By Renee Primmer
By Renee Primmer
Magnolia Avenue, the 17 mile stretch of concrete that runs right through the heart of Riverside is being redeveloped with help of the community and the city’s Community Development Department.
The city has held numerous workshops that allowed the community to speak about their concerns on this redevelopment plan.
The third and final workshop was held on Feb. 11.
“Riverside is split into seven separate wards with Magnolia Avenue running through four of them.”
Newly-elected city councilwoman Nancy Hart, of Ward Six said, “The street was laid out years ago by the leaders of the time.
It is time once again to make a valiant effort to leave the future in just as good a shape as they left it to us.”
The city’s goal is to make changes to the streets that will be beneficial for future residents and business owners who currently reside or will end up residing on those streets.
The Grassroots Project, a non-partisan unity-corporation made up of residents, government officials and churches, is against the government’s intervention.
“The private sectors should be able to determine if they want to come in and start projects on their own,” Karen Renfro of the Grassroots Project said.
According to the department, the plans include widening the street to six lanes, adding more efficient public transportation, combining housing and retail, and much more.
Riverside will have a more urban look to its landscape
Newly elected councilman Rusty Bailey, of Ward Three wants to get residents of Riverside to become more pedestrian friendly.
“We need to get people out of their cars, and cars off the street. We are a growing, vibrant city, and with that, comes need for change,” Bailey said.
Many businesses have had to change location to accommodate redevelopment that has taken place.
Local residents and business owners attended the workshops to make sure their voice was heard.
The Kawa Market, Elliot’s Pet Store, and Planet Red Records were already forced to relocate due to the expansion of the Riverside Plaza.
This caused massive concern for other local residents.
Harrison Heublein who works at the URS located on Magnolia, attended the meeting to keep informed and believes there is a positive future in the redevelopment plan.
“It is possible to combine retail, housing and parks as long as it is in the appropriate setting and is complimentary to Riverside’s long time theme,” Heublein said. “Any type of vision requires critical dialogue from the community, therefore, it was essential that the city heard our feedback.”
In certain cities, in order to improve the overall growth of the city, eminent domain becomes an issue as it has here in Riverside.
“Riverside has extremely unfair taxes, that makes it difficult for businesses to survive already,” Renfro said.
However the city believes that growth is not always easy.
“Sometimes there is a cost to living in paradise” Bailey said.
The City of Riverside is expecting a sixty two percent increase in population by the year 2025.
Hart felt that the city needs to have hands on involvement that includes the residents of Riverside.
“You have to tackle these projects when the time, money, and politics can come together,” she said. “That time is now and we are trying to include as many people and businesses in the discussion as possible.”
Renfro said, “Redevelopment is not evidence of prosperity and the government officials don’t care.” “It’s not their money they are spending.”
“This is a transition time for our city, and the department is trying to find ways to include the city’s history as well as urbanize the city,” Bailey said. “Cities that remain stagnant usually fail.”
The city is redeveloping in order to provide more space, which means more jobs, which means less commuting and an overall healthier community.
Bailey is aware that the plan will have some changes in it that will never please everyone.
“There will never be a perfect plan, somebody will always be affected negatively by redevelopment,” Bailey said. “The major question being pushed by local residents is whether or not private property should be taken for public use, or government money should be focused on redevelopment.”
Renfro says that funds that were once allocated for schools, libraries, and the sheriff department are being cut in order to redevelop.
It is estimated that $326 million has been diverted because of redevelopment, which could have gone to schools, libraries and the sheriff department.
“People who believe in redevelopment are either liars or they are diluted from the truth,” Renfro said.
Upon hearing the Magnolia Avenue Specific Plans, one might wonder why Riverside hasn’t redeveloped sooner.
However, when one realizes how many people are being directly affected, the issue becomes much more complex on a micro level.
Riverside’s Magnolia Avenue is a common ground for every type of person.
The City’s department held these workshops to ease rising public concern and assure residents that these changes were crucial for Riverside .
Workshop three was said to be the last workshop on the issue, according to Ken Gutierrez of the department.
“Workshop three received a great turn out and received many beneficial feedback comments for each ward in the city,” Gutierrez said.
The residents of Magnolia Avenue will have to wait patiently, while the department devises a plan that will accommodate the city’s future as well as its residents of the present.
One thing is for sure Riverside will never look the same again.