2007 Archives

'North Village' opens at Galleria

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After several years without a multiplex theater, Riverside's Galleria at Tyler mall is once again lighting up the big screen following last weekend's opening of the AMC Tyler 16. As part of the mall's "North Village" expansion, the AMC theater replaces the center's original UA Theater that was cleared to make way for a free-standing Barnes & Noble in 2001.

Dec. 2007
North Village - Galleria at Tyler

Also included in the outparcel expansion are two restaurants (Yard House and Elephant Bar), a Robbins Bros. store as well as an expanded Hughes Alley parking garage. The 105,000 sq. ft. addition ups the mall's GLA to 1.2 million sq. ft.

The "North Village" addition comes on the heels of last month's opening of a 20,000 sq. ft. H&M clothing store inside the mall itself, and completes the center's recent expansion that began in 2006 with the opening of free-standing P.F. Chang's and The Cheescake Factory restaurants.

Photo Gallery: Galleria at Tyler

Slideshow: Then & Now - "North Village"



Sources: Galleria at Tyler, General Growth Properties

Interchange flyovers set to open

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After many years of planning and 3+ years of construction, Caltrans is adding the finishing touches to the newly-built flyovers for the 60/91/215 interchange project in downtown Riverside. Although construction will continue on other aspects of the freeway project until about mid-2008, the flyovers are scheduled to open for traffic the last week of December.

Dec. 2007
60/91/215 interchange

The two freeway-to-freeway connectors -- northbound 60/215 to westbound 91 and southbound 215 to eastbound 60/215 -- are the main aspects of the $350+ million project, which also includes additional lanes and rebuilt bridges, mostly along a 5 mile stretch along the 60/215 toward Moreno Valley.

Long considered one of the region's worst bottlenecks, the project will greatly expand capacity of the 1950s-era cloverleaf and adjoining tributaries. The interchange was one of the primary projects promised from the county's half-cent transportation sales tax, first passed by voters in 1988.

Photo Gallery: 60/91/215 Interchnage project



GMA does FOL

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Last Friday, weatherman Sam Champion of ABC-TV's Good Morning America paid a visit to downtown Riverside for a special broadcast highlighting the Mission Inn's "Festival of Lights." The live broadcast was part of GMA's weeklong, "Light up the Holidays" special, wherein 5 different holiday displays from across the U.S. were featured during the program's weather segments.

GMA visits the "Festival of Lights"

For those who missed the broadcast, InstantRiverside.com has a report here. For those interested in visiting the FOL, the festival runs nightly through Jan. 1, 2008. We suggest parking in one of the three Orange Street parking garages in downtown, particularly if you're visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings (parking is free after 5 p.m. and all day on the weekends). A fourth garage is also available off Market Street between Mission Inn and University avenues.

This is the 15th year of the FOL, which began as a modest, hotel-only holiday lights event that has since grown to include over 3 million lights, animated figures, carolers, carriage rides and a small ice skating rink on the Main Street Pedestrian Mall.



'Off The Wall' at RAM

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Have you ever walked through an art museum and said to yourself, "Wow, I wish I could purchase that right off the wall." Well, this week you can during the annual "Off The Wall" fundraiser at the Riverside Art Museum.

Flash: RAM slideshow

Designed as both an exhibit and a fundraiser, the event showcases over 1,200 pieces from local artists in various mediums, ranging from the eclectic to the traditional. See something you like? Simply take it off the wall for purchase. Best of all, the pricing is simple -- and very affordable: $100, $200 or $300. New pieces go up as sales are made, thus new items are added each day. The event runs through Saturday, November 10.

While you're perusing the art, imagine stepping back in time when the Julia Morgan-designed facility served as the downtown home for the YWCA. Built in 1929, the building once sported an indoor pool (a.k.a., "the plunge") as well as a gymnasium, both of which were converted into separate gallery spaces shortly after the building was acquired for the museum in 1967.

Finally, before heading out, you'll want to browse the museum's gift store for crafts and other items of local interest.

The museum is located at 3245 Mission Inn Avenue in downtown Riverside and is open Mon - Sat, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (until 9 p.m. during "Riverside Arts Walk" on the first Thursday of each month).


Sources: Riverside Art Museum

Out & About - 10/06/2007

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Saturday, October 6, 2007 - This past Saturday, if one ventured down to the weekly Farmers Market held on the pedestrian mall in downtown Riverside, they couldn't help but hear the sounds from a multicultural festival just two blocks away.

The 9th Annual "Multicultural Family Village Festival" took place in front of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, located on Mission Inn Avenue at Orange Street. Sponsored by the city-run museum, the modest festival included music, dance, arts & crafts and food from a number of local community groups.

The event gave us an excuse to revisit a special exhibit inside the Metropolitan Museum itself. The exhibit is the first of a two-part exhibit, "The Mission Inn: Celebrating 30 Years as a National Historic Landmark," which is being shared with the nearby Mission Inn Museum.

Part one -- "Creating a Legacy (1875 - 1955)" -- showcases personal artifacts from the Miller family during the Inn's early days, including paintings, photographs and a few pieces of furniture. Also on display is the original sketch (and U.S. Patent) for the Raincross symbol. The exhibit ends its 3-month run on October 14.

Part two -- "Saving the Community's Heritage (1955 - present)" -- documents the Inn during rough times following the end of the Miller family stewardship, the subsequent ownership changes and selling off of some of the Inn's treasures, the eventual multi-million dollar refurbishment and recent revival. This second exhibit opened last month at the Mission Inn Museum and runs through January 5, 2008.

Admission to both museums is free (though a nominal donation of $2 is gladly accepted).


UCR moves up in rankings

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Rising seven spots from last year, the University of California at Riverside continues its upward climb in the latest rankings of the nation's top higher-learning institutions as compiled by Washington Monthly. The #15 ranking is another indication that UCR -- and the UC system in general -- remains one of the top public educational institutions in the nation.

UC Riverside

But this is not your typical college rankings. No, it's not the usual rankings based upon money, popularity or prestige alone, but one that includes tangible results, particularly in terms of social mobility and community service:

Unlike other college guides, such as U.S. News and World Report, this guide asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. It's a guide for all Americans who are concerned about our institutions of higher learning. Are our colleges making good use of our tax dollars? Are they producing graduates who can keep our nation competitive in a changing world? Are they, in short, doing well by doing good? This is the guide that tells you.

Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly list ranks 242 national universities according to three primary categories:

  • performance as an engine of social mobility
  • fostering scientific and humanistic research
  • promoting an ethic of service to country

As such, 8 of 10 schools in the UC system are ranked, including 3 in the top 5: UCLA (2), Berkeley (3) and UC San Diego (4).

While 2 others rank in the top 15: UC Davis (8) and UC Riverside (15).

UC Santa Barabara (36), UC Irvine (49) and UC Santa Cruz (76) round out the UC rankings.

Locally, other large schools ranked as follows: USC (24), Pepperdine (56), University of San Diego (97), Caltech (141), San Diego State (145) and University of La Verne (186).

Texas A&M ranked first. But many other well-known national colleges didn't fare so well: Texas Tech (217), DePaul (150), Wake Forest (122), Arizona State (113), Boston College (109), Rice (103), Auburn (86), Princeton (78), BYU (68), Purdue (46), Vanderbilt (39) and Duke (29).

Two highly-regarded Ivy League schools -- Yale and Harvard -- were listed at 38th and 27th respectively.

Also of note were the rankings of a few local liberal arts schools: Claremont McKenna College (6), Pomona College (46) and Harvey Mudd College (65).



Then & Now - Galleria at Tyler: Part Two

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Since its opening as the single-level Tyler Mall in 1970 and re-christening as the two-level Galleria at Tyler in 1991, Riverside's primary shopping center remains one of Inland Southern California's top retail destinations. Currently undergoing its third major expansion, the Galleria at Tyler has flourished as both the city and the Inland region have grown and prospered.

Below is Part 2 in a brief history of the Riverside mall. Part 1 can be found here.

Nordstrom Opening: September 6
Mall Re-Opening: October 17
Expansion Cost: $100 million
Construction: 17 months
Project Manager: Donahue-Schriber,
Newport Beach, CA
General Contractor: Charles Pankow
Builders, Ltd., Pasadena, CA
Nordstrom Architect: Callison
Architecture, Seattle
Anchors: The Broadway, J.C. Penney,
May Co. (1973), Nordstrom (1991)
Stores: 160
Size: 1.1 million sq. ft. (GLA)

Expansion plans

Interior depiction


Similar view

Nordstrom, Macy's, J.C. Penney
Primary Out-Parcels:
Barnes & Noble (2001)
The Cheesecake Factory (2006)
PF Chang's (2006)
AMC Theaters (2007)
Yard House (2007)
Elephant Bar (2007)
Robbins Bros. (2007)
1.2 million sq. ft. (GLA)

July 2007
North Village

Galleria at Tyler
(pre-North Village expansion)
MS Virtual Earth

1980s - Growing Pains

By the early 1980s, both residents and city officials alike began voicing opinions about the lack of an upscale department store at the then Tyler Mall. And although Buffum's considered the area in the late-1960s and Bullock's officials had recently began scouting the area, neither brand had yet committed to building a local store.

In 1985, Seattle-based Nordstrom took the initiative and began work on the region's first upscale department store in nearby Montclair. And by late 1986, following a successful opening at Montclair Plaza, Nordstrom began scouting for a second area location. The upscale retailer took particular interest in Montclair's sibling mall in Riverside, which was in the midst of planning a similar expansion. In April 1987, Nordstrom made it official -- a store was planned for an expanded Tyler Mall. However, the mall expansion would be delayed by local politics -- and local competition.

Earlier in the decade, Riverside annexed the site for a proposed regional mall on the city's eastern edge near the soon-to-be city of Moreno Valley. The mall, dubbed Canyon Springs Fashion Mall*, was proposed by Riverside-based T&S Development, developers of Riverside's highly-successful Canyon Crest Towne Centre. The two-level, 1.3 million sq. ft. mall (with 6 to 8 department stores) was part of the master-planned "Canyon Springs"* development proposed on 900 acres owned by T&S at the conjunction of Highway 60 and Interstate 215.

Although department stores Bullock's and Harris' eventually signed letters of intent for the proposed mall, T&S encountered several delays in obtaining financing. And by the late-1980s, in the face of stiff competition from another proposed mall in adjacent Moreno Valley as well as the Tyler project, T&S essentially joined forces with a small, but vocal group of Riverside residents opposed to the Tyler expansion, which gained final approval in January 1989:

The Riverside City Council, seeking to boost revenues and fulfill a community desire for upscale shopping, yesterday voted 6-1 to approve plans to nearly double the size of the Tyler Mall, including construction of a Nordstrom and J.W. Robinson's.
The Press-Enterprise - February 1, 1989

On the same day in March 1989, both T&S and the local residents group filed separate lawsuits aiming to block the expansion. But by December 1989, after key setbacks in court -- including the revelation of a thinly-veiled link between the two groups -- both lawsuits were dropped following out-of-court settlements, thus paving the way for expansion to finally begin.

(T&S suffered an even greater setback with the eventual pullout of Bullock's and the jumping ship of Harris' to the then-proposed Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate, which opened in late 1992 directly across Day Street from the proposed Canyon Springs mall. The land-rich, but cash-poor company ultimately dissolved. Today, portions of the Canyon Springs development include assorted big-box retail, offices and vacant land.)

1991 - Galleria at Tyler

After nearly 5 years of planning, negotiating, battling lawsuits and fending off competition from two proposed malls on the eastern edge of town, ground was broken in May 1990 for a $100 million expansion for the 20-year-old Tyler Mall. Included in the 500,000 square foot expansion were a second-level of mall shops, a 3-level, 164,000 sq. ft. Nordstrom department store and separate 4-level and 2-level parking structures:

"Tyler, upon completion, will appear to be a brand new mall...Everything will change. Nothing will be the same. Every piece of wall and floor will change."
William Kenney, V.P. of Donahue-Schriber
The Press-Enterprise - May 20, 1990

Expansion plans for the mall closely followed those undertaken in 1985 at Montclair Plaza, also owned at the time by Newport Beach-based Donahue-Schriber. However, unlike Montclair's expansion, one major change would be how the second level of mall shops was added.

In Montclair, the second level was placed directly on the existing roof resulting in a taller overall structure. However, this also caused the new level to be a few feet higher than the second-story levels of the existing department stores. This required a gradual lowering of the mall's new second level walkways immediately heading into the department stores (including a customized mini-escalator heading into The Broadway).

In Riverside, a relatively new technique was used in which the second level would be suspended from a truss system designed to rest a few feet below the existing roof level. As such, the ceilings in the existing mall stores had to be lowered to accommodate the newly-built second level above. The result was matching floor levels and a shorter overall structure. It was more expensive, but according to Donahue-Schriber, was less disruptive to both shoppers and merchants as fewer overall support columns were needed (the added weight was distributed across the new truss system).

Seventeen months after construction began, an expanded Tyler Mall officially opened on October 17, 1991 as the newly-christened Galleria at Tyler. Shoppers eagerly welcomed the doubling of mall shops (from 85 to 160), more parking and, of course, the long-awaited Nordstrom**.

Plans originally called for two more department stores (for a total of 6), one of which was to be Robinson's. However, the 1993 merger with May Co. -- resulting in Robinson's-May -- altered those plans. To date, neither the 5th nor 6th department stores have yet to be added. (In fact, the 2006 consolidation of Robinson's-May into Macy's resulted in Macy's relocating to the opposite end of the mall into the former Robinson's-May building.)

In 2001, Barnes & Noble replaced the original United Artists cinema located on Hughes Alley adjacent to the 91 Freeway. The theater, which originally opened with 2 theatres, was quickly doubled to 4 shortly after the mall opened. A 1978 proposal to double again to 8 screens failed to receive city approval. By the mid-1990s, the small theater was struggling to compete against the rise of mega-multiplexes. Various mall expansion plans floated in the late 1990s and early 2000s envisioned the UA 4 being replaced with a modern multiplex (including plans for a subterranean version).

2006/07 - Expansion

In July 2006, the Galleria at Tyler embarked on its third major expansion. The plans, which are taking place at out-parcels at opposing ends of the mall, include a multiplex theater, restaurants, additional retail and an expanded parking structure.

First to open in late 2006 were The Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang's restaurants, both on the south end of the mall. And by July 2007, work was well underway at the north end of the mall property for what is being dubbed "North Village," which will house an AMC 16 theater multiplex, Elephant Bar and Yard House restaurants, a Robbins Bros. store as well as additional shops. Architects for the project are MBH Architects of Alameda, CA. Completion is slated for late 2007.

Elsewhere in the mall, the tenant mix continues to be updated. Recent additions include specialty shops the likes of Metropark, LoveSac, Coach and Aldo. In November 2007, Swedish fashion retailer H&M is set to open a 20,000 sq. ft. store at the mall's north end.

Yet to be determined is the fate of the distinctive 3-story, former Broadway/Macy's department store located near the "North Village" expansion. The building's cantilevered style of architecture showcases department store flair and design from a now bygone era. Its unique design was used only one other time for a sister store*** that opened in 1972 in Citrus Heights (Sacramento), Calif. (Correction: A third version of this design was used for a Fresno, Calif., Weinstock's store that also opened in 1970.)

Speculation for the now vacant building ranges from signing another department store -- such as Macy's sister store Bloomingdale's -- to revamping the 164,000 sq. ft. interior into micro shops (which, at the very least, would preserve the building). Another possibility, of course, is a complete tear down for further mall expansion. Though we'd definitely hate to see a vacant anchor for an extended number of years, we'd also hate to lose such an iconic architectural landmark. Moreover, what would become of the time capsule buried in 1970 by The Broadway, which states it's to be reopened in 2070?

We suspect only time -- and future department store mergers -- will tell.


Macy's (south)

Macy's (north)


J.C. Penney

Interior view

* 1988 / Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce
** 1991 / Nordstrom, Inc.
*** Photo courtesy of Jim Van Schaak

Sources: Galleria at Tyler, General Growth Properties, Donahue-Schriber, City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

Then & Now - Galleria at Tyler

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Since its opening as the single-level Tyler Mall in 1970 and re-christening as the two-level Galleria at Tyler in 1991, Riverside's primary shopping center remains one of Inland Southern California's top retail destinations. Currently undergoing its third major expansion, the Galleria at Tyler has flourished as both the city and the Inland region have grown and prospered.

Below is Part 1 in a brief history of the Riverside mall, which is currently owned and managed by General Growth Properties, Inc.

Opening: October 12
Cost: $45 million
Anchors: The Broadway,
JCPenney, May Co. (1973)
Stores: 85
Size: 880,000 sq. ft.
Land: 66 acres
Developers: Ernest W. Hahn,
Broadway-Hale, May Co.
Mall Architect: Jon Jerde of
Burke, Kober, Nicolais and Archuleta,
A.I.A., Los Angeles

Scale model for The Broadway
Architect: Charles Luckman Assoc.
(Courtesy of Jim Van Schaak)

Architect's rendering of JCPenney

1976 / GRCC

1976 / GRCC

Tyler Mall
1988 / GRCC

1970 - Tyler Mall

Although the Tyler Mall did not open until October 1970, development of it began in 1965 as representatives from regional and national department stores began taking interest in two competing mall developments proposed for Riverside.

The first proposal, a 66-acre development by Beverly Hills-based Hunter Penn, was planned for the southeast corner of Magnolia Avenue and Tyler Street. The three-anchor, enclosed shopping center was preferred by two department stores, May Co. and Los Angeles-based The Broadway:

Broadway and May Co. executives say they plan to begin building department stores on the 66-acre Hunter Penn shopping center site at Magnolia and Tyler in Riverside in late 1966 or early 1967.
The Press-Enterprise - Sept. 9, 1965

The second proposal, which was approximately 2 miles northeast of the Tyler site, was a 113-acre development planned for the southeast corner of Magnolia Avenue and Monroe Street on land that comprises a portion of California Baptist University. Proposed by Riverside-based Marcus W. Meairs Co., "Magnolia Mall" was conceived as a four-anchor, enclosed shopping center and also gained the interest of two department stores, JCPenney (which had a stand-alone store downtown) and Los Angeles-based Buffum's:

...J.C. Penney Co. announced that a lease is likely to be signed soon to locate a $6 million store at the 113-acre Magnolia Mall...

On Sept. 4, Buffum's Department Stores revealed that Meairs has a letter committing Buffum's to a store at the Magnolia Mall center if certain other major stores also become tenants.
The Press-Enterprise - Nov. 13, 1965

Retail experts at the time agreed the city could not support both proposals, particularly with two similar-sized malls also proposed nearby in San Bernardino (Inland Center) and Montclair (Montclair Plaza). Likewise, those proposals included May Co. and Broadway stores, with the Montclair site also controlled by developer Hunter Penn.

In mid-1966, both The Broadway and May Co. bought out Hunter Penn's interest in the Montclair and Riverside sites with the Tyler property reportedly costing $2 million, or an average of $33,000 per acre.

Although Riverside originally approved zoning for both the Tyler and Magnolia malls, which actually led to a delay in construction, the Tyler site eventually became the preferred site. Its location on what was then sheep grazing land sat adjacent to the Tyler Street exit off the Riverside Freeway.

With the delays, initial site preparation and development of infrastructure did not begin until early 1968. And in February 1969, with Los Angeles-based developer Ernest W. Hahn now on board, plans were officially released:

Plans for immediate construction of a $45 million regional shopping center, officially named Tyler Mall, at Tyler and Magnolia in Riverside were formally made public...

...participants are Broadway-Hale Stores Inc., May Co., J.C. Penney Co., and Ernest W. Hahn...
The Press-Enterprise - Feb. 5, 1969

Major construction began in October 1969 with the mall officially opening one year later on October 12, 1970*, ushering a new era of shopping to Riverside. Already familiar with the mall concept via the 1956 opening of the outdoor Riverside Plaza -- one of the first mall-like developments within Southern California -- the city welcomed this new enclosed version with open arms -- and open pocket books.

With 68 original stores (soon to be 85), including two department store anchors (The Broadway, JCPenney, plus a third pad) and a 61,000 square foot, two-level F.W. Woolworth, the 800,000 square foot Tyler Mall was nearly twice as large as its older cross-town cousin. Several exterior buildings, including a twin theater (United Artists), free-standing bank (United California Bank), two restaurants (Howard Johnson's, Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour), two auto centers (JCPenney, Broadway) and a gas station rounded out the property.

After a three-year delay in finalizing a new interior prototype, the May Co. building opened in July 1973, anchoring the south end of the mall. Containing a restaurant and cocktail lounge, the $5.5 million store was among the first stores to introduce the company's new retailing concept.

With the exception of The Broadway and May Co. buildings, the mall's original exterior was rather conservative, uniform and perfunctory. Rough textured, beige brick dominated the overall look with walls hiding the exterior utility corridors. Four entrances, two on each side, graced the north and south ends of the mall near the department stores. At the center of the 1000-foot linear mall was a short corridor housing more stores and the main entrance**, which faced west toward Tyler Street (where Nordstrom stands today).

Of particular interest was the striking architecture of The Broadway building. Designed by Los Angeles-based architectural firm of Charles Luckman & Assoc., the building's cantilevered*** design remains unique even today. Also of note, was the store's interior. Designed by Jim Van Schaak, the interior was honored as "Department Store of the Year" in the national "Store Interior Design" competition. (In late 2006, the building was vacated by Macy's for the freeway-friendly Robinson's-May building. As of mid-2007, plans for reusing the building are pending.)

Unlike the exterior, the mall's original interior** had a bit of late 60's flair, albeit with a modernist touch. Colorful skylights, hanging light clusters, abstract, high-gloss flooring, bark-filled planters and wooden, semi-circular benches added a whimsical touch to the mall.

For much of the 1970s and 1980s the mall performed well, but many felt there was at least one missing element -- an upscale department store. Although Buffum's initially appeared interested in the market in the late 1960s and Bullock's considered a store in 1980, economic conditions -- and eventual mergers -- kept both from making firm commitments:

"...we're interested because of the population growth and eventually we'll get there."
Bullock's executive
The Press-Enterprise - Sept. 22, 1980

In 1987, following strong population growth in the region and a successful 1986 opening at a newly-expanded Montclair Plaza, Seattle-based Nordstrom began showing interest in Montclair's sibling mall in Riverside, which was also working to expand. However, shoppers in Riverside would have to wait a few more years as obstacles threatened to derail the proposed expansion.

Continue to: Part 2


Site Plan
(1969 / RPL)

(1976 / GRCC)

Interior (remodeled)
(1985 / GRCC)


Main Entrance
(1990 / GRCC)
(Donahue Schriber)

* 1970 / RPL
** Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce
*** Courtesy of Jim Van Schaak

Sources: Galleria at Tyler, General Growth Properties, Donahue-Schriber, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, The Press-Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson), Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

Growth as usual?

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Last month, a report issued by the California Department of Finance indicated Inland Southern California will likely double to 8 million residents by 2050. Whether all 4 million new residents show up within the next 40 years or not, recent history indicates the region can still expect a large influx of new residents.

As we previously noted, the million-dollar question is whether Inland Southern California will follow current patterns and continue sprawling farther outward? Or, will local officials, developers and residents alike begin accepting the need to begin growing smarter?

The good
San Bernardino

The not so good

The better
Downtown Riverside

Two recent news items may give an indication of where we're headed. One article gives us hope that change is coming, specifically that both local governments and developers are beginning to add density -- and diversity -- to their mix of projects. The other article, however, gives us cause for concern and points to the notion that it is -- and will be -- "business as usual" in the ever-sprawling Inland region.

First, the good. Banking giant Wells Fargo recently announced the consolidation of various offices scattered about the region into a single, 5-story office building in the Hospitality Lane area of San Bernardino. Although we would have preferred to see the consolidation take place within downtown San Bernardino -- or even downtown Riverside -- the Hospitality Lane area indeed is a very successful campus-style commercial development. As such, its densities are not quite that of a downtown area, but at least a single 5-story building beats five, 1-story tilt-ups taking up five times the land area.

Second, the not so good. A recent article highlighted developers looking ahead toward the next wave of housing growth -- specifically, where it'll likely take place. In our opinion, the article displayed several problems for the future of this region if current development patterns are not changed sooner rather than later.

In particular, two aspects concerned us the most. One, the fact that most developers tend to be eyeing residential projects (as opposed to a balance of housing and employment projects):

Even amid the biggest housing slump of the past decade, Inland developers and planners are not asking if or when the market will rebound -- but where.

... Economists have forecast the housing market may not pick up until the end of next year at the earliest. In the meantime, some developers have turned their attention to commercial and industrial real estate, while others are focused on acquiring land to hold.

The Press-Enterprise

And second, that such development will likely be sprawling, single-family oriented development, simply gobbling up the next available tract of land:

...Most developers acknowledge there are obstacles to overcome in sprawling development -- from getting water to all the new homes to alleviating extra traffic on the freeways -- nevertheless, they say, growth will occur.

The Press-Enterprise

We feel these two notions must begin to change, most notably at the local government levels. Simply put, local governments must begin decreasing sprawl-oriented development, especially in the residential arena, as well as increase zoning for future employment centers, else the region will predominantly consist of sprawled-out bedroom communities -- and long commutes:

Much of the attractiveness of southwest Riverside County comes from its position between Riverside and San Diego, said Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Upland-based Lewis Group of Cos., another developer involved in several projects in that portion of the county.

"That means it's got a big commuter market," he said.

The Press-Enterprise

Is being even more of a "commuter market" what we really should be planning -- much less aiming -- for?

Bottom line here is that it's a lot easier -- and cheaper -- to zone ahead for impending commercial/employment uses now rather than having to rezone/redevelop pockets of existing residential uses later (which some of the region's older cities may find, in some instances, is closer to reality than they realize).

Fortunately, there is some hope as Riverside County is working to tackle the jobs/housing imbalance where it counts -- in land-use matters. With its Riverside County Integrated Project (RCIP), Riverside is attempting to manage future growth by simultaneously planning for it at three interdisciplinary levels: environmental, residential/commercial and transportation.

The crux of the plan essentially trades pockets of density for increased open space. As such, the pockets of moderate density keeps development from sprawling as well as allowing for the potential for varied transportation options -- namely, transit (think Metrolink versus freeway). However, the RCIP applies to the unincorporated areas of Riverside County and not the already established cities, so it's not an all-inclusive solution. Moreover, will the county and developers reasonably follow the "blueprint for tomorrow" as outlined?

As previously stated in a recent post, we're not envisioning New York City densities, but limited pockets of greater intensity, particularly in the existing downtown areas of Riverside and San Bernardino and portions of Ontario. In essence, we're simply going to have to begin accepting more mid- and high-rise projects.

In other words, it's time to begin growing up, both figuratively and literally.



Library should remain downtown

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There's been some chatter recently of moving Riverside's "Central Library" from its current downtown site on Mission Inn Avenue to a location east of the 91 Freeway. We feel this would be a big mistake.

Central Library

w/ original fountains
1967 RNB calendar

Pre-Chinese Pavilion

w/ rose garden
1985 / GRCC

Carnegie Library

The notion began with a seemingly innocuous letter to the editor that appeared in the June 19th edition of The Press-Enterprise. Initially, the letter received a smattering of support (one, two).

Although we agree the Eastside indeed could use an expanded library, moving the downtown branch is not the answer. Simply put, the Central Library plays a vital role in the city's reemerging downtown arts & culture community. And as the main branch of the citywide system -- as well as being a primary governmental repository for Riverside County and the Inland region as a whole -- the Central Library should remain downtown where it is both expected and belongs.

Moreover, the library is probably the best entity in drawing folks of all neighborhoods and of all classes to the downtown area, some of whom their only semi-regular exposure to downtown may in fact come from visiting the Central Library. And with a reemerging downtown, such wide-ranging exposure is critical for long-term stability.

Fortunately, it appears many others share our view, including the Riverside Downtown Partnership, the president of the Riverside Public Library Foundation and even Duane Roberts, owner of the Mission Inn, who no doubt might be easily tempted in viewing the adjacent library property for expansion of the popular Mission Inn hotel. However, he too understands the importance of having the library at his doorstep:

As the owner of the Mission Inn, there is no person more interested in an economically vibrant downtown, but not at the cost of losing an important center of arts and culture...

The Press-Enterprise

But, we must confess, this post goes beyond the relocation factor. We're about to broach a subject that has touched many a nerve since the "new" library replaced the old Carnegie in 1965.

First off, we wholeheartedly agree it was a shame to lose the 1903 Carnegie to the wrecking ball during the mid-1960s. However, as painful as that might have been, it is now in the past and there's nothing we can do to reverse that particular decision -- but we can keep from repeating it. With that said, we believe the current building has its own architectural merits, and thus, should not meet a similar fate. In fact, we're even willing to say we like it. (There, we said it.)

Although we agree its placement in the midst of historic architecture -- ranging from the eclectic Mission Inn to the ornate First Congretional Church -- is indeed a bit jarring, we also believe the building itself offers some of the best representation of mid-century, "new formalism" architecture within the entire Inland region. Such architecture may not be fully appreciated by older generations, but recent generations have grown up among such striking, modern architecture -- only to see it now quickly disappearing from the landscape. Moreover, though subjective as it is, who's to say such isn't the next "historic" architecture worth preserving?

If anything can be said about losing the historic Carnegie and its eventual replacement with the modern facility, it is that it proved to be the catalyst which brought historic preservation to the forefront in Riverside. In fact, we have heard it said that it was the reason for the coalescence of historic preservation efforts during the 1960s, which played a pivotal role in preserving the Mission Inn in the 1970s and early 1980s. To lose such a real-life, existing reminder for future generations to see with their own eyes, in all its juxtapositional glory, we feel will only increase the likelihood of repeating similar mistakes.

Finally, why not make the current Metropolitan Museum the "new" Central Library and the current Central Library the "new" Metropolitan Museum? Architecturally, the current library looks more like a museum of modern art while the current museum looks more like an historic library.

There, it's settled.

All kidding aside, we believe the city's main library branch belongs downtown -- and nowhere else.


Entry ramp

Mid-century entrance


Mid-century designs

"dove" screen

Chinese Pavilion

Sources: The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside

Time to grow up

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If population projections released this past week come to fruition, Riverside County will be the second most-populous county in California by 2050, ranking behind only behemoth Los Angeles County.

Downtown Riverside


The report, issued by the California Department of Finance -- the folks responsible for statewide fiscal planning and demographics -- says Riverside County can expect to house 4.7 million residents in about 40 years. This would move the county from its current spot as the fourth most-populous to the No. 2 spot, with only Los Angeles County's projected 13.1 million being larger (indeed, much larger). San Bernardino County is projected to remain the fifth most-populous with 3.7 million.

If recent history is a guide, however, one thing is certain -- we cannot simply ignore the potential numbers. Although there's no guarantee that all 2.5-plus million residents will actually arrive as projected, there's no doubt Riverside County will still absorb a large amount of future growth (as we've learned over the past 40 years). So too will San Bernardino County. Thus, ignoring the growth is not the answer -- but aggressively planning for it is.

Therefore, the question is, will local officials and residents alike simply allow development to continue sprawling outward? Or, will we begin to realize -- and accept -- the time has come to begin growing upward?

In our opinion, we do not see any other option but upward. We're not talking a forest of 50-story towers. Instead, we're envisioning pockets of mixed-use, higher density developments consisting of modest 15-, 20- and 30-story buildings, mostly in the existing downtowns of Riverside and San Bernardino and possibly even Ontario. Likewise, we hope to see smaller clusters consisting of 5-, 10- and 15-story buildings in some portions of Corona, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Temecula, Murrieta and even Redlands. Such would greatly increase future options in living, working, transportation and cultural amenities while still maintaining the viability of existing lifestyles. In essence, simply adding balance to the current landscape.

Census: 2050
California's 10 most-populous counties
(w/ 2000 ranking)

Indeed, Inland Southern California cannot continue spreading outward, if only for two major reasons -- lack of efficient, multi-modal transportation and the need for stronger, more diversified employment centers. It's becoming more evident that continuing current development patterns is simply too expensive -- everything from environmental concerns and infrastructure constraints (think: freeway gridlock) to overall quality of life.

Quite frankly, do we really want our children and their children to spend countless hours commuting to LA, Orange and San Diego counties as many of us and our parents before have done? Whether it be for employment or even entertainment purposes, we think the smart answer is an emphatic "No."

Thus, it's now time to grow up.



One of the things we find fascinating are how places and/or buildings change -- or don't change -- over time. Sometimes it's a simple paint job on an old house or building while at other times an entire building -- or entire block -- is completely redeveloped. Sometimes the transformation takes several years, while in other cases the landscape changes rather quickly.

Click the image below for two views of "E" Street in downtown San Bernardino, first from the 1940s and next from 2007.

Both views are looking north toward the intersection with 3rd Street (note: the 1940s postcard incorrectly states the view as being from 3rd Street as opposed to being toward 3rd Street).

On the immediate left is the Harris Co. department store, with its decorative elements, while just beyond it is the Andresen Building, which was the former home to Bank of America. As seen in the 2007 view, both structures remain standing today, though the Harris Co. building is currently closed.

On the right, the scene has changed dramatically. Civic Plaza -- which encompasses City Hall, Exhibit Hall and the Clarion Hotel -- has replaced the buildings on the immediate right, including the one-time branch of Citizens' National Bank (foreground) and the four-story, 1890 Katz Building (background).

With the redevelopment of Carousel Mall -- of which the Harris Co. building anchors its eastern end -- becoming much more probable, the immediate area is likely to change dramatically once again.

Flash: 'E' at Third: 1940s - 2007


Harris Co.

3rd Street toward E Street
(where Carousel Mall
sits today)

E Street toward 3rd Street

E Street toward 3rd Street

Sources: City of San Bernardino, San Bernardino Sun

Mixed-use projects picking up steam

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Activity has picked up recently at 2 of 3 mixed-use projects under development in downtown Riverside, which will be the first combined residential/commercial projects within the city in several decades.

Raincross Promenade

m sole'

Fox Plaza

At Raincross Promenade, bounded by First, Third, Main and Market streets, site clearing is well under way. Situated across from the city's convention center at Raincross Square, the site had been home to assorted auto repair shops, used car lots (1, 2), an aging "rental" motel as well as a few dilapidated homes and a couple of empty parcels.

Planned by Los Angeles-based developer Mark Rubin, whom has developed various projects in Riverside, Raincross Promenade will add upwards of 250 urban-style residential units on 2-blocks that will essentially anchor the north end of the Main Street pedestrian mall. Although we have yet to see precise plans, our hope is the development is such that it "draws in" the existing pedestrian mall, which currently fizzles out at the convention center.

Directly across Market Street, where developer Alan Mruvka is planning a similar mixed-use project, foundation work has begun on 10 live/work units as part of the first phase of m sole'. Mruvka plans upwards of 125 urban-style residential units in later phases, stretching along Market Street from Third to First streets (essentially mirroring Raincross Promenade).

Thus far, m sole' is the only one of the three to begin actual construction, let alone offer pre-sales (an information studio is currently housed within the historic Sante Fe depot located near Mission Inn Avenue and Vine Street).

Yet to break ground is the third mixed-use development planned for downtown, this one the eagerly anticipated Fox Plaza located at Mission Inn and Market. Included in the multi-phase plans are upwards of 500 urban-style residential units, 65,000 square feet of retail and a 130-room, full-service hotel. Currently, the site is occupied by the Stalder Building and various parking lots.

Situated near the heart of the pedestrian mall adjacent to restaurants, shops, museums and downtown offices -- not to mention some of the city's best historic architecture -- Fox Plaza will offer one of the few truly urban experiences within Inland Southern California. The one downside will be the loss of the historic Stalder, which once housed the city's first fire station.

Although all three projects are within a few blocks of one another and each will indeed strengthen the city's re-emerging urban core, we feel Fox Plaza has the greatest potential. Moreover, we're glad to see alternative options being added to the area's predominantly single-family residential landscape. And, we feel no place is better for such options than within a genuinely historic downtown setting, one which needn't be "manufactured" nor "created" as is the case with many similar mixed-use developments around Southern California.



Peeling back time

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After 35 years of being seemingly frozen in time, the mid-century facade of the old Imperial Hardware Co. store in downtown Riverside is soon to be no more.

Work begins

Peeling away

Twisted metal

Uncovered facade

The city, which recently finalized purchase of the long-shuttered building, began dismantling Imperial's modern false front early Monday. By midday, nearly three-fourths of the aluminum covering had been removed, revealing the 1930s Art Deco facade of the former Westbrook's Hardware, which looked to be in surprisingly good shape.

The building itself dates back to at least 1900 when Franzen Hardware opened within the current building located at 3750 Main Street. Owned by Henry and Chris Franzen, the hardware store was later sold in 1921 to R.H. Westbrook, whose family had become partners with the Franzen's in 1908.

Following a 1935 fire that wiped out most of the store's stock, the building was refurbished, restocked and renamed Westbrook's Hardware. Part of the post-fire remodeling included the now-uncovered Art Deco facade.

In 1959, the operation was again sold, this time to El Centro-based Imperial Hardware Co., a small chain of hardware & housewares stores in Southern California. Along with the sale soon came the now gone mid-century false front.

However, with the retail landscape in both downtown Riverside -- and America -- on the brink of change, Imperial's fate was soon sealed. By the mid-1960s, long-standing downtown stores, such as Sears, had mostly moved into larger buildings located in suburban settings, sending downtown's retail landscape into a tailspin. From what we've been able to gather, it appears Imperial succumbed sometime in the late 1960s, leaving the building to sit patiently for re-use that has yet to materialize. (Updates: According to a June 19th article in The Press-Enterprise, Imperial Hardware closed the downtown store in 1972. Later research found that Imperial closed and moved to the Tyler Mall.)

And yet, because the building's front remained unchanged for a number of years -- all the while other storefronts nearby had been refurbished -- the modern Imperial facade had become an iconic landmark of downtown in its own right. In essence, the facade stood as a relic harkening back to when downtown was still the epicenter for shopping. In recent years, the former store's front entrance has been adorned with colorful murals and art.

Though we admit to initially having mixed feelings about the loss of the modern Imperial facade, no doubt what lurked beneath is quite a blessing itself. And if refurbished, will indeed add historic character to Riverside's pedestrian mall. Our hope is that the city, which has been courting potential retail and dining uses, is able to retain the Art Deco facade into any re-working of the building.

Without a doubt, the spot near the center of the pedestrian mall offers a very unique opportunity, possibly for just the right national retailer -- such as a bookstore or mid-level restaurant -- which could help in drawing a larger presence to the resurgent pedestrian mall. We even feel a mixed-use development incorporating ground floor commercial topped with residential uses would work very well -- so long as much of the existing building's historic character could be worked into such a plan (which would greatly add to both nighttime and weekend activity along the pedestrian mall).


Old signage

Rusted aluminum

Mid-century facade

Downtown Mall
(1967 RNB Calendar)

Westbrook's Hardware

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, "Riverside in Postcards" (Steve Lech), "Riverside - 1870-1940 (Steve Lech)

Out & About - 05/06/2007

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Sunday, May 6, 2007 - Downtown Riverside was busier than usual this past weekend as both ends of Main Street hosted separate 3-day events.

At the south end near the Riverside County Courthouse was the 9th annual "Show and Go" classic car show. Produced by Riverside East Rotary, the car and cruising event has steadily grown to showcase several hundred hot rods. Title sponsor for this year's event was Riverside-based K&N Filters.

Just 5 blocks north down Main Street was the 2007 "Home & Garden Show" at the Riverside Convention Center at Raincross Square. The event featured everything from home improvement services to backyard patio and kitchen products. The show encompassed the entire interior of the convention center as well as the outdoor plaza adjacent to the Marriott.

Although having the event spill out into the outdoor plaza helped entice folks strolling nearby into the show itself, it also displayed the need for an expanded convention center, which the city hopes to accomplish as part of the Riverside Renaissance Initiative.

At 50,000 square feet, the 31-year-old Riverside Convention Center is half the size of the 10-year-old Ontario Convention Center. And although its interior is in relatively good shape, the exterior is indeed a bit bland and could use a face-lift.

Open house at the Fox

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This past Thursday, the city of Riverside held a "Restoration Celebration" open house for the Fox Theater in downtown. Over a thousand people showed up to take a sneak peek inside the long-shuttered theater prior to its forthcoming $30 million renovation into a 1,600 seat performing arts center, which is expected to be completed in December 2008.

Open house

Pre-renovation peek

In attendance were Mayor Ron Loveridge, City Councilman Dom Betro and project architect Richard McCann of RFM Architecture, who has renovated Glendale's Alex Theater, the Pasadena Playhouse and the California Theater in San Bernardino.

Also on hand was Joe Kobryner of the Nederlander Organization, which operates numerous theaters and venues across the nation, including 9 theaters in New York's Broadway district as well as the Pantages and Wilshire theaters in Los Angeles and The Grove in Anaheim.

The Fox has long been a revered theater in Southern California. Opened in 1929 as the Riverside Theater, the venue's name was eventually changed to Riverside Fox Theater as part of the chain's West Coast Theaters group. Due to its proximity to Hollywood, the Fox became a favorite locale for movie test screenings, including the first public showing of "Gone with the Wind" in 1939.

In 1942, the large backstage area was converted into a second smaller theater (The Lido). By the late 1970s, both the Fox and Lido had seen better days. The former began showing Spanish language films while the latter was relegated to adult fare. Since the early 1990s, the Fox has essentially been sitting empty with only limited use.

As one of the cornerstones of the city's "Renaissance" plan, the Fox will play a key part in bolstering rising activities downtown, particularly at night. Although both weeknight and weekend activity has grown steadily over the past few years, a healthy performing arts center will no doubt help solidify downtown's reemergence.

Judging by the conversations -- and the crowd -- at the open house, it appears we're not the only ones eagerly awaiting a rejuvenated Fox. And with both UCR and RCC performance arts schools in the works, downtown Riverside will soon have plenty of "artistic" company.



Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, RFM Architecture, Cinema Treasures

Site cleared for downtown office building

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Site preparation has begun and construction is expected to start next month on Regency Tower in downtown Riverside, the city's largest downtown office project since the completion of Riverside Metro Center in 1990.

Regency Tower


Situated at the corner of Tenth and Orange streets, Regency Tower will replace the recently demolished Riverside County Municipal Court building, a 1950s-era low-rise. Plans call for a ground floor coffee shop as well as a 3-level, underground parking structure accommodating 330 vehicles. Also planned is a second, smaller building -- possibly including a restaurant -- connected via a landscaped courtyard.

The 10-story, 250,000 square foot office building is part of the city and county's efforts at redeveloping portions of downtown and will be the tallest structure built downtown since the 12-story Marriott (Sheraton) opened in 1987. The most striking architectural feature will be a dome situated atop the building at the corner of Tenth and Orange streets, which adds a distinctive feature over the typical flat-roofed office buildings currently populating downtown.

We're glad to see the coffee shop and other similar commercial uses planned within the mix, which will help spur more and varied interaction at the street level. Likewise, we're also glad to see underground parking as opposed to a separate, above-ground parking garage, or worse -- an asphalt lot.

Regency Tower comes on the heels of the recently completed, 5-story office building for The Press-Enterprise newspaper. A second 5-story office project proposed for Olivewood Avenue near Fourteenth Street is in the early planning stages. Together, the three projects signal the end of a 15-plus year drought for larger, steel-framed downtown office buildings. Hopefully, the recent activity will spur other developers downtown as opposed to simply planting down more low-rises on the city's suburban fringe.

Jan. 2007
Building site

Feb. 2007
Former building

Feb. 2007
Former building

Feb. 2007

Apr. 2007
Site preparation

Sources: The Press-Enterprise

New Census figures released this week show Riverside County ranked third in the nation in total residents added (481,000) since the 2000 Census while neighboring San Bernardino County ranked sixth (290,000).

Rancho Cucamonga



Together, the two-county Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA added 771,000 residents between 2000 and 2006, putting the region on track to add over 1 million new residents between 2000 and 2010 (and 1.6+ million since 1990).

The additional residents boosts Inland Southern California's overall population to 4.02 million, which ranks 14th (updated 04/07/07) in the nation (between the Phoenix and Seattle metropolitan regions).

The 481,000 residents added to Riverside County was behind only Maricopa County (Phoenix; 696,000) and Harris County (Houston; 486,000). Los Angeles County (429,000) and Clark County (Las Vegas; 402,000) complete the top 5. Tarrant Co., TX (225,000), Collin Co., TX (208,000), Gwinnett Co., GA (169,000), and Will Co., IL (166,000) round out the top 10 in numerical increase. (Source: Census - cb07-42tbl1.xls)

Riverside County's growth rate of 31.2% since 2000 ranked 45th in the nation. Only one other county in excess of 1 million residents ranked in the top 100 in percentage growth since 2000 (Clark County, Nev., ranked 63rd). (Source: Census - cb07-42tbl3.xls)

The recent figures reaffirm Inland Southern California's continuing rise in nationwide population rankings. Riverside County now ranks as the nation's 11th most-populous county -- just behind Queens County (NYC) -- while San Bernardino now ranks 12th.

With the rise of Riverside and San Bernardino, Southern California is now home to 5 of the nation's 15 most-populous counties (Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino).

Finally, with projected growth taken into account, there's the distinct possibility Inland Southern California may crack the top 10 in total metropolitan population within the next 10-15 years. Just 27 years ago, the two-county region -- with a population of 1.56 million -- ranked as the nation's 27th most-populous Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The tremendous growth -- particularly over the past 6 years -- again brings up the question of how much longer until this seemingly hidden, "sleeping giant" awakens?

15 Most-populous counties
  • 1. Los Angeles - 9.94m
  • 2. Cook (Chicago) - 5.28m
  • 3. Harris (Houston) - 3.88m
  • 4. Maricopa (Phoenix) - 3.76m
  • 5. Orange Co., CA - 3.00m
  • 6. San Diego - 2.94m
  • 7. Kings (NYC) - 2.50m
  • 8. Miami-Dade - 2.40m
  • 9. Dallas - 2.34m
  • 10. Queens (NYC) - 2.25m
  • 11. Riverside - 2.02m
  • 12. San Bernardino - 1.99m
  • 13. Wayne (Detroit) - 1.97m
  • 14. King (Seattle) - 1.82m
  • 15. Broward - 1.79m

  • Source: Census - cb07-42tbl2




Then & Now - Main at Mission Inn

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Before there was a Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside there was, well, an actual Main Street, with actual cars -- and curbside parking.

Seen here in photos approximately 50 years apart is a view of Main Street looking north toward Mission Inn Avenue (formerly Seventh Street) from near University Avenue (formerly Eighth Street). On the far right is the historic Mission Inn and on the far left, with its pyramid-shaped, red-tiled roof (as seen in lower photo), is the Loring Building, which was built in 1890. Obviously, the scene has changed dramatically, but how and why? (To fully appreciate the change, check out the Flash overlay.)

Main Street at Mission Inn
looking north toward Mission Inn Ave. (Seventh St.)
Flash: View photo overlay

Following the 1956 opening of the nearby Riverside Plaza, downtown shopping began a slow but steady decline. In response, city leaders soon started working at remaking the city's civic center. Plans included a landscaped pedestrian mall with spruced-up storefronts. Eventually, it was envisioned the mall would be anchored by what officials hoped would be a new city hall, a convention center / hotel and a performing arts center. (Only city hall and the convention center / hotel would come to fruition.)

In late 1965, the city settled upon an initial plan and work began in May of 1966 at tearing out Main Street between Sixth and Tenth streets. On November 23, 1966, the mall was officially dedicated* and open for business. However, with its opening coinciding with America's growing appetite for suburban shopping centers, the pedestrian mall got off to a rocky start.

One major retailer (Sears*) had already relocated to a larger new store elsewhere in Riverside while two others (Montgomery Ward, JC Penney) would eventually follow suit. The flight of retail only got worse with the 1970 opening of Riverside's Tyler Mall** (now Galleria at Tyler), which was double the size of the earlier Riverside Plaza and -- more importantly at the time -- it was enclosed.

Although the loss of the major retailers was significant, the pedestrian mall's plight began stabilizing in the mid-1970s with the opening of the new city hall and convention center (anchoring opposite ends of the mall) as well as an 11-story Security Pacific National Bank building (seen here in 1976**: one | two), which replaced aging storefronts near the mall's center. But America's love affair with large enclosed shopping centers -- and free easy parking -- continued to erode the downtown retail market.

By the early 1980s, storefronts along the pedestrian mall consisted mostly of small local shops and empty spaces. The slow decline of the Mission Inn, which had transformed from an opulent hotel into rental/student apartments, certainly did not help. For a while, it appeared the mall's future was in doubt. One bright spot development-wise during this period was the 6-story Mission Square building, which in 1984 replaced another block of mostly empty and aging storefronts between Ninth and University.

In 1988, however, things began looking up as a refurbished Mission Inn hotel was set to reopen. Renovated over 3 years to the tune of $30 million (which would eventually approach $50 million), the newly christened Omni Mission Inn** was seen by civic officials as an important catalyst for reviving the floundering pedestrian mall. Yet just weeks before its official grand opening, the Inn's owner -- Carley Capital Group -- went bankrupt, forcing a takeover of the Inn by Chemical Bank of New York. The bankruptcy dealt a serious blow to both the mall and downtown in general. Moreover, it would be another 4 years before the Inn fully reopened.

Another significant event was the 1992 merger of Security Pacific National Bank into Bank of America, which saw the mall lose one of its primary anchors. Subsequent plans for re-using the bank's 11-story building included an option of reopening parts of the pedestrian mall to limited traffic. Fortunately, a second event later that year -- the purchase and reopening of the Mission Inn by local businessman Duane Roberts -- helped keep the pedestrian mall intact and free of cars.

Today, the downtown pedestrian mall stretches upwards of 7 blocks from Tenth to Third streets and remains one of Southern California's only true pedestrian plazas. Although it has taken 40 years to arrive at where it is today -- and indeed, a few rough spots remain -- thankfully, most residents simply could not imagine it reverting back to just another traffic-clogged street. In fact, the pedestrian mall is about to undergo a face-lift -- its first major rehab since being built in 1966.

Since the December 1992 reopening of the Mission Inn, the pedestrian mall has steadily picked up steam. The former Security Pacific Bank building has become a collection of offices mostly for the state of California while small independant shops throughout the mall coexist alongside a mixture of banks, eateries, service-related businesses and cultural arts establishments.

Recently, the mall has seen an influx of higher-end establishments such as Renuance Aesthetic Care and eateries Trilussa, Omakase and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. The most surprising empty spot remains the long-shuttered Imperial Hardware building, which in a strange twist has actually added a bit of flavor to the mall on account of its colorful art and mid-century facade, both seemingly frozen in time.

The one item still missing is a national retailer or major bookstore, which is likely to change within the next few years as the city's plans for 500-plus condos and lofts begin taking shape (see: m' sole and Fox Plaza). Our hope is that any potential influx of national chains, which could greatly increase out-of-area foot traffic, does so not at the expense of too many of the unique local shops -- a few of which have survived a number of lean years.

Indeed, the recent surge in activity, the upcoming face-lift, the soon-to-be Culver Center for the Arts and the planned residential/office development nearby promises to solidify the mall as downtown's cultural and civic plaza. Without a doubt, the pedestrian mall is a unique gem that Riverside is fortunate to have.

Flash: Main at Mission Inn: 1950s - 2007

Photo Gallery: Main Street Pedestrian Mall

P.S. -- For those curious, the back of the 1950s postcard, which incidentally misidentifies the intersection as Seventh at Orange (as opposed to Main at Seventh) reads as follows:

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA - Seventh Street near Orange. This is a city typical of California at its best. Its tree-lined streets, Mission architecture, groves of fragrant orange trees and its atmosphere of hospitality never fail to impress the visitor.

Update -- Though it has had some lean times, luckily Riverside's pedestrian mall did not suffer the fate of this one in St. Louis, which opened in 1977: Urban Review St. Louis: 14th Street Pedestrian Mall, Thirty Years Ago Today


Main Street
Main Street
Main Street

Main Street
Main Street

* Courtesy of RPD Remembers
** Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson), "Riverside in Postcards" (Steve Lech), "Riverside - 1870-1940" (Steve Lech), Riverside Chambers of Commerce, New York Times, WikiPedia

Moving dirt at m sole'

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Phase one grading

Phase one info

m sole'

Grading began this past week on the first phase of the mixed-use m sole' project in downtown Riverside. When completed, m sole' will include up to 154 residential units and 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail stretching along the west side of Market Street between Third and First streets.

Phase one consists of 10 live/work units slated for the northwest corner of Third and Market streets -- near the convention center and across from the relatively new CVS and Starbucks. The units range in size from 1600 to 1850 sq. ft. (with work spaces of 200 to 600 sq. ft.) and are priced at $645,000 ($495,000 for the living space and $150,000 for the work space).

Later phases of the project will include a 24-hour concierge desk, pool, clubhouse, fitness center as well as a wine cellar. Developer Alan Mruvka has opened an information studio located inside the historic Sante Fe depot located at the corner of Mission Inn and Sante Fe avenues.

The $50 million m sole' development marks the beginning of what city planners envision as the transformation of six blocks of Market Street between Mission Inn Avenue and First Street.

Two other mixed-use developments along this same strech of Market include Fox Plaza, which is scheduled to break ground shortly, and one planned by Los Angeles-based developer Mark Rubin.

Already in the works is the $30 million renovation of the historic Fox Theater, which the city hopes to have completed by late 2008. The 1929 theater, situated a block west of the historic Mission Inn, will be transformed into a 1,600 seat performing arts center.


Phase two site

Phase one site



Market Street

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise

Ground broken for Ontario arena

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A new era has begun for Inland Southern California as ground was broken this week for the area's first major-league caliber sports/entertainment arena. Located just west of Ontario Mills near the junction of I-10 and I-15, Citizens Business Bank Arena will rise on one of the last remaining parcels of the former Ontario Motor Speedway.

Exterior rendering

Interior rendering

As the centerpiece for the planned Piemonte at Ontario Center, the arena -- with a capacity of 11,000, including 36 luxury suites -- will be owned by the city of Ontario and managed by Los Angeles-based AEG, whom also operate the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The deal with AEG guarantees a minimum 120 events per year, many of which AEG says will be acts it also books for Staples. Also on tap is a minor-league hockey and/or basketball franchise (farm teams from both the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings have been mentioned as likely tenants).

"This is going to create an atmosphere of entertainment that the Inland Empire has been craving for a long time," (Ontario Mayor Paul) Leon told a crowd of invited guests gathered at the site.

... "It's going to do so much not just for Ontario, but for the entire region," (Ontario Councilman Alan) Wapner said.

Daily Bulletin

... "With southern California as AEG's headquarters, we are clearly aware of the demographics and the necessity for a state of the art sports and entertainment arena in Ontario and the Inland Empire," said Timothy J. Leiweke, President & CEO, AEG.

AEG press release

Coupled with the area's continuing population growth and fast-rising demographics, the long-awaited arena for Inland Southern California reaffirms the region's growing prosperity and maturity within Greater Los Angeles. Considering a local population base of 4 million, our only real complaint is that it has taken this long for such a venue to be built. No doubt the pent-up demand for major entertainment options locally will make the arena successful, likely to the surprise -- and chagrin -- of some LA naysayers.

The grand opening for the $130 milion, 225,000 square foot arena is expected in October 2008. Could a major-league franchise be far behind?



Citrus king

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This year marks the 100th anniversary for UC Riverside's Citrus Experiment Station, which began as a tiny outpost at the foot of Mt. Rubidoux in 1907. Over the years, the station has grown in both scope and acclaim:


UCR's unique citrus collection
Los Angeles Times
UC Riverside scientists have developed some best-selling fruits, including the Oroblanco grapefruit-pummelo hybrid, with its surprisingly sweet taste, and the tangy Gold Nugget mandarin.

But many of the university's contributions have been more utilitarian, such as finding ways to eliminate bothersome bugs without pesticides.

The 400-acre station is now called the Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station to reflect its expanded mission, which now includes research on asparagus and other vegetables.

Los Angeles Times

Established by the State of California during the region's citrus heyday, the research station planted the seeds for present-day UCR, which began accepting students in 1954 and officially became a general campus of the world-renown UC system in 1959.

Even with the transformation into a full-fledge UC campus, the research center today retains its vital role in citrus and plant research. It also houses one of the most diverse citrus collections in the world:

"When you're there, you feel like you're taking a trip around the world. She's got stuff from Morocco in one row, then in another row she's got Spain and Egypt ... stuff that no one else in the United States has."

Brein Clements, chef-owner of Restaurant Omakase, downtown Riverside
Los Angeles Times


Sources: UC Riverside, Los Angeles Times

LNR closer to redeveloping Carousel Mall

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Plans for redeveloping a struggling mall in downtown San Bernardino moved a step closer this week as Miami-based LNR Property Corporation submitted draft environmental documents for replacing the 35-year-old, Victor Gruen-designed mall with a mixture of residential and commercial uses.

Aerial view

The Carousel

West wing

Harris Co. (1927)

Tentatively called "Court Street West," plans are for up to 750 residential units, mostly condos, townhomes and lofts, plus approximately 120,000 square feet of commercial space set within an urban, park-like setting. Plans also call for reconnecting F and G streets back through the mall property.

However, still not included in the redevelopment are the former JCPenney and empty Harris Co. department store buildings, both of which were not part of LNR's purchase of the mall in Feb. 2006. Their status remains up in the air (though a buyer for the historic 1927 Harris' building is likely at some point).

Planned in the late 1960s as a redevelopment project between the city and federal government, Carousel Mall opened as Central City Mall in 1972. Built adjacent to the flagship department store of San Bernardino-based Harris Co., the two-level mall helped keep downtown alive following the 1966 opening of nearby Inland Center Mall. Future plans for the immediate area included commercial high-rises and a "central city park" (just across E Street adjacent to City Hall). The plan even envisioned an aerial tram of sorts shuttling patrons among the two competing malls, which were separated by a mere two miles.

Over the next 20 years, as San Bernardino struggled with growing unemployment, poverty and crime, Central City Mall began a steady downward slide. A 1991 renovation, which added a carousel and a new name, temporarily boosted retail traffic. However, the 1996 opening of the gigantic Ontario Mills Mall 10 miles to the west began to put strains on the now Carousel Mall.

In 2000, two years following the purchase -- and eventual merger -- of the Harris' chain into Fresno-based Gottschalks, the closing of the flagship Harris' store signaled the beginning of the end for the mall. Within three years, both Montgomery Ward (2002) and JCPenney (2003) would follow suit and close up shop in San Bernardino.

Today the Carousel Mall is a virtual ghost town of sorts. Although the city did manage to fill some of the empty tenant space with a few government agencies and even secured a Starwood Hotels & Resorts reservation center (with 400-plus jobs), the mall's remaining retailers continue to struggle.

Without a doubt, the large mall property in the heart of downtown offers the city a unique opportunity for a large-scale, mixed-use development. We look forward to watching this redevelopment, though we hope the historic Harris Co. building is indeed incorporated into any plans and does not give way to the bulldozer. Hopefully, both LNR and San Bernardino will be able to take advantage of the situation and help bring vibrancy back to a once-thriving downtown.

Photo Gallery: Carousel Mall



Out & About - 01/21/2007

| | Comments (1)

Correction: The name of the Stalder Building was misspelled when originally posted

Sunday, January 21, 2007 - If one visits downtown Riverside, as we did today, they will notice the historic Fox Theatre is now fenced off, awaiting a $30 million renovation. As one of the centerpieces of the $780 million Riverside Renaissance Initiative -- which outlines 25 years worth of citywide projects in about 5 -- the Fox will receive a complete makeover, transforming it into 1,600 seat performing arts center.

Fox Theatre
Mission Inn at Market

Fox Plaza

Opened in 1929, the Riverside Fox was once a favorite place for Hollywood studios to screen movies prior to their release. Studio executives felt the area better represented American audiences more so than patrons in Hollywood. One such sneak preview was "Gone With the Wind" in 1939.

Across the street from the Fox Theatre is the Stalder Building, which is actually three buildings unified into one facade via a 1926 renovation. A portion of the building once housed the city's first permanent fire station (1890s).

Over the years, the configuration of the building has been significantly altered, resulting in as many as 8 storefronts along Mission Inn Avenue plus a few along Market Street. Recently, it has become a mix of mostly small antique shops, including the popular Mr. Beasley's.

Come March 1st, however, the stores will be fully vacated in preparation for Fox Plaza, a mixed-use development planned for the site that includes residential and commercial with underground parking.

Expected to break ground in 2007, Fox Plaza is a $200 million development that when fully built will add 500 residential units and 65,000 square feet of retail space along two blocks of Market Street from Mission Inn Avenue to Fifth Street. Also included in the 2-phase plan is a 130 room, full-service hotel.

Though it's difficult to see one of Riverside's oldest buildings come down, we're eagerly anticipating Fox Plaza, which no doubt will be a significant and unique addition to downtown. If Riverside truly hopes to have a more balanced and livlier downtown, particularly after 5 p.m., developments such as Fox Plaza and m sole that include residential units are indeed necessary.

Flash: Out & About slideshow

Photo Gallery: Stalder Building


Fenced-off Fox

Stalder (left) and
Loring buildings

Sign of the times

Final Sale

View west toward
Market Street

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, MetroPacific LLC

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