Out & About – 10/20/2009

Crews work on the new crossing at Mission Inn Avenue as part of the pedestrian mall makeover in downtown Riverside

Slideshow: Out & About

This week found us taking a stroll along downtown’s Main Street pedestrian mall during a workday lunch, where we encountered others also taking in the fall-like weather.
Further up, we noticed both the main entrance and several windows on the former Westbrook’s / Imperial Hardware store are now on display for the first time in several years. They had been boarded up for at least the past decade, if not longer.
The sidewalk around the building’s foundation has been chipped away in preparation for the pedestrian mall’s new surface. It appears a new header has also been put into place. Does this mean the building — which dates back to 1900, but has sat empty since the 1970s — is finally about to see a new tenant?
Although Imperial’s former false front is no match against Westbrook’s 1935 art deco facade, we admit to somewhat missing its mid-century starkness (here’s a view from 1967), which covered the building’s front from about 1964 until 2007. Regardless, we hope the improvements signal life is once again stirring within the building.
Moving on … the second phase — between University and Sixth — of the makeover for 1966-era pedestrian mall* is nearing completion. This week, crews were busy working on the new mall crossing at Mission Inn Avenue. (The first phase, completed earlier this year, took in the mall’s southern blocks between University and Tenth.)
Nearby, a crossing for a soon-to-be water feature is now in place while new pavers, ground plantings and lighting are also being completed. We have mixed feelings on the new lighting. By no means terrible, but also not very unique. Certainly not as unique at the original raincross lights. (We’re told they’re being salvaged by the city — for what, we do not know. Let’s hope they get shipped off to the city museum as opposed to the landfill.)
The pedestrian mall is expected to be completed in time for this year’s “Festival of Lights” on which the months-long work has already started.
Slideshow: Out & About
* Courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau & Clarke

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  1. I know your disappointed in the lights, but to me the bigger issue is the way the Mission Inn section is shaping up. Of all the sections I think the Mission Inn section is looking the worst. I had talked to Mike Gardner near the beginning of the year about ways of saving the Mission Inn section, and at that time he had said the old water feature had to be removed to get to the pipes. That made sense, although I was still sad about its loss. Mike reassured me however that the rest of the old planter boxes were to remain. That somewhat excited me, since I figured that would mean the old planters would be untouched. Wrong. The developer completely stripped off all of the decorative tile and the red smooth-brick top and replaced it with rough granite(?) fitted with those uninviting skateboard stoppers. So my thoughts are: why the hell were the old planter boxes saved if everything that made them unique and special was stripped off? Might as well have torn them down and added the modern planters seen on the rest of the mall. At least the new ones have a couple unique qualities and are semi inviting. I have a glimmer of faith that new tile might be added to the walls of the planters, but so far I’m thinking I will remain disappointed.

    Plus the area between the Mission Inn and the new water feature is a whole lot of nothing (except for your favorite lights 😉 .) The water feature itself is boring too in comparison to the original feature, although it might turn out okay if the entire inside is lined with the blue tile like the fountain in front of the Sweeney Art Gallery.

    I also miss the forrest feel. It’s still there, but not as strong as before; maybe as the new trees grow up in the next 20 years, it will start feeling better.

    Okay I’m done ranting. I think I just needed to get out my frustration.

  2. Jason, as we mentioned several months back in a previous post, we were a bit concerned about how the “new” look would look up against the historic Mission Inn — the area least in need of a makeover.

    We agree with your initial assessment — this portion of the mall has indeed lost a fair amount of character, especially near Mission Inn Avenue where the old water feature once was. The area is now very plain and sterile. We’re hoping to see some individual planters — like those near the fountain at City Hall — to help fill and add interest to the space. And yes, this section is less “forresty” than before, though it certainly could have been much worse (from Simple Simon’s to Sixth Street still holds up well in this regards).

    But as you pointed out, with time, the trees will grow and we’ll likely become more accustomed to the new look (which will eventually “age” somewhat, gaining some of the character back). In the meantime, we hope the new water feature pleasantly surprises us while we bemoan the loss of the decorative tiles — and the raincross lamps!

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