located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard, the village hails from what was originally known as the Town of Arlington. Founded in 1877 by prominent Riversiders S.C. Evans and William Sayward, Arlington was in many ways Riverside’s first suburb, with streetcars* running between the two towns. As such, it was included within Riverside’s boundaries upon official incorporation in 1883.
By the early 1900s, the area contained a library, fire station, newspaper office, two-story commercial building, local schools, churches and several businesses. The commercial area thrived well into the 1960s, partly on account of being the nearby home to Riverside County General Hospital, a place where it would remain for 100 years before a new county hospital opened in Moreno Valley in 1998.
About a mile south of Arlington Village is the land that sprouted much of Riverside’s famous Washington Navel orange groves. Today, the area still includes large swaths of groves thanks in part to the Arlington Heights Greenbelt citrus preserve. It also includes the 377-acre California Citrus State Historic Park — an actual working citrus grove, museum and park.
Fifty years after the Riverside Freeway and nearly 40 years after the nearby Galleria at Tyler reduced the importance of the area as a major commercial center, Arlington Village is staging a comeback. Recent street and sidewalk improvements and refurbished storefronts have given the neighborhood new life. Besides the newly-expanded library, a recent addition to the village is a large wall mural composed from photographs depicting Magnolia Avenue at Van Buren Boulevard during the 1940s.
With a bit of vision and planning — and a small residential townhome/condo component — the village could easily sprout into a nice, semi-urban landscape consisting of more restaurants and shops all within easy walking distance.
Elsewhere in Riverside, work is progressing on the makeover of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown. New low-lying retaining walls have sprung up on the mall between Ninth Street and University Avenue as has framework for a new fountain. The next phase will include the blocks between University Avenue and Sixth Street. The $10 million project began in March and is expected to be completed in spring 2009.
Concurrent work also continues on the old Rouse Building — the soon-to-be UCR/Culver Center of the Arts — as well as the reopening of Ninth Street through the mall adjacent to City Hall. Nearby, foundation work is moving along at the Regency Tower site, located at Tenth and Orange streets.
Flash: Out & About slideshow
- RaincrossSquare.com – Arlington Branch Library reopens (June 2008) | Pedestrian mall renovation begins (March 2008) | Ground broken for downtown office building (Feb. 2008) | Then & Now – Main at Mission Inn (March 2007)
* Copyright 1962 Interurbans Magazine
Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, “Colony for California” (Tom Patterson), “Arlington” (Georgia Gordon Sercl), Interurbans Magazine