Fiscally sound, businessfriendly, and green.
That’s the way Coachella is positioning itself as the city reaches out to businesses and families looking for a new place to call home.
This isn’t wishful thinking.
Armed with progressive growth and business policies and an efficient and forward-thinking staff, Coachella has obtained nearly $100 million in capital improvement grants that are transforming the city into the smart growth hub of the Coachella Valley.
Coachella will soon have two electric vehicle charging stations and a carport with enough solar panels to satisfy nearly all of the electricity needs of the city’s public works and water utility operations.
The city is also building a compressed natural gas, or CNG, charging station that will be open to the public 24/7, while traffic signals at 11 interchanges along Harrison Street and Grapefruit Boulevard are being synchronized to maximize motorists’ fuel efficiency and minimize air pollution.
Coachella is also working to attract new businesses to diversify its economic base, with Walmart, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Sears, and Sol Sports Restaurant among the latest additions. Several national brand retailers and a physical fitness retail location are in the works as well.
“We’re on the right path,” says Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia. “We’re taking very visible steps to demonstrate that Coachella is fiscally sound, business-friendly, and green.”
The city is working with Las Vegas–based New West Communities to develop La Entrada, the Coachella Valley’s first major smart-growth community.
La Entrada will be developed over the next 20-plus years and will include 7,800 homes, 1.5 million square feet of retail space and generate more than $3.4 billion in taxable sales. “The project will bring much higher income residents to Coachella as well as a much wider selection of retail stores and restaurants, which will strengthen and diversify our economy,” Garcia says. He adds that the project will include construction of the first major interchange linking Interstate 10 with the city of Coachella.
Terry Manley, New West Communities’ president, says his company sees La Entrada as an opportunity to do forward thinking and planning in an area of Coachella that will be a focal point for growth in Riverside County as the economy continues to improve.
“La Entrada is going to be a transformational event for the city of Coachella,” Manley told Palm Springs Life, adding that the project’s location near Interstate 10 and the foothills of the Chuckwalla Mountains and Mecca Hills will entice entrepreneurs and families.
Dr. John Husing, a San Bernardino–based economist who produced a report assessing La Entrada’s potential impacts, said the $1 billion development could generate an average of 889 jobs per year with an estimated 20,438 jobs created over the 23-plus-year life span of the project commencing in 2016. Dr. Husing estimates that the new homes will be built at a rate of about 350 units per year beginning in 2016.
Mark Weber, Coachella’s economic development manager, says the magnitude of the La Entrada development, combined with Coachella’s new business and smart growth initiatives, is helping the city as it markets itself to businesses and entrepreneurs across the country.
“I think our City Council and city staff are very creative in trying to think out of the box in ways they want to grow our community,” he says.
Weber adds that as companies in the west end of the Coachella Valley look to expand, they are increasingly looking at Coachella as the place where they want to be.
ShareKitchen is one case in point.
The west valley–based nonprofit is a small food business incubator that helps foster food industry entrepreneurship, education, and training. Since its opening in 2012, ShareKitchen has helped launch 30 small businesses.
But when it came time to expand, ShareKitchen opted to move into an office in the new Coachella Business Incubator and is looking to expand its operations in Coachella.
“When we started looking at where we could have the biggest impact, Coachella was a logical choice because of the city’s access to Interstate 10, its access to families, and its involvement with the agriculture community,” said Angela Janus, ShareKitchen’s executive director.
She added that ShareKitchen has the ability to help farmers in the eastern Coachella Valley diversify their business operations to include production of valueadded food products.
Coachella is also sharpening its focus on the health and wellness of its residents. One of the city’s newest medical-related recruits is the Coachella Kidney Institute, which built and opened a new facility in the downtown core along Sixth Street, known as Pueblo Viejo.
Coachella's recent adoption of a new community health and wellness policy highlights the city’s focus on recruiting affordable, high-quality healthcare providers while also ensuring the promotion of healthy activities and local residents’ access to safe, healthy, locally grown produce.
The city is working to increase recreational opportunities for local residents by organizing three 5K runs each year. Coachella has partnered with Desert Recreation District to offer adult softball and volleyball teams, movies in the park, summer camps, and fitness classes, including karate, Zumba, and “Fit at 50.”
The city is also expanding its cultural attractions. Coachella already hosts the largest Hispanic cultural events in the Coachella Valley, which include its Cinco de Mayo, 16th of September, and Day of the Dead fiestas. These family-friendly events feature music, food, and dancing, and attract people from throughout the Coachella Valley.
This year, Coachella’s 16-acre Rancho Las Flores Park will also host the inaugural Día de los Muertos USA on Nov. 1-2, a two-day Mexican cultural festival with food, arts, and live music, including Mexican rock, mariachi, norteño, banda, and pop music.
Earlier this year, the city launched Coachella Walls, which will be an ongoing mural painting project in the downtown Pueblo Viejo area. It currently includes murals with cultural, arts, and music themes, with several dedicated to the memory of Cesar Chavez and the anonymous farmworkers.
Famous muralists and contemporary artists from the United States and around the world participated in the first round of painting last spring, drawing national media attention, including a write-up in the Los Angeles Times. Coachella Walls will continue next spring.
“This is an exciting time in the city of Coachella,” Garcia says.
Arturo Aviles, Emmanuel Martinez, Magdalena Zepeda