By Staff Reporter

Most of the downtown of San Bernardino has been deserted

“Deserted Downtown: A View of San Bernardino’s Mostly Vacant Urban Center”

San Bernardino, CA – As the City of San Bernardino embarks on an ambitious plan to rejuvenate its urban heart, the downtown area presents a stark contrast. A substantial portion of the city’s downtown remains eerily deserted, mirroring the challenges faced by numerous urban centers across the nation.

Interim City Manager Charles McNeely, an advocate for downtown revitalization, remarked, “When we transform our downtown, we transform San Bernardino. And that time is now.” Yet, the road to revitalization is far from straightforward, as the Mayor and City Council assess a series of proposals designed to breathe life back into the heart of the city.

Despite the downtown area constituting a mere 1.4 percent of the city’s population, it accounts for a substantial 19 percent of its jobs. McNeely sees this as a promising foundation on which to build. “Downtown San Bernardino is already a huge economic driver for our City,” he noted. “It has the potential to bring many more jobs, much more housing, and significantly more economic activity than there currently is.”

The comprehensive proposals under consideration include partnering with Cal State San Bernardino’s Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship to create an Entrepreneurial Resource Center, exploring the conversion of Court Street into a pedestrian corridor for various events, forming a downtown property and business improvement district (PBID), and collaborating with Cal State, San Bernardino to establish a downtown satellite campus.

Another key element of the plan is authorizing the San Bernardino Police Department to recruit additional officers to form a permanent downtown quality of life team, focusing on safety concerns unique to the downtown area. This initiative builds upon a successful pilot project launched earlier this year.

Several city-owned properties, including the Regal Cinema Plaza, the Convention Center, San Manuel Stadium, E Street retail sites, and the former Woolworth Building, are also targeted for revitalization efforts. A preliminary Engineering and Space Study Plan for San Bernardino’s City Hall is in the works, and a $2.5 million renovation of the historic California Theater has been initiated.

Additional steps include expanding the city’s economic development staff, contracting with a real estate brokerage firm to market city-owned property, launching an economic development action plan, and initiating a façade improvement program for commercial corridors. Furthermore, the city plans to establish a revolving loan program to provide emergency and ongoing financing to small businesses and explore the creation of more downtown special events.

While the transformation of downtown San Bernardino is already in progress, the challenge lies in bridging the gap between revitalization plans and tangible results. Recent developments, such as a $3 million small business and non-profit grant program and proactive property maintenance measures, are steps in the right direction. Furthermore, significant investments, including a government center and new restaurants, demonstrate a growing interest in downtown San Bernardino’s potential.

However, one of the most prominent opportunities remains the redevelopment of the 42-acre Carousel Mall property. As it undergoes demolition to prepare for new housing and commercial development, San Bernardino looks ahead to a promising future.

In a city that seeks to redefine itself through revitalization, the deserted streets of downtown San Bernardino serve as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by urban centers across the country. With bold plans in place and steps already taken, the city aims to transform these vacant spaces into vibrant, thriving areas once more.

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