It’s just eight years away, but downtown Riverside may look quite different by 2025.
One big reason? Hundreds more homes are coming, which will bring more and different people than those who work in the government and business offices that long have dominated the neighborhood.
It already has come a long way since former Mayor Ron Loveridge became the downtown area’s councilman in 1979.
“It was bleak and there were a handful of restaurants, nothing happening on the (Main Street) mall,” Loveridge said, recalling a past criticism that at times one could fire a cannon down the mall and not hit anyone.
Today, the renovated Fox theater and Riverside Convention Center are hubs of activity. A new nightclub opened last fall, and a brewpub is coming next month. And there’s plenty of housing in the works.
Construction began in October on a project that includes 91 apartments and retail space where Imperial Hardware used to stand, and at least five other planned developments would add housing at a range of prices as well as stores, offices and a civil rights institute.
Before leaving office in 2012, Loveridge proposed a goal of 5,000 new housing units downtown by 2025. The Riverside City Council endorsed it.
There’s still a ways to go – nine projects that would add nearly 900 homes are being planned – but “I do think that it is realistic,” Riverside Community and Economic Development Director Rafael Guzman said.
“We meet with several developers a week that are interested in developing in the downtown, and it is largely housing,” he said.
A few factors that are helping, Guzman said, are the 2006 citywide public works investment known as the Riverside Renaissance, new zoning that allows taller buildings downtown and changes that make it faster and easier to get development plans approved.
Why push for more housing downtown, which already has more than 4,000 households?
Loveridge said cities including Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver are seeing new homes and residents revitalize their downtowns.
“Successful cities have downtowns where people want to live,” he said.