2004 – Existing and soon-to-come tenants at Riverside Plaza (RXSQ)

Rebirthing Riverside Plaza

After at least 10 years of talks and 5 years of false starts, one of the region’s oldest shopping centers is finally nearing completion in its transformation from an enclosed mall back into an open-air shopping plaza.

Early makeover plans for the Plaza were floated more than 10 years ago, but delays plagued the $80 million project. Demolition began in 2003 on the shopping center, doing away with a decades-old indoor center that faltered as newer, bigger malls gained in popularity.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – October 15, 2004

Originally opened as an outdoor mall in three stages between June 1956 and September 1957, the Riverside Plaza was the city’s first large-scale shopping center. After 30 years of shopping under the sun (and occasional rainstorm), the Plaza adapted to long-evolving changes in shopping trends by adding a permanent roof in 1984.

Within the next decade, however, the Plaza began to slowly whittle away in the face of stiffer — and much larger — competition. Riverside’s primary shopping center, the Galleria at Tyler — which opened in 1970 as the Tyler Mall — was greatly expanded via a second level in 1991. At about the same time, the Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate (1992) was built on land on the city’s eastern edge that was once home to Riverside International Raceway. At over 1 million square feet each, both malls dwarfed the smallish, single-level Plaza.

Likewise, the 1996 opening of the mega-sized Ontario Mills didn’t help. Although situated 15 miles to the northwest, the 2 million-square-foot-plus outlet mall created an instant retail hub that is still sending reverberations through the region’s retail market today.

Thus began the current transformation. Upon completion, the newly rebuilt and once again outdoor Plaza will sport some long sought after establishments, including Borders, California Pizza Kitchen, Chipotle, and Citrus City Grille (rumor has it that a Cheesecake Factory is also in the works). (2024 Update: The Cheesecake Factory opened at Riverside’s Galleria at Tyler during that center’s mini-expansion in 2006/2007.)

Also included in the mix of new eateries is Ooka:

Ooka, pronounced o-KUH, borrows table-side cooking from Benihana, said Robert Chen, one of four Ooka partners. Ooka will open at the Plaza in May with a sushi bar and sake lounge, where the Japanese beverage will be featured in a menu of martinis, he said. Dinner checks will average $29 to $30 per person, he added.

The Plaza location will serve as a West Coast test site for Ooka, which has just two other restaurants, both in Pennsylvania. Chen said he found the Plaza when searching Orange County and Los Angeles for the perfect center – one with a supermarket, bookstore and theater.

“I would say we were really lucky to find Riverside Plaza. I guess it was fate,” he said.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – October 15, 2004

Slideshow: Riverside Plaza – Razed, Rebuilt, Revived

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Sources: Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE-20041015), Riverside Public Library, Riverside Plaza

2024 PAGE UPDATE: Added newspaper citation/insert; added original opening timeframe; removed outdated links to newspaper article; removed link to inactive Slideshow.

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