Dear Indio Neighbors,
I am happy to report this month that our long-discussed Downtown Specific Plan is in final draft form and available for review on the City’s website. We are hoping that the City’s Planning Commission will review and adopt this plan in February, and that the City Council will be holding a final public hearing in March or April.
Yes, this plan is a long-time coming! I have read some online posts suggesting that people are tired hearing about Downtown plans and wondering when something will finally happen! One post said that there has been plan after plan, but we want restaurants and brew pubs, and housing and nightlife!
Fair enough! We hear you. Let me make the case that there are all sorts of reasons for hope right now:
· The College of the Desert just announced that the Indio campus enrollment for the current semester is more than 6,000 students. That is a population of 6,000 students who mostly drive away from campus after their classes because we have not offered them any Downtown options.
· And what is more, COD is going to build TWO new campus buildings that will bring its enrollment up to more than 10,000 students.
· Meanwhile, in the City’s IPAC Theater, our Desert Theaterworks community theater group is selling out show after show in yet another award-winning season. Hundreds of people come Downtown for these shows regularly, but have only a few options for dining before or after the shows.
· And the Coachella Valley History Museum is building its following with innovative new programs and new on-site exhibits. If you have not been to the history museum lately, you will be impressed with their new energy.
· The beautiful new Loma Linda University Children’s Health - Indio, the newest jewel in our Downtown, is doing so well in serving the kids in our region that they are looking at the possibility of expanding.
· And of course, the California Desert Trial Academy in Downtown Indio will soon be the only law school in Riverside County.
· The John J. Benoit Detention Center is inching its way toward completion. Hundreds of new jobs and thousands of weekly business transactions will be occurring there. This offers an exciting new employment and housing market.
· And only a few blocks away, the owners of the proposed Indio Grand Marketplace (formerly Indio Fashion Mall) are giving us very encouraging reports on their efforts to develop an active family lifestyle/entertainment center.
Downtowns are best defined, I think, as gathering places where the whole community feels ownership. That is why they are great places for museums, theaters, the arts, civic buildings and schools. So with that exciting foundation, we are inviting private investment to bring housing, retail, hospitality and nightlife to bolster those existing uses. And I am happy to report we are doing so with some success!
We already have negotiations underway with two potential developers of mixed use residential projects – one on Oasis Street and the other on Towne Street. These would be multi-story market-rate housing with street level restaurant, entertainment or retail tenants. We are also negotiating with a potential developer of a Downtown hospitality project. Time will tell if these deals move forward, but we are quite sure it is in our near future.
As an economic opportunity, our Downtown is ripe for reinvestment. As they say in the real estate business, our Downtown still has “the bones” to be restored as an “authentic public place” reflecting the cultural history of our community. Over the last few years, the City has acquired most of the property in the core of the Downtown. And with adoption of our General Plan and Downtown Specific Plan, the development community is able to look at a development opportunity ready to go! Stay tuned to this space for updates!