Marked by a streetside water fountain, The Gardens on El Paseo is a premier outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment hub.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHAD VAN HORN
“Great ideas don’t exist in a vacuum” is a sentiment the City of Palm Desert takes to heart. It forms the basis of numerous creative partnerships the City is actively pursuing to promote various sectors of economic development within its boundaries. The partnerships are designed to benefit businesses, residents and other stakeholders. Having marked 50 years of cityhood just this year, Palm Desert’s civic leaders have long recognized the power of collaboration.
A perfect example of a creative partnership is one the City formed with the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC). Aimed at ensuring the development of high-quality housing for people at all income levels, the alliance has succeeded in making the dream of home ownership a reality for 14 qualified families. The partnership began in 2020 when the City transferred 14 vacant lots on Merle Drive to CVHC in conjunction with their Self-Help Program. The purpose was to construct 14 detached single-family dwellings for very-low and low-income first-time home buyers whose households include at least one member employed by a Palm Desert business.
Each qualifying household received a $25,000 loan from the City, further underscoring Palm Desert’s commitment to housing efforts that support a robust workforce. In 2021, due to increasing construction costs, the City approved an aggregate amount of $355,000 to assist the home buyers with additional funding if necessary. Construction of these affordable homes is currently underway. The project brings to mind another creative partnership Palm Desert forged with Habitat for Humanity Coachella Valley in recent years, whereby the City donated land for 11 single-family homes, the last two of which were built for local veterans and their families. All of these homes make up just one part of Palm Desert’s more than 1,100 existing affordable housing units, with many more in the works.
It’s a simple fact that the workforce of tomorrow counts on higher education opportunities that are present today. Palm Desert possesses singular strength within the Coachella Valley thanks to the presence of the College of the Desert, CSUSB Palm Desert, and the University of California Palm Desert inside its borders. Recently, the standalone non-profit the City created known as Priority One Coachella Valley — in concert with Riverside County, six other Coachella Valley cities, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP), Visit Greater Palm Springs, Burrtec Waste, and Sunrise Company — celebrated a major success.
The $79 million budget allocation approved by the California legislature in June 2022 to build the first phase of a new Student Center Building at the CSUSB Palm Desert campus will boost the Valley’s post-secondary education landscape considerably. When complete, the 23,700-square-foot structure will be able to accommodate up to 4,000 students. Meanwhile, Priority One Coachella Valley will continue to focus on CSUSB-PD, which was its intent all along because an educated workforce will always be poised to meet a region’s demands.
Fisherman statue at Palm Desert Civic Center Park.
A Welcoming Environment
Being the geographic center of the Coachella Valley with three I-10 access points makes Palm Desert an especially attractive location for the tens of thousands who flock here, drawn by an ever-growing list of popular tourist attractions and events. Plans for two new four-story hotels on Technology Drive in Palm Desert are in the works — namely, a Holiday Inn Express & Suites and a Staybridge Suites — both well-known brands attracted by the City’s economic environment to locate here. Meanwhile, Monterey Crossing, an 18-acre mixed-use commercial development project on the northeast corner of Monterey Avenue and Dinah Shore Drive, has plans to include a four-story hotel as well.
The City of Palm Desert is proud of its diverse and dynamic business sector. The City has thoughtfully conceived several incentive programs to best support and partner with merchants. For instance, through its Invest Palm Desert program, the City Council has set aside $650,000 to assist new and existing businesses located within the City to expand. Categories include a Capital Improvement Grant and New Development Project Assistance, among others. Applications are currently being accepted until funding is depleted.
Annual Growth Rate
Average Household Income
Median Household Income
(Ages 25 and older)
High School Diploma
Admin/Support/Waste Management Services
Esri/Coachella Valley Economic Partnership
Other business-friendly measures include a grant program for installing a security camera system to help deter crime, which could award funding of up to $500 per business. Meanwhile, a bicycle rack incentive program provides commercial property owners with a City-funded bicycle rack on their grounds to welcome patrons who also happen to be bicycle enthusiasts. Palm Desert’s workforce support extends to actively creating new childcare spaces throughout the City and supporting the development of childcare centers.
The optimally situated Shops at Palm Desert retail site, originally developed in 1982 as a traditional enclosed indoor mall, is ripe for reinterpretation. The City is currently exploring options for redevelopment of the 72-acre mall site and envisions establishing a public-private partnership that will result in a premium, sustainable tax-producing entity. The current facility includes nearly one million square feet of enclosed space, more than 105 inline tenant spaces, and a food court.
Palm Desert Civic Center.
The City’s vision for the mall revitalization is to incorporate new development that would embrace a variety of uses — retail most assuredly, but also hospitality, office, recreation, and housing — in a bid to re-energize this well-established hub which has long presided along its portion of the Highway 111 corridor. The City’s dream is to create an important civic gathering place that will contribute to the existing character of the community. Towards that end, the City is open to a variety of development incentives to ensure a redevelopment project that aligns with the City’s long term economic development goals.
Onward and Upward
Half a century into its trajectory, the City of Palm Desert is poised for still greater things to come. It expects many advancements will be accomplished through creative partnerships with other organizations — both profit and non-profit — and it welcomes the opportunity. To learn more about development or business opportunities in Palm Desert, interested parties are invited to contact the City’s Economic Development Division at 760-346-0611 or visit palmdesert.gov.