News Article | 5/14/2007

Area to get more than traffic

RIALTO – Within the next few months, instead of coming to an abrupt end, the Interstate 210 extension will funnel motorists into areas ripe for upscale homes and businesses.

The freeway, which was extended from Los Angeles County through Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, has carried not only cars but economic energy through the area.

As the extension is set to be connected to Highway 30 by the end of the year, Rialto is salivating about the goodies in store. Among them are a new Target, restaurants and upscale homes.

Most of the buzz about I-210 in Rialto has focused on Renaissance Rialto, a massive retail and housing project that will replace the city’s airport.

“I think that that project combined with Lytle will reshape the image of Rialto,” City Administrator Henry Garcia said, referring to the Lytle Creek project, which will have even more housing than the 3,900 units planned for Renaissance.

On Tuesday night, the City Council held a workshop to discuss retail opportunities in the city, specifically in the Renaissance area.

Formal plans for the project should come to the council for a vote by the end of this year, and the commercial piece could be done in 2009, said Robb Steel, the city’s economic development director.

That commercial area, which will be along Ayala Drive, will include the Target; three to four large stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond; an office supply or sporting goods store; one to two fast-food restaurants; a coffee shop; a restaurant; and a food court, he said.

The council will try to get on the same page about exactly what it wants for the retail area before going to market the city at the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention later this month in Las Vegas, Steel said.

In June, there will be a workshop to discuss plans for another large development where I-210 will meet Pepper Avenue once the city extends Pepper to the freeway by 2009, he said.

A strip mall called the Shoppes at Creekside will also be built at Riverside Avenue and I-210.

In addition to the housing and retail projects, the city already has a number of new distribution centers near I-210, including the massive Target distribution center.

The portion of the Renaissance area that the Lewis Group and Texas-based Hillwood are developing should bring in about $1.5 million in sales tax revenue a year, Steel said.

The new development should also attract residents with twice the household income and smaller families than the city’s current residents, Steel said.

Rialto needs the economic shot in the arm, or the “bonanza” as Steel put it, that the I-210 corridor will provide to improve city services and help remake its image.

It has historically viewed itself as a bedroom community, but with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, it became more important to bring in retail, Steel said.

The city has less than a mile of frontage along Interstate 10, and the land it does have is taken up by trains and habitat for the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly – not the most lucrative uses – Steel said.

All these factors and the completion of I-210 make the next few months a critical time for Rialto.

“This is our one time in our community’s history to map this city’s future correctly,” Garcia said. “We only get one good shot at it.”

In Fontana, the freeway has brought in new residents and new businesses, including an auto mall, a Costco, restaurants, a Home Depot, a Lowe’s and hotels that are on the way.

“It yielded for us a Miracle Mile,” said Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi, talking about the stretch of the freeway from Citrus Avenue to Sierra Avenue.

“Certainly the demographics are different in the north end,” said Ken Galasso, the chairman of the Fontana Chamber of Commerce and a planning commissioner.

The freeway was finished while the housing market was in great shape, which only increased the impact for the city, he said.

“Looking back, I can’t separate them.”

Although the housing market has slowed, temporarily halting the Lytle Creek project in Rialto, the commercial market still needs to catch up with all the new residents in the area, Steel said.

Despite the experience to the west, the I-210 extension might not have the same impact on Rialto.

Cities such as Rancho Cucamonga are newer with more open land than older places such as Rialto and San Bernardino, said regional economist John Husing.

I-210 is also not the busy thoroughfare I-10 is, Steel said.

The impact will not be “grandiose,” Garcia said.

“I see it as one of many contributing factors to our economic development,” he said.

The extension will also affect the communities to the east of Rialto, Husing said. Because State Street will have an off-ramp, Muscoy is in line for some major changes, he said.

Cities east of San Bernardino will see an even greater impact than San Bernardino and Rialto, he said, because there is more open space in those communities.