: There’s not enough people, there’s not enough businesses.
Or the constant and unfair comparisons to Claremont, he said.
There is, however, a lot of energy around downtown Upland these days, such as Gavin, who has been drawing attention to the area at council meetings.
“All of us need to do our part for downtown Upland,” Gavin recently at a city meeting. “I challenge you once a week to go to downtown and have lunch in downtown Upland. Please, we need as citizens to do our part to bring more bodies, to bring more money to downtown Upland.
A coalition of help
It is that grass-roots effort that has taken off in recent months, in the core of the city’s historic area, which as of late has seen so many businesses come and go.
The core of the downtown retail shops are located along Second Avenue and Ninth Street, which is lined with a mixture of one- and two-story buildings all from different eras, dating back to the early 1900s. The focal point of the intersection is the Gazebo at that intersection.
Dave Stevens, president of the board of directors of the Cooper Regional Museum, and Carol Timm, president and CEO of Upland Heritage, have worked together for the past several months, spearheading initiatives to bring attention to the area.
The duo are part of the Upland Downtown Organizational Team — a joint venture of several local nonprofits in the city. They are downtown merchants association, Historic Downtown Upland Inc., The Cooper Regional History Museum, the Upland Chamber of Commerce, and a fairly new organization called Volunteers of the Inland Empire.
The impetus for the joint venture goes back to last year when two local organizations were vying to run the Lemon Festival, the city ultimately opted for The Learning Centers at Fairplex to oversee the operations.
It was then that Stevens realized more could be done if the groups simply worked together to tackle the problem.
Each nonprofit has two representatives participate in monthly meetings at the Upland Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the problems is people say there is no reason to come down to shop, and businesses won’t come in because no one is shopping,” Stevens said.
The goal is for the Upland Downtown Organizational Team to host at least four major events in the downtown, in addition to all the events already planned by the nonprofits.
State of the downtown
The state of Upland’s downtown decline is not only evident in the empty shops, available parking spaces and for-lease signs around every other corner, but in the recent closure of established businesses such as The Wire, an all-ages music venue for the past seven years, as well as Las Cazuelitas Mexican restaurant, which shuttered late last year after 35 years.
Closures have become so common that many people, when asked, couldn’t say when the Utility Board Shop packed up and moved to the Crossroads Colonies.
There has been a lot of challenges in the last couple of years impacting the area, such as the economy, but Timm — who is a planning commissioner and approved the Colonies – said that development is not taken away potential business away from the heart of the city.
“This is a totally different feeling,” she said. “What we need is more people.”
Upland, Timm said, also needs to be selective in the types of businesses it allows to open in the area, and there needs to be an emphasis on more retails shops rather than service-based businesses or for office space.
Unlike Rancho Cucamonga, which built its mall to resemble a historic downtown, Upland has buildings that are historic.
“The character and atmosphere of the historic downtown Upland area is highly pleasing and desirable, and speaks of our history and our continuing way of life. It has the real thing that Victoria Gardens in Rancho is trying to replicate,” said Godwin Osifeso, an architect whose office is on Second Avenue.
In Claremont, there are at least 80 percent retail stores and 20 percent service-based business, that ratio is good enough to get people to come back to the downtown, Timm said.
“Before we die we want to see this downtown thriving again,” she said.
Getting people to the downtown
With the lack of retail options currently in downtown, both Timm and Stevens know other things have to be done to attract the public.
Which is why the team has planned to host four major events, including future plans to takeover the Lemon Festival operations.
Upland Downtown Organizational Team has already talked to the city about taking over the annual Christmas parade, relieving the city from any costs associated to the event. For nearly three months, they worked with city staff to sort out all the details and planning related to the parade.
Another major event will be an Oktoberfest, for which planning is underway, which Stevens said will be as big as the Lemon Festival. It is scheduled for Oct. 24, 25 and 26.
All over the country people tout their historic downtown and the organization wants to do the same thing.
On May 17, Upland Heritage and Cooper Regional Museum have teamed up to organize Old Magnolia Days, which pays homage to the city’s formation. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Magnolia Township, and normally there would be home tours as part of the event, but given the special celebration, there is also going to be a tour of the entire downtown. People will be dressed in character representing prominent figures in the city, including the first mayor of Upland. This is unofficially the first big event for the Upland Downtown Organizational Team.
Historic Downtown Upland Inc will soon start up its Thursday Farmers Market nights.
Atomic Boutique is planning the inaugural Atomic Invasion Kustom Kulture Car Show for May 3 and will feature a pin-up contest, live music, vendors, a DJ spinning 45s. The event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is sponsored by Historic Downtown Upland.
There are other efforts to bring attention to downtown, such as Classics at the Cafe, a weekly cruise-in — where classic cars gather every Sunday morning — organized by The Crusin’ Brothers, Osifeso said.
Every Sunday morning by 7 a.m., anywhere between 20 and 40 cars show up and more than 100 on the last Sundays of the month park their cars by The Local Baker, and this has resulted in a small boost in business not only for the cafe but the other businesses that are open, he said.
“We felt that if we can help bring families and attractions such as our shiny attractive cars there, that those families that come to see our cars will most likely patronize the restaurants and businesses there, and may keep coming back. At least they will know that HDU area still exists,” Osifeso said.
Currently the only cafe open that early is the Local Baker, but soon Charlie’s Grill and Daddy’O cafe are expected to be open during the cruise in period, he said.
“There is still work to be done. The area has an unusual amount of antique stores and salon,” he said. “The infusion of more diverse businesses will benefit the area.”
A vision for the future
The specific plan, a guiding document for development in the city, calls for vacant land in the sphere of the downtown to be used as either parking structure, commercial and residential developments.
It also calls for adaptive reuse of the packing house as well as plans to spruce up existing alleyways to create small pockets of area for people to congregate.
There are other factors that play in favor of the downtown such as having a Metrolink station on the south end of the downtown.
“We have everything in place to make this a perfect historic, yet modern downtown,” Timm said.
It is something the city is addressing.
Plans are moving forward on Lyon Homes, a 203-unit multifamily residential complex comprised of duplexes, town homes, and condominiums on a 9.5-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Sultana Avenue. The project received approval two years ago, and now construction is expected to begin in the summer.
On another positive note, just last week the city entered into an exclusive six-month agreement with WB Holdings to give the company the opportunity to consider developing city-owned property on the southwest corner of C Street and Third Avenue, which is currently used as a parking lot.
In backing the plan, Councilwoman Debbie Stone said this project could be the kickoff to a revived downtown.
“This could be what would start more people interested getting more people interested in our downtown. It is never going to be what it was but we can make it what it is today,” she said.
In terms of businesses, Timm said she would like to see the return of a pharmacy or perhaps the packing house, near the Cooper Museum, utilized as a grocery store. There is also the need for a coffeehouse, she said.
For all its challenges, both Stevens and Timm are optimistic about the future.
“So the next 18 months to two years things are really going to start to come together, it’s going to be a big difference in downtown,” Stevens said.
With rents fairly low, now is the time for an entrepreneur to get a good deal and bring their business to Upland, Timm chimed in.
“If you are interested in having a business here, I would really think about it, because they are going to miss out if they don’t come pretty soon,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be a thriving place within two years.”
Breathing life back into downtown Upland to revitalize Upland’s downtown area, with the hope of bringing in more businesses.
By The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin | firstname.lastname@example.org |
March 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm