RIALTO - Downtown has a small-town charm and businesses that have been there for decades.

But it also has a fair bit of turnover, a number of vacant buildings and no real draw to attract pedestrians.

Bringing some life to downtown once again seems to be a priority at City Hall. A new plan to guide the way has been completed and a number of modest or sizable projects are in the works.

"But the bottom line is there is a change coming through," said Joe Flores Jr., president of the Downtown Business Improvement District Association and owner of J & J Auto Fabrics.

In July, the City Council will decide whether to adopt a vision plan developed for downtown. The plan has a wish list that would take tens of millions of dollars to complete.

The recommendations include adding housing downtown, taking advantage of the Metrolink station for development, and building a new civic center with connections to Riverside Avenue.

Also recommended is cleaning up Trickleside Alley west of Riverside Avenue by putting the power lines underground, improving building facades and opening businesses to the alley.

In addition, the city wants to put together a deal with Newport Beach-based KDF Communities to build a 117-unit affordable senior housing project with 5,000 square feet of retail on the first floor.

"We've been going back and forth and negotiating a lot," said city Housing Manager John Dutrey.

The city is also

planning to expand its Metrolink parking lot and has been aggressively making facade upgrades to improve the look of buildings downtown.

"We're going back to how downtowns used to be - a destination where people can park the car and be able to walk around," Dutrey said.

The Mexican restaurant Cuca's was recently remodeled, and new businesses like an art gallery and clothing boutique are on the way.

Brian Powell, whose sister, Tanya Powell, opened Todie's Apparel on Riverside Avenue about 1<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2 months ago, said business has been good.

"People are starting to respond pretty well," he said.

A new, midpriced, American restaurant should be coming to the downtown by the middle of next year, said developer Scott Beard, who is behind the restaurant - kind of like City Hall's own Old Ebbitt Grill, which is near the White House.

"I think there's no sit-down dinner place in Rialto that's any good in my opinion," he said, referring to places that serve American food.

The Alley Kat Jazz Lounge, which will feature live music at night, should be opening by next month.

Dangers do loom for downtown. The weak economy isn't helping revitalization efforts, and a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe's store are on their way two miles south of downtown.

The vision plan isn't the first time the city has tried to bring more life downtown.

"We've had a multitude of these visioning programs that have been done over the years," Beard said. "Obviously, we're hopeful that this one takes hold and the city has the patience and the fortitude."

Dutrey said fulfilling the vision will take time, but it will happen.

"So it's not going to happen in the next five to 10 years."



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