City News: July 2007 Archives

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.


2006
Central Library


1966
w/ original fountains
1967 RNB calendar


1970s
Pre-Chinese Pavilion


1980s
w/ rose garden
1985 / GRCC


1910
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.

Related



2006
Entry ramp

2006
Mid-century entrance

2006
Mid-century
lighting


2006
Mid-century designs

2006
"dove" screen

2006
Chinese Pavilion

Sources: The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside


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.


2007
Raincross Promenade


2007
m sole'


Fox Plaza
MetroPacific

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.

Related

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the City News category from July 2007.

City News: June 2007 is the previous archive.

City News: October 2007 is the next archive.

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