It requires little more than a glance at a Coachella Valley map to see that the City of Rancho Mirage occupies an enviable spot. If a gigantic bull’s-eye were to be placed over the center of the valley, Rancho Mirage and its environs would easily rest inside most of its concentric circles. A steady stream of vehicles is delivered daily to this target zone, courtesy of Highway 111 traffic to the south and the newly completed Interstate 10/Bob Hope Interchange to the north. Developers and new business ventures stand to score highly when they invest in Rancho Mirage.
These days all eyes are on a prime piece of real estate at the northern edge of the city adjacent to the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa and Interstate 10. Section 19, as it’s known, represents an opportunity for new development at the gateway to an otherwise largely built-out community.
The long-term vision is to bring a different style of living, working, and shopping to the desert. The recently adopted Section 19 Specific Plan paves the way for development of more than 3 million square feet of commercial, retail, office, and restaurant space, with close to 2,000 residential units and 580 hotel rooms over 265 acres.
Once completed, the area will be a magnet for the entire Coachella Valley.
An undertaking of this magnitude comes with a set of challenges. The Specific Plan area encompasses 11 parcels owned by multiple entities, including private landowners, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, and the City of Rancho Mirage. Given the scope of the potential build-out, water service also is a complicated and costly endeavor.
In a shining example of city government at its best, Rancho Mirage’s thoughtful and continuous leadership has engaged in extensive long-term planning to clear these hurdles and see this project through to fruition. For example, their work with the Coachella Valley Water District has resulted in an agreement to tackle the water issue. “Many parties have joined together to make this plan a success for our future,” says Mayor Richard W. Kite.
“We’re doing the upfront heavy lifting,” says Curt Watts, Development Services Director for the City of Rancho Mirage, referring to how the city is skillfully handling property owner negotiations and resolution of water issues, smoothing the way for development in a dynamic location.
The sheer flexibility inherent in the Section 19 Specific Plan infuses it with vitality. Taking a cue from the grand presence of the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, four-story and higher buildings will be allowed to rise on adjacent Section 19 land, allowing a high density mix of commercial, office, entertainment, hotel, and residential spaces.
The site’s downward sloping topography offers the greatest potential to construct taller residential and mixed-use buildings, resulting in more open space for occupants to enjoy. The Specific Plan calls for public plazas and pocket parks to link with pedestrian walkways through retail, office, and residential areas. The goal is to create a vibrant “live/work/play” setting, the likes of which has never been seen in the Coachella Valley.
Every day, an average of more than 100,000 vehicles travel on Interstate 10 along Rancho Mirage’s northern border. Many utilize the long-awaited Bob Hope interchange leading into Rancho Mirage. No doubt this northwest gateway into the City benefits from the drawing power of the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa and its eye-catching, welcoming marquis. Its existence is an example of the markedly different type of signage to be permitted in proximity to the freeway — further evidence of the Specific Plan’s flexibility in order to assure success for all businesses.
The owners of approximately 34 acres at the northeast corner of Dinah Shore and Bob Hope Drives are poised to move forward with the first phase of development, known as Rancho Mirage Commons. It’s expected that build out of neighboring sections will quickly follow as the overall economic picture continues to improve. “After years of meetings to plan this extension of our city and with the economy improving, it is positioned to become one of the prime locations for development in the valley,” Mayor Kite says.
Another development whose time has come is the newly opened Rancho Mirage High School near the Da Vall Drive and Ramon Road intersection. A secondary school brings a fresh dimension to any community. In Rancho Mirage’s case, it’s a multi-faceted dimension since the scope of this educational institution is far from commonplace. The state-of-the-art facility will feature three distinct career pathway programs — performing arts, culinary arts, and a Mechanical/Transportation Academy.
The curriculum put forth by the new high school, particularly in performing arts and culinary arts, is a good match for a city whose livelihood centers on hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and the resort lifestyle. Certainly local philanthropist Helene Galen has taken note. She pledged a generous $1.5 million in late May of this year to be paid over a six year period to support the school’s performing arts center and theater and to establish an endowment fund. Moving forward, the Helene Galen Center for the Performing Arts will not only train generations of students eager to explore the performing arts but will also provide a marvelous new entertainment venue the entire community can enjoy. Welcome Rancho Mirage Rattlers!
At 40 years young and growing, Rancho Mirage has never looked more inviting. Credit an unsurpassed location and years of careful planning by its elected officials. It’s a potent combination that ensures the city’s prominence on the map for generations to come.
— June Allan Corrigan
Richard W. Kite
Scott Hines, G. Dana Hobart, Ted Weill