Mid-century makeover

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.

2008 - "North" garage
2008 – “North” garage

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.

2004 - "North" garage
2004 – “North” garage

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.

2008 - Architect's depiction (City of Riverside)
2008 – Architect’s depiction (City of Riverside)

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.

Photo courtesy: *1961 / RPL

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise

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  1. I wasn’t even aware that they were revamping these structures. I kinda see what your saying, but I never really looked at these structures as being attractive. You get a lot of this style at CSUF and the surrounding Fullerton area, and it’s kind of a hit or miss with a number of them. A couple on the CSUF campus look ugly no matter how long you look at them.

    The Downtown Riverside library on the other hand, I actually really like that structure, and even though it may be wishful thinking, I kinda hope they salvage the sculptural mesh-pattern in the front and incorporate it into the new facade when they finally design it. I dunno I can kind of picture it working well with something designed on the level of the county courthouse and Mission Inn.

    My worry about this parking project is that the new design from the concept looks cheap and probably going to be more of that stucco crap style that so many track homes and retail structures use these days. I know it’s just a parking structure, but it should look good.

    Hoping for the best.

  2. I agree the redesign is an unfortunate cover-up of the mid-century design but not untypical of the current approach in downtown Riverside. It’s an urbanizing area and needs to allow for an organic mix of styles – new and old – that respects the past and the future.

    I personally really dislike the artificiality of the now preferred mission revival style which is a cheap imitation of historic Mission Revival and other Spanish influenced architecture. Another unfortunate example is the Starbucks/CVS development at Market & 3rd St. and I fear the Raincross Promenade project is going to be a much bigger example. This architecture really belongs in places like Orangecrest or other typical suburban development rather than downtown Riverside.

    At least these garages aren’t going down the same path as the “Versace Building” – the city’s newish parking garage at Orange & 9th St. – uh…yuck.

    Question though, do you know why the reduction in parking spaces in the two garages between their opening and now?

  3. Awwww, I like the CVS/Starbucks… I thought they did a good job of making it look aged. I think it fits in almost perfectly. Have to agree with you on the Versace Building though…

    My hopes are still high for Raincross Promenade… it’s all going to depend on the materials they use I think. At least from the plans it looked legit.

  4. (Pub: Mar. 9 2008)
    Yes, we’re crossing our fingers the remodeling of the mid-century garage facades do not end up looking like a cheap stucco imitation of mission revival. Regardless, we’re going to miss the clean and classical lines of the original design. The reduction in parking spaces? We too scratched our heads on this. The original numbers came from published reports versus current numbers found within the city’s downtown parking guide. Our best guess is that disabled spots likely account for at least some of the difference.

    As for the “versace” parking garage at Ninth Street, we haven’t quite figured out where we stand on it. Although the concept was noble, the actual outcome seems a bit cartoonish and better suited for Las Vegas. However, we presume it beats your typical, plain vanilla parking garage.

    With regards to the CVS/Starbucks at Third and Market… Though a true mixed-use version would have been preferred, we feel it actually came out better than expected (all things considered). We’re glad the two buildings meet the streetscape and think the peristyle-type wall of arches helps take focus off the parking lot. Also, the quality of workmanship appears above average for this type of development.

    Likewise, we have high hopes for Raincross Promenade and feel the design of the elevations facing the street will work out fine (though the devil is certainly in the details). Moreover, we’re glad the multi-level garage will be surrounded (“hidden”) by the units. Truth be told, we’re actually more concerned about the first phase of m’sole currently under construction across the street. In our opinion, it looks more “suburban” than any of the others.

    Finally, we couldn’t have said it better:

    It’s an urbanizing area and needs to allow for an organic mix of styles – new and old – that respects the past and the future.

    Thanks for posting.

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