News Article | 6/21/2007

Rialto’s big chance

RIALTO – For years, the city paid a price for being hard to get to, with only one exit and entrance off the 10 Freeway.

But once the 210 Freeway is completed later this year, four new miles of freeway will run through the city.

Along with the new freeway access will come a number of new development projects that could help reshape the city’s image.

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

Work on plans for the relatively vacant land along the 210 route is moving ahead at a frenzied pace in Rialto. When it opens, there will be exits at Ayala Drive, Riverside Avenue and State Street, with an exit at Pepper Avenue in the works.

The three biggest projects will be a mixed-use development still in the planning stages at Pepper, a shopping area at Riverside Avenue and the boldest – and least discreetly named – of all: Renaissance Rialto on the city’s northwest end.

So what can residents expect to see built around the 210?

It will take a while to attract upscale stores and restaurants to Rialto, Greg Stoffel, a consultant with Stoffel and Associates, said at a recent City Council meeting to discuss retail opportunities in the city.

“I think it’s really important that we’re realistic,” he said.

The 210 will not be able to singlehandedly transform the city, Garcia said.

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

But the direct connection to Pasadena will bring in better-educated, wealthier residents.

The new residents should have twice the household income of the city’s current residents, and they will have smaller families.

A number of new distribution centers, including the massive Target distribution center, are already moving to the area around the freeway.

Renaissance Rialto, much of which is being developed by a partnership of the Lewis Group and the Texas developer Hillwood, will have about 3,900 homes with 10,500 residents and will create about 4,000 jobs. The portion of the development that Lewis and Hillwood control will generate about $1.5 million in sales tax revenue a year, said Robb Steel, the city’s economic development director.

The commercial area, which will be along Ayala Drive, will include a Target and three to four other large stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond and an office supply or sporting goods store, Steel said. There will also be a couple of restaurants and a coffee shop. This commercial piece could be done by 2009.

In order to provide the businesses there with patrons during the day, city leaders have toyed with the idea of moving the Civic Center to the project.

After Renaissance is built, the 6,000-home Lytle Creek development north of Renaissance will further boost the city.

“I think that (Renaissance Rialto) combined with Lytle will reshape the image of Rialto,” Garcia said.

With the housing market cool, the Lytle project is on hold while developers wait to see how things go with Renaissance, said Mike Story, the city’s development services director.

Though the details of the Pepper project are still being worked out, the project at Riverside Avenue and the 210, known as the Shoppes at Creekside, will have a bank, a Tesco market, a gas station and a drive-through, Story said.

There’s already a Ralphs in the area, a Starbucks should be opening by the end of this month and a Denny’s or Coco’s, as well as a Del Taco, should be moving in, he said.

It is Renaissance, though, part of which will replace the city’s airport, that has attracted the most attention.

The project will use up some of the city’s last open land.

Former Councilman Joe Sampson has called it “our last, best opportunity to make that big leap.”