San Bernardino, CA (1992-1994)

Client: Economic Development Agency, City of San Bernardino

In the early 1990’s PPS facilitated a series of brainstorming sessions, workshops and interviews with a broad array of local stakeholders for the city of San Bernadino, which had recently begun a long-term revitalization planning process for their downtown. The process generated two recurrent themes: more events and activities downtown, and accessibility for such activities by improving the pedestrian environment. In light of the city’s development history, which included the building of a shopping mall on the site of downtown’s once-thriving main street, and the widening of several key streets, this seemed a logical response.

The city developed a long-term plan that included the creation of a mixed-use arts and entertainment district. PPS emphasized a short-term program to introduce improvements that could begin working quickly. PPS worked with the city to develop an experimental diagonal parking program to increase parking, slow vehicles, and reduce the width of streets at crosswalks. The program was initiated as an experiment, because local officials were concerned about potential negative impacts in terms of traffic congestion. When these problems did not materialize, the city made the parking permanent, installed additional streetscape amenities, and extended the angled-parking district four blocks and onto cross streets.

In response to the community’s call for a pubic gathering space, PPS recommended using a parking lot, adjacent to Court Street, as a second “experiment.” In less than a year, a new “town square” arose on a piece of that lot, and quickly became a focal point for community life. Court Street Square was used for everything from weekly musical events (“Friday Jazz and Blues Night”) to weddings. These short-term projects gave momentum to longer-term development projects downtown, including a baseball stadium, the rehabilitation and occupation of downtown office buildings and even plans to retrofit the old mall.