2004 Archives

Rebirthing Riverside Plaza

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Update: Original opening date corrected from 1955 to 1956-57; renovation updated from mid-1980s to 1984

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.

But probably the nail in the coffin was the opening of the mega-sized Ontario Mills in 1996. 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. Within 3 years, the Riverside Plaza was but a near-empty shell of its former self.

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: Rebirthing Riverside Plaza

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Sources: Riverside Public Library, Riverside Plaza, The Press-Enterprise

Riverside's navel orange

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From a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times:

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2001
Historic marker

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2001
Parent navel

The bronze plaque tells the tale: "The most valuable fruit introduction yet made by the United States Department of Agriculture."

And there, at Magnolia and Arlington avenues in Riverside, stands the last of California's original Washington navel orange trees, enclosed by an iron fence, looming over the plaque in the summer sun.

It is the tree that launched the storied citrus industry in the Riverside area, an industry that helped shape the world's view of Southern California as a tropical paradise in the early 20th century.

Los Angeles Times

Read full article here.

Photo Gallery - Riverside - Land of Oranges


Downtown SD part deux

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An excellent article regarding the recent residential building boom taking shape in downtown San Diego (a not too distant topic here on this very blog) appeared recently on the San Francisco Weekly Website.

Writer Matt Smith surmises that San Diego and San Diegans themselves are finally beginning to realize both the need and desirability of some forms of dense developments -- specifically, mixed-use residential towers. Moreover, he sees the recent wave of downtown development potentially acting as a savior for suburban Southern California:

"A mini-Manhattan sprouting at the edge of San Diego Bay offers hope as medicine for what ails California."

Without a doubt, San Diego area builders, buyers and bureacrats alike have all come to better accept such development, which again, is atypical within suburban-minded Southern California. Our hope is that such mixed-use developments will help bring balance back into overly suburban developmental patterns afflicting Southern California.

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2003
New residential high-rises
downtown San Diego

Much of downtown San Diego's recent high-rise residential boom came via a developer (Nat Bosa) who did much the same over the past 20 years in Vancouver, B.C., Canada:

Vancouver officials beckoned developers to fallow industrial yards near downtown ... Nat Bosa, an Italian immigrant who entered the building trade 30 years ago as a laborer, was among those who foresaw that Canadians would pay good money to live in such a place. "My prediction in 1990 was, in 10 years, it will be fashionable to live in downtown Vancouver, and in 15, it will be a great place to live," he says. "People now love it."

As prime, cheap land began to disappear from central Vancouver, Bosa and other Canadian developers looked south to San Diego and saw another abandoned, decrepit downtown ... "I felt it was just a fabulous place, with a great climate. I thought it was ready for what I call urbanization," Bosa says. "It was lacking on one big thing -- more people."

Sounds as though downtown Riverside could use a bit of Mr. Bosa's enthusiasm and ideas...

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Downtown San Diego

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2003
Convention Center

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2003
New residential high-rises

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2003
Horton Plaza

Just 90 miles to the south of Riverside is San Diego. Like much of Southern California, San Diego has found itself battling suburban sprawl for much of the past few decades. However, unlike its big brother to the north (Los Angeles), San Diego still remains an actual town with a highly recognizable central core -- a core which has become even stronger and more viable in the last decade. And, with the recent opening of Petco Park, downtown San Diego has officially turned the corner for good.

But it took more than the $500M investment of Petco Park. Downtown's recent transformation actually gained its first tangible foothold in the mid-1980s with Horton Plaza. After a few slow years, steam began picking up and by the 1990s, the historic Gaslamp District began to come alive with eateries, pubs and night spots.

Next, there was a new convention center, marina redevelopment and first-class hotels, which paved the way for a return to high-rise residential developments -- many of which have been built just in the last 3-5 years. Today, there are 25,000 residents living in downtown -- a significant number in suburban-oriented Southern California.

And now, there's Petco Park. Although to many, Petco Park is simply icing on the cake (and in some respects, it is), in reality the new ballpark for the San Diego Padres means so much more.

For starters, it keeps MLB in town. With the on-going threat of the NFL's Chargers leaving (and having already lost the NBA's Clippers in the 1980s), San Diego needed to retain at least one major-league franchise. Some may disagree, but being a "major-league" city is still important these days.

Likewise, this immensely large investment in downtown San Diego has once again proven to skeptics that downtown is indeed a place worth -- and necessary -- in retaining, redeveloping and reinvesting in (again, a seemingly simple concept lost on many suburban-minded Southern Californians).

With so much recent downtown development -- particularly on the residential front -- San Diego has separated itself from the rest of Southern California and moved closer to being a balanced city the likes of Portland and Seattle. In fact, although there is neither a Microsoft nor a Space Needle, some would say San Diego is more and more becoming 'Seattle South.'

Well, maybe.

Regardless, there's no denying that after decades of battling smaller suburban cores popping up outside of downtown (La Jolla, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo), the city's central core is stronger than ever and still remains the region's primary focus. This is one very distinct -- and important -- difference between Metro San Diego and Greater Los Angeles.

Again, how was it done? Reinventing, redeveloping and reinvesting in the central core. But above all, it took realizing the need to retain the central core.

So, if there's one city in Southern California in which the others could learn from, downtown San Diego indeed is it. (Are you listening Riverside? Anaheim? Los Angeles??)


Riverside's well-heeled

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An interesting study commissioned by the City of Riverside elevates the city's status in the high-income bracket.

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The data

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2003
Alessandro Heights
Riverside

The 11-page study took data from the 2000 Census and compared Riverside's high-income residents with those of other large Southern California cities (15,000+ households). Of over 100 Southern California cities surveyed, Riverside ranked 8th in the total number of households earning $75,000 or more -- just under those of Anaheim and Irvine, but ahead of loftier places the likes of Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, and Pasadena.

A portion of the report indicates that the average income for 41,000 households in Riverside is $94,000. Excepting the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, few cities in Southern California can match that statistic.

The goal was to show that even though a large and diverse city such as Riverside may indeed have overall per capita numbers that fall somewhere in the middle, the extrapolation of the city's sheer numbers tell a different story. This lack of extrapolation is the problem with many of today's stats-dominated retail specialists, in which aggregated data can hide and homogenize data within a given city or area. This is especially true with larger, more diverse cities, where sheer numbers get watered down -- even lost -- in the modeling methods, thereby almost always failing to tell the complete story.

Because of these generalized methods (not to mention assumptions), Riverside has struggled somewhat the past 5 years in consistently attracting more of the high-end retailers that tend to swarm to Southern California's newer, master-planned suburban enclaves. Sure, the city has 1 of the 2 Nordstroms in the immediate area and is by no means a retail wasteland, but a few of the other highly sought-after retailers (such as Crate&Barrel) have been dragging their feet in setting up shop.

This report should gently remind them that by sheer numbers alone, Riverside's high-income households are hard to beat.


Redlands Mall

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It appears the Redlands Mall will be no more as a sale to a Newport Beach-based developer appears imminent.

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2001
Redlands Mall

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2001
Redlands Mall

The buyer, Hopkins Real Estate Group, has ambitious plans for the 12-acre site. Plans call for replacing the mall with an urban village development that will include both commercial and residential. Such a development should fit very nicely within the existing historic downtown area, itself a modest form of an urban village.

The proposed development is all part of Redlands' recent efforts at maintaining the vibrancy of the downtown district. The city has plans for 2 parking structures and is actively pursuing the addition of a high-end, business-class hotel. The mall's site is seen as a primary component in the city's overall plans for the downtown area.

Opened in 1977, the Mall anchors the west end of downtown Redlands' State Street historic district. Tiny by traditional indoor mall standards, the approximately 200,000 square-foot mall has helped keep the downtown district brimming with activity during its 25-plus years.

The mall's primary tenant over the years has been a Harris-Gottschalk.


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

2003 is the previous archive.

2005 is the next archive.

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