Councilmember reverses stance on pedestrian mall idea

After only a few weeks in office, we’re glad to report Riverside City Councilmember, Mike Gardner, has reversed course on his stance regarding the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside.

Gardner, who defeated Ward 1 incumbent Dom Betro by 7 votes in the November election, had voiced his opinion against the upcoming renovation of the downtown pedestrian mall. Moreover, he recently suggested that a portion be reopened to vehicular traffic. Fortunately, this idea did not sit well with both constituents and residents alike as Gardner quickly found himself with calls to leave the mall closed to traffic:

Dec. 2007
Ice skating on the mall

Saturday Farmers Market

Gardner suggested opening the
pedestrian mall to vehicular
traffic between University and
Mission Inn avenues, the area
seen in the photos above

... (Gardner) backed away completely from an idea he had been floating in recent weeks to open up Main Street to vehicles between University and Mission Inn avenues.

Gardner, however, said most of the residents who called him about the block strongly opposed reopening it to vehicles.

“That idea is pretty well dead,” he said.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – December 22, 2007

We’re glad to see Gardner abandon his idea to reopen the mall to vehicular traffic. Without a doubt, the pedestrian mall is a rare gem in Southern California, and indeed, is one of the most unique aspects of downtown Riverside. To see it revert back into yet another traffic-choked street would be disheartening. Fortunately, more and more folks are beginning to realize its uniqueness — and the importance of keeping it pedestrian-oriented.

And though Gardner has since said he also no longer opposes the pedestrian mall renovation — though he’d like to see more “historic flair” in the renovation, which we agree the plan could use a bit more — his views again raise issues surrounding the pedestrian mall: balancing the needs of the community with the needs of mall-based businesses.

Indeed, the mall could use more pedestrians, particularly during evening hours. But to achieve this, we feel the city will need to aggressively push four major aspects:

  • Residential & commercial — continue pushing mixed-use, moderate-density projects downtown, particularly in the areas near the mall (more residents will help provide built-in, after-hours pedestrians)
  • Parking — make it as easy and inexpensive as possible, but more importantly, get suburbanites accustomed to using parking garages (and walking a couple blocks)
  • Add a chain — the mall needs at least one major, recognizable tenant to draw in steady foot traffic (so that the smaller/local tenants can be “discovered”)
  • Promote, promote, promote — create a marketing plan to get the word out about the mall, its tenants/cultural amenities and the parking garages

Fortunately, many of the above pieces are already in place (parking garages, UCR ArtsBlock); in progress (Raincross Promenade, m sole’, Fox Theater); or on the horizon (Fox Plaza, UCR/Culver Center for the Arts, RCC School of the Arts). Likewise, the recent arrival of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shows a major retail/restaurant chain may not be far behind. And although the city has begun promoting the 4 municipal parking garages, many folks still don’t realize parking is free after 5 p.m. during the week and all day on the weekends.

Overall, the pedestrian mall has tremendous potential that within time — and with the right tenant mix and ingredients — can become a much livelier place. But as it essentially awaits rediscovery, it will take vision, ambition, and perseverance.

These are our thoughts and ideas — what are yours?

Finally, we applaud Gardner for reversing his stance on the pedestrian mall. Though we remain cautiously optimistic, we feel he’s moderate enough to serve both Ward 1 and Riverside well.

Flash: Main at Mission Inn: @1957 – 2007
Photo Gallery: Main Street Pedestrian Mall



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One Comment

  1. Lol… I saw that on PE when it was posted.. it’s almost comical after talking about it here. I guess I have no beef with him now.

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