Though the Coachella Valley and the State are still dealing with a challenging economy, Cathedral City continues to make economic strides through innovative planning and expediting key business and residential development to grow the City.
Brad and Frances Johnson recently moved from Palm Desert to their new 2,200-square-foot Santoro Estates home in Cathedral City. The Johnsons found their dream home desirably located at 30th and Santoro Drive near the city’s soccer park. “We love the house. There is no way we could get this size and quality new home where we were, which is why we made the move,” exclaims Frances, who runs an alarm and cleaning service business with Brad. The couple had been looking long and hard, scouring the MLS and open houses around Palm Desert. When they saw the homes and the value offered at Santoro Estates, they were sold. The city’s central location, choice shopping, recreational activities, and family restaurants also helped the Johnsons make their decision. “It’s near our church and daughter’s school and we’re looking forward to discovering small neighborhood restaurants that make Cathedral City a real place to call home,” Frances adds.
Look at the city’s upbeat downtown and the Fountain of Life across from the Mary Pickford Theater where multi-generational families cool off and come together. The sense of community and camaraderie in Cathedral City is evident everywhere.
The Johnsons are an example of why developments like Santoro Estates that offer quality affordable living in a family neighborhood are attracting more buyers to Cathedral City. Santoro Estates is a success story. The original developer lost his financing when most of the homes were more than 65% complete. In January, believing in the potential of Cathedral City, builder Cathedral Sun LLC, a subsidiary of Stockton, California-based Florsheim Homes stepped in and finished building the development’s 36 homes. Prices were lowered offering great value to home buyers. “We were presented this opportunity by the bank and saw the potential to complete a high-quality family community in a good location and went for it,” says Joe Anfuso, Florsheim’s president. The buyers were all local who knew what a good deal Santoro Estates now offered. “It was truly a mutually beneficial relationship between us and the city. They wanted the project done and were very accommodating,” Anfuso adds.
A similar situation exists at the new sections of the communities of Rio del Sol and Rio Vista. New builders have come in and are finishing the remaining homes, again offering significant value to buyers. “We are in the fortunate position of being able to truly say that our residential development is no longer stalled,” points out Jan Davison, the city’s redevelopment director. Cathedral City now offers increased inventory of quality new homes despite challenging economic times.
The city’s plans for new bike trails promise more family-friendly activities for residents. “Cathedral City is a livable community that a diverse and active population calls home,” observes Allen Howe, communications officer/assistant to the city manager. The city is working with the Coachella Valley Water District to develop water levee banks into bike trails that would in turn, be interconnected with other valley bikeways. The project will benefit bicycle commuters and recreational riders by providing a safe, more direct route to schools and other destinations. One part of the project consists of a one-mile bike path along the east side of Whitewater River Channel and about 3,000 feet of bike lanes along 30th Avenue. Future phases will continue to construct the trail to the south. Phase Two will construct about 6,000 linear feet of bike trail along the east side of the Channel from 30th Avenue to Ramon Road. Phase Three will continue the Bike Trail along the east side of the Channel from Ramon Road to Dinah Shore Drive. Bike riders will have their choice of comfortable and safe trails to enjoy within Cathedral City. One more reason Cathedral City is a desirable place to live, work and play.
Real estate broker/associate Alice Baker and her husband moved to the Cove just minutes above the City’s downtown five years ago after 20 years in Palm Springs. “It’s centrally located to everything. I love doing business with all the small business owners here. Everyone is friendly and it reminds me of growing up in the Midwest.” Except for her real estate business, Baker doesn’t have to leave the City for shopping or restaurants.
In addition to being family friendly, Cathedral City continually reaches out to both new and existing businesses. John Kiefer president of the newly opened Palm Springs Kia, is pleased to be the newest dealership at Cathedral City Auto Center. Kiefer, who hails from Eugene, Ore., where Kiefer Kia has operated since 1996, saw a major market opportunity for a Coachella Valley Kia dealership. “There are lots of Kia owners here. Yet there was no longer a dealer here, ” he says. Kiefer chose the Cathedral City Auto Center to take advantage of its location, size and scope of dealers. “The draw for us was the auto center represents a great opportunity because it has the largest sales volume in the desert with the most brands.” Kiefer is pleased with Kia’s location next to Lexus and across from Toyota. “It’s a great opportunity for consumers to see all brands and good for us to benefit from cross-shopping,” notes Kiefer, whose 12,000-square foot-dealership sits on 3.5 acres, allowing for a broad inventory.
The city stands to net additional tax revenues from its newest auto resident. “Palm Springs Kia brings a fresh opportunity to the auto center, and we are very pleased to have them. In addition to being the area’s only Kia dealer, there are 4,000 Kias still under warranty needing service,” notes Davison. “The Cathedral City Auto Center increased its market share in the Coachella Valley, which is certainly a reason Palm Springs Kia chose to locate here,” she adds.
When Anthony Liu was looking for a Riverside County location for his Olympic training ice skating facility, Ice Castle he chose the former Coca-Cola distribution facility on Perez Road as the new home for his second Ice Castle. His first Ice Castle is in Lake Arrowhead, where Frank Carroll is known for turning out Olympic figure skating champions, including Evan Lysacek and Michelle Kwan. The building is scheduled to open by year-end. “We had been looking around the area for a while. It was hard finding a building suitable for an ice rink,” says Liu, who purchased the 26,000-square-foot warehouse last April. He cites the large skating community in the Coachella Valley as a strong reason to locate here.
The Ice Castle is an exciting sports venue for the area. It is a full-service skating facility with an Olympic coach line up offering hockey, figure skating, lessons and tournaments. The city’s “can-do” attitude to both new and existing businesses was evident to Liu from the start. “Everyone I worked with at the city was extremely helpful. Somebody was always there to answer questions and help with permitting,” recalls Liu. “We are expediting the Ice Castle project, because we are business friendly and this is exactly the type of project we want for the city,” explains Keith Scott, project manager. The city implemented a new process for development services designed to expedite projects. “We review the projects as they come in and get various departments’ comments, pass them on to the developer, and have them meet with us and explain what is going on so we get a clear picture early on of the project and the requirements to make it work,” Scott says. This cuts out a lot of time consuming back and forth between the City and developers.
As Cove resident Baker noted. Cathedral City is filled with small unique shops and restaurants. Daniel Webster owner of Big Mama’s Soul Food located next to the IMAX theater has reached out to locals for the last four years to grow his business. “People who live in the city have become our regular customers. We started advertising on Telemundo to reach the Hispanic community. We have a strong following with those residents who are spreading the word about us,” says Webster, whose restaurant has been named Best BBQ in the Desert and also recommended by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Retail “clustering” makes for destination shopping, which can be seen along Perez Road. It is home to all types of home-improvement and design stores, from tile and stone to bathroom and kitchen fixtures to specialized lighting. “People from all over the valley come to Perez to shop. It’s a district we are proud of,” Howe observes.
Clustering is a successful, rapidly growing retail concept where by small businesses locate close together to attract shoppers to a specific area. That’s a core part of the Date Palm Drive Corridor Plan, produced in partnership with a grant awarded from the Southern California Association of Governments to Cathedral City, and prepared by the respected Gruen Consultant Team and recently presented to the City Council.
The Plan offers suggestions on how to turn the 6-mile stretch that connects the city from Varner Road (north of I-10) to downtown and East Palm Canyon Drive into a vibrant retail and commercial area integrating nearby residential living with cohesive shopping, office, dining, and entertainment offerings. According to Leisa Lukes, Cathedral City planning director, Date Palm Drive will brand retail clusters located along one of the main commercial corridors of Cathedral City. “It’s a big push for our economic development and for the city’s future to give our residents and businesses choices as we move in a forward direction. The plan increases Date Palm’s economic viability while the City continues to pave the way for increased private development in the downtown area to create a cluster of family entertainment and restaurant choices.” When finished look to the Date Palm Drive Corridor to showcase a progressive and vibrant city.
New development is very much on the horizon for Cathedral City. According to Redevelopment Director, Davison, strong interest in locating commercial projects here was expressed by developers at the recent International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas. Developers are attracted to the city’s central west valley location. The City is working hard to make it easy for developers to come in and start their projects. “We assemble the sites with clearance activities and get them ready with utilities so they can move forward. We are appreciative of the “time-is-money” aspect to development,” Davison says. The City is also in discussion with a new developer for the commercial development on 20 acres at Date Palm and East Palm Canyon Drives.
Andy Hall, community development director who oversees the planning, engineering and building departments points out additional development opportunities in the City. “The City has totally transformed itself with all the new building we’ve done. We’ve also cleared the slate for new economic development on the east side of downtown.” Hall is referring to the 23 prime acres ready for development that is owned by the City’s Redevelopment Agency’s redevelopment located near City Hall and the Fountain of Life.
Mayor: Kathy DeRosa
Mayor Pro Tem: Charles England
Council Members: Paul S. Marchand, Esq., Gregory S. Pettis, Chuck Vasquez
Year Incorporated: 1981
Median Household Income: $52,403