Palm Desert

Resort Community with Big City Vibes

Pamela Bieri Attractions 0 Comments

Just over 30 years old, Palm Desert has grown into a sophisticated resort municipality that has definite big city vibes. With a permanent population of nearly 50,000, Palm Desert is the second largest city in the Coachella Valley.

Palm Desert’s economic vitality courses along the veins of strong retail sales, world-class tourism and resort industry, growing business, entrepreneurial and educational opportunities, and sophisticated cultural, and public amenities. For many families, and retired and relocated urban professionals, Palm Desert is the city of choice for the desert region.

Desert Gateway Heralds Welcome at North Entrance
Desert Gateway shopping center, opened in June with a 221,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Super Center and 154,000-square-foot Sam’s Club, now welcomes visitors and residents who exit off the I-10 at Monterey Avenue.

The center will expand to 700,000 square feet of retail space with Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Ashley Furniture, Cold Stone Creamery, Quiznos, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and other national-based retail and business services. When complete, Desert Gateway will be the second largest retail center in the valley after Westfield Palm Desert.

Along the Monterey Avenue
corridor at Frank Sinatra, the 153,000-square-foot Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse opened last spring, offering homeowners and builders top choice building, home improvement, and landscaping supplies.

Plaza de Monterey on Country Club Drive is undergoing a major renovation and revitalization for the November opening of the 40,000-square-foot gourmet grocery store, Bristol Farms. The shopping center’s overall façade enhancement will give a fresh look for other longtime businesses in this neighborhood center.

University Park is named for the area designated to serve the needs of a growing university community taking shape along Cook Street. The Village at University Park is the first retail center of the 15 non-residential and seven residential projects approved for the 2,100-acre University Park area now under construction.

The Evans Company is the developer of The Village, a $40 million office and retail center to be anchored by Hilton Homewood Suites at Cook Street and Gerald Ford Drive. Fred Evans says, “the open-air, old-town style development encourages walking and minimizes car trips with pedestrian friendly sidewalks and golf cart access.”
Marriott plans to continue expanding its Shadow Ridge timeshare and golf development on Monterey Avenue. On schedule to be completed by 2012, its projected 972 units will make it Marriott’s largest timeshare property in the United States.

Affordable Housing and Expanded Education Opportunities
Falcon Crest on Hovley East is a collection of 93 affordable homes that will be sold to moderate income-families earning from $40,000 per year. The three and four bedroom homes are being developed by Palm Desert’s Redevelopment Agency in association with Community Dynamics, a prominent Southern California builder of affordable housing. A separate 27-unit senior apartment project will also be located at Falcon Crest.

“Falcon Crest will deliver beautiful homes at an affordable price to hard-working residents of our community who might otherwise be excluded from the homeownership market by rising prices. This community promises to enhance our jobs-housing balance and contribute to the continuing vitality of our city,” says Mayor Jim Ferguson.
Housing renovation projects include California Villas, a 140-unit complex to be completed this winter; Palm Village, a 36-unit apartment building expected to be completed this fall; and Laguna Palms, 46-unit multi-family apartments that will start renovations this winter.

The four-year universities of California State University San Bernardino and the University of California at Riverside joined forces to offer baccalaureate and graduate degrees, taking to new heights the many associate degreed programs that College of the Desert has offered for more than 40 years.

Cal State’s third structure, the 23,000-square-foot health and science building is set to break ground this fall. The $14 million Palm Desert Health Sciences Building, for which the Redevelopment Agency donated $4.5 million, will be a training location for nursing and other health professionals. It will join the Mary Stuart Rogers Gateway Building and the Indian Wells Center for Educational Excellence on the Cal State campus.

The first students at the UCR Heckmann Center campus started last year taking postgraduate programs including a Masters in Business Administration in Entrepreneurial Management and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Adjacent to the Heckmann Center is the Education Building with a 300-seat theatre where a full slate of conferences, lecture series, seminars, and special events are offered.

College of the Desert will renovate and expand over the next decade with new buildings and infrastructure on the campus. The Bond B Measure granted $346.5 million to the community college system for the redevelopment. The expansion will double the capacity for nursing and health science students, along with a new training center for Riverside County police and fire fighters.In October, College of the Desert will formally open its Institute of Sales and Service Excellence (ISSE) off campus at Westfield Palm Desert, according to Pam LiCalsi, dean of training and development. The ISSE is a new specialized human resource and skills development/
certification center for the retail and hospitality sectors.

Located on the first floor of the mall, the ISSE has been funded by an innovative partnership among College of the Desert, California Community College’s Economic and Workforce Development programs, Westfield Corporation, and the National Retail Federation Foundation, with support from the Department of Labor and the local workforce investment board for Riverside County.

With computers funded by the City of Palm Desert, the center provides assessment and technology training as well as job placement for both employers and potential employees in partnership with the County of Riverside Workforce Development Center. Job applicants will now have a one-stop center where they can assess, learn, or improve various skills for work.

Where Shopping is an Art
When the long-awaited Nordstrom makes its debut at the Westfield Palm Desert in 2009, the lament that “there is no Nordstrom in the desert” becomes obsolete for the store’s devoted customers.

“Nordstrom will definitely raise the bar for customer service at Westfield Palm Desert,” says Norine Bowen, general manager of the retail center. “Their commitment to the desert confirms that the valley’s growth and overall demographics — high-income residents as well as growing middle-income consumers — makes
it an attractive place to set up shop.”

The store will serve as a catalyst for complete revitalization of Westfield, currently anchored by Macy’s, Sears, and JC Penney. When Robinson’s May closed earlier this year, Macy’s took over the almost 200,000-square-foot location. The former Macy’s men’s apparel and home furnishings store will be demolished to make way for Nordstrom.

Palm Desert’s elegant El Paseo, the mile-long boulevard of art galleries, jewelry stores, haute couturier, home décor, specialty boutiques, and restaurants continues attracting high-end boutiques as well as upscale national retailers.

The Gardens on El Paseo, a lifestyle shopping and dining complex, is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and contains high-end national retailers such as Tiffany’s, Ann Taylor, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Harry and David, Banana Republic, Sharper Image, Talbot’s, and Brooks Brothers. Its native palm grove and desert arroyo garden are an inviting reminder of the desert surroundings.

Desert Crossing and One Eleven Town Center in central Palm Desert, and the Costco center adjacent to the new Desert Gateway in the north sphere, contain nationally known ‘big box’ retailers for clothing, sporting goods, home furnishings, electronics, and toys. College of the Desert’s weekend Street Fair offers goods and produce from the usual to the exotic at this festive, open-air market.

Shoppers whisk between retail centers, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, and hotels in Palm Desert and Indian Wells via the free Shopper Hopper. El Paseo’s three bright yellow Courtesy Carts shuttle shoppers between its 300 stores and restaurants.

The city’s Façade Enhancement Program, initiated five years ago, upped its matching grants to $40,000 to help upgrade parking, façades, lighting, landscaping, and signage on older retail and commercial properties, as well as help develop viable new businesses along Highway 111 and El Paseo.

“An estimated 22 businesses have had face lifts since the program began,” according to Justin McCarthy, assistant city manager for Redevelopment. Five more projects in the works include First Republic Bank and Hathaway Chiropractic at the Crossroads, Coble El Paseo, Shana’s Boutique, The Gold Shop, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Highway 111.

Leader in Sustainable Development
Palm Desert’s 8,200-square-foot Visitor Center is the first building in the Coachella Valley to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification. The U.S. Green Building Council, a coalition working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work, developed the LEED Green Building Rating System.

The Palm Desert Visitor Center focuses on five areas of  sustainable living: water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and is located on a sustainable site.

Ground breaking for the new Henderson Community Building, a second LEED certified building for Palm Desert, took place in August. Located next to the Visitor Center, it will house the Chamber of Commerce and feature conference rooms available for use by local organizations.

“Palm Desert is excited for this building to be underway, as it once again showcases the city’s commitment to the environment with responsible design and construction,” says Mayor Ferguson. “This building will be a true community asset for not only the Chamber, but for the many other local organizations that provide so much to the city and are in need of a place to gather.”

To learn more about business opportunities in the City of Palm Desert, call the Economic Development division at 760-346-0611 or visit online at

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