Two new restaurants, Brunch 101 and Desert Thai, are both located off East Palm Canyon and Monty Hall drives.
PHOTO BY CHAD VAN HORN
After a majority of Cathedral City residents voted in favor of incorporation in 1981, The Desert Sun newspaper editorialized, “[T]here’ll be the undeniable need for developing long-range plans to win for Cathedral City a respected place among Riverside County and Coachella Valley communities.”
At the time, Cathedral City lacked one of the core elements of vibrant municipalities: a centralized district of activity, typically considered a “downtown.” Over the decades, city officials fueled the engine to create a vibrant central gathering place. A plaza around city hall now includes a fountain art piece; live-performance and film theaters; restaurants/bars; and, most recently, an amphitheater used for everything from free guided yoga sessions to musical performances tied to festivals and holiday events.
The most significant aspect of Cathedral City’s ethos of community development is taking place inside the building these days. In April, the city council adopted its first five-year strategic plan. In her 2023 State of the City address the following month, Mayor Rita Lamb described it as a “roadmap” and “working document” that would adapt to the times.
“It is fascinating to watch what effective strategic plan implementation looks like,” says Stone James, the city’s economic development director who holds a doctorate in policy, planning, and development. “So many times, companies create strategic plans which are put on a shelf never to be seen again.” James describes the intentional process the city is implementing, where staff meets weekly with roundtable discussions on strategic plan goals and what is being done to accomplish those goals. James went on to state, “what the City is accomplishing is impressive and what makes Cathedral City’s strategic plan even more meaningful is the (strategic) plan took into consideration a statistically valid community survey City leadership proactively conducted. That survey exposed what the City is doing right and what needs to be improved. The Council and senior leadership took this blunt feedback and crafted strategic plan goals to build on existing momentum and turn weaknesses into strengths”.
“The plan builds momentum and provides consistency in action,” James says. “As the plan is reinforced, frontline staff will better understand the council’s direction for day-to-day decisions. While this concept of Commander’s Intent seems simple, from a leadership and operational perspective, having clearly articulated mission, values, vision, and goals is profound.” Among the actions enumerated under the plan’s “community investment” goal is this: “By the end of 2023 complete the design phase and begin construction on the Dream Homes Park.”
Recently completed four-lane Ofelia Bringas Bridge.
PHOTO COURTESY CATHEDRAL CITY
In December of 2021, Cathedral City won a grant of just under $8.5 million from the California Department of Parks and Recreation for a 7.5-acre park to serve the residents of a neighborhood, dating back to the late 1950s, that is sorely lacking the amenities of newer communities. The city plans to supplement funds for the Dreams Homes Park project and it is expected to open in 2025 with a central plaza, playgrounds, small and large dog parks, a shaded fitness area, picnic zones with barbecues, soccer/multiuse fields, basketball courts, and a connection to the CV Link biking/pedestrian pathway.
The city has also been investing in improvements at other neighborhood parks. The city is currently working to design and ultimately build a downtown dog park between Monty Hall and Date Palm drives. The residential realm is growing as well. Cathedral City issued a near-record number of building permits in 2022 and two projects are reinvigorating established communities. One is Rio del Sol, a collection of four neighborhoods, with homes dating back to the mid-1980s. Local homebuilder GHA Companies is developing within the Rio del Sol master-planned community, for a total of 220 new homes. Two of the neighborhoods under construction include Montecito and Palazzo, each offering three floorplans.
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The second project expands the footprint of Campanile, which began in 2006 but stalled when the real estate market plummeted. At the time, 150 homes were built. Now Santa Clarita-headquartered Williams Homes is building an additional 144 houses in a range of six floorplans. On vacant land immediately east of Campanile, Desert Housing Ventures of Newport Beach plans to break ground before the end of the year on Mountain View Estates, comprising 110 single-family homes, each of which will have an accessory dwelling unit with its own garage.
Amid the wave of downtown vitality, Cathedral Cove Center, encompassing 13 acres at East Palm Canyon and Date Palm drives, gained momentum in June when Fountainhead Development of Newport Beach purchased the 5 acres designated commercial (potential uses on the remaining 8 acres includes residential, hotel, or special use commercial). On the east end of the commercial development will be the city’s third Starbucks. The coffee empire “has been looking for opportunities to get into our Downtown Arts and Entertainment District for six years because they saw it expanding,” James says. The next pad west of the coffee chain will feature a trio of in-line shops. Chipotle Mexican Grill will fill the middle pad, offering a drive-thru for pickup only, the national burger chain Farmer Boys will open west of Chipotle, and the western-most pad will be a Circle K convenience store with fueling pumps. Also on the horizon is a Dave’s Hot Chicken drive-thru just south of The Habit Burger Grill, which opened earlier this year in Date Palm Plaza between Ramon Road and McCallum Way.
The District is a new single-family home community.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY CATHEDRAL CITY
For sui generis dining experiences, Cathedral City offers two new restaurants, each in their own suite at the same East Palm Canyon (Highway 111) street address: Desert Thai and Brunch 101. Within walking distance of Mary Pickford Theater, the family-owned Desert Thai opened in November of 2022. Months later, Oscar Vazquez and Natasha Garcia introduced a concept that people sensed they needed but perhaps had not identified: brunch on more than just Sunday. Brunch 101 makes the social-luxury meal an option every day but Tuesday.
In crafting its strategic plan, Cathedral City included among its missions “celebrating our independent spirit.” Fitting that aim are the recent openings of the four-lane Ofelia Bringas Bridge with art tiles memorializing a local youth counselor and a Veterans Village of Cathedral City housing project, as well as signature events like SnowFest at North Pole Village, Cathedral City LGBT Days, Taste of Jalisco, and the Cathedral City International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Village of Rio del Sol combines four exciting communities to form a master-planned collection of gated lifestyle neighborhoods.
PHOTO COURTESY RIO DEL SOL
In line with the plan’s stated values of safety and community pride, for the second year in a row Cathedral City ranked amid California’s 50 safest cities as published by SafeWise in 2022 and scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Index. These repeat achievements for the city speak to the sustainability of its community culture.