Civic Structures: March 2008 Archives

Pedestrian mall renovation begins

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Last week saw the beginning of the multi-phase renovation of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside. The nearly $10 million dollar project, which is currently underway on two blocks between Tenth Street and University Avenue, is the first overall makeover in the 42-year history of the pedestrian mall. Completion of the 4-block project is expected in mid-2009.

March 2008
View south from University Avenue
toward City Hall

March 2008
View north toward University Avenue
from City Hall

The project includes extensive underground infrastructure improvements that will require re-surfacing of the mall's walkways, many of which have suffered from patchwork fixes over the years. Although such extensive resurfacing will no doubt be a bit of an inconvenience, we think the resurfacing is long-overdue regardless of the need for underground work.

Plans also call for a 5,000 square foot "civic plaza" between University and Mission Inn avenues with an overhead tensile fabric roof providing shade during the summer months. The area would allow for larger gatherings as well as better accommodate the ice rink for the annual Festival of Lights. New benches, lighting, speakers, additional electronic surveillance and better access for the disabled round out the project.

Probably the most controversial aspect of the renovation has been with regards to the landscaping, and in particular, the proposed removal of a number of large, mature trees. Fortunately, the project's landscape architect -- Riverside-based Ian Davidson -- has since revised the number of mature trees being removed. In the end, Davidson says the renovated mall will have more trees than it did prior to the makeover.

Another part of the plan includes the re-opening of Ninth Street through the mall near City Hall. Though we have some reservations about this particular aspect, we're glad the design calls for a smaller, two-lane roadway with limited parking as opposed to a wide, four-lane arterial.

Built in 1966, the mall is one of the few remaining, original "pedestrian malls" developed by cities during the 1960s as a way to help stem the outflow of retail to suburban malls. Although many such malls have since disappeared -- including a similar mall in nearby Burbank -- Riverside's has managed to weather the lean years and is now poised to thrive as a new era begins taking shape downtown.

We're glad to see the pedestrian mall get the much needed upgrades and repairs. But more importantly, we're glad to see the mall still in existence and that a growing number of residents, businesses and visitors alike are beginning to better appreciate this truly unique asset.

Photo Gallery: Main Street Pedestrian Mall


Sources: City of Riverside, Ian Davidson Landscape Architecture, The Press-Enterprise

Mid-century makeover

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One of the best examples of mid-century modernism in Riverside is receiving a makeover. Though some -- or even many -- may not see this as a big deal, particularly on account it involves a parking garage, we feel otherwise.

Facelift of "north" garage underway

New facade
City of Riverside


The garage in question is one of two, nearly identical parking structures that opened in 1961* one block apart on Orange Street in downtown. The first "parking terrace" (as they were initially called*) opened behind the then City Hall near Seventh Street (Mission Inn Avenue). The $400,000 structure originally held 202 cars (now 174). Terrace #2, which originally held 186 cars (now 159), opened about a month later one block south near Eighth Street (University Avenue), across from the post office.

The structures were the city's first multi-level parking garages and were primarily aimed at shoring up the downtown retail scene, which had begun feeling the effects of suburban exodus, particularly following the 1956/57 opening of the Riverside Plaza. As such, the garages also facilitated the 1966 opening of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall between Tenth and Sixth streets.

The makeover of the "north" garage near Mission Inn Avenue is well underway. The redesign of the facade incorporates mission flavored motifs while the interior refurbishment includes seismic upgrades, new lighting and a new elevator. Work on the "south" garage is expected to begin sometime following the completion of the first garage.

Though we greatly appreciate the mission revival and Spanish-influenced style of architecture that populates much of the immediate area, we also greatly admire the few mid-century gems scattered around downtown, namely the Central Library and the Orange Street parking garages. And although we do agree with some degree of consistent architectural forms, we also feel that too much of one particular style and/or essentially disallowing "organic" architecture invariably results in a bland, overly homogenous landscape.

Moreover, it appears mid-century architecture is the new "Victorian" blight, likely to only be appreciated after much of the style has disappeared from the landscape. Indeed, each generation has its architectural legacies. Let's hope Riverside heeds past lessons and begins protecting its most notable, post-war "atomic era" buildings before it's too late.

Interior (pre-rehab)

*1961 / RPL

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Civic Structures category from March 2008.

Civic Structures: November 2007 is the previous archive.

Civic Structures: April 2008 is the next archive.

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