While cities everywhere are scrambling to create a walkable downtown environment, Palm Springs is building on its existing downtown assets to transform itself into an entertainment, cultural, and lifestyle center desired by so many. It has always been a place to walk. Traditional retail anchors are still important, but the dynamic mixed-use environment, where people live, work and enjoy culture, entertainment, dining and shopping is even more important to the long term health of the downtown.
The City has commissioned a nationally recognized retail analysis firm, the Buxton Company of Fort Worth, Texas, to help the community to study the local market and show in demographic and psychographic detail how Palm Springs has a complicated market sliced many ways among those who live here year around, second homeowners and visitors.
The majestic yet close-up San Jacinto Mountains frame Palm Canyon Drive. Always a people magnet, the mountains just may be the ultimate downtown anchor. In addition to its natural beauty, downtown Palm Springs is also rich in museums, theaters and other attractions. The historic O'Donnell Golf Course is to the north and the Historic Tennis Club Neighborhood to the south.
In addition, the redevelopment of the Desert Fashion Plaza in the center of the downtown area represents a key project to the community. Located at the center of the downtown core, the Desert Fashion Plaza is a 300,000 square foot enclosed shopping center situated on 13 acres. It is currently largely vacant, with the street-fronting spaces leased and all of the interior spaces in the mall vacant and sealed off from the public.
The latest plan — a several hundred million dollar mixed-use project — is currently in the Specific Plan process in the City's Planning Department. Designed to be pedestrian-friendly, it would be anchored by Palm Springs Art Museum to the west and split by a foot-wide street called Museum Way. Plans call for new buildings of varied heights, stepped back from Palm Canyon Drive around the central entertainment plaza. They encompass luxury condos and lofts, an upscale boutique hotel, and more than 250,000 square feet of retail space.
At the base of Mount San Jacinto is architect E. Stewart Williams' magnificent Palm Springs Art Museum, with its Annenberg Theater, which is the most significant art museum between Los Angeles and Phoenix. Founded in 1938, the Palm Springs Art Museum is an educational institution that promotes a greater understanding of art and performing arts through collections, exhibitions and programs. The Museum's permanent art collection features 19th, 20th, and 21st century works focusing on contemporary California art, classic western American art, Native American art; Mesoamerican art, Mexican art, and European modern art; glass studio art, American mid-twentieth century architecture, and American photography. In addition, the Museum's 400-seat Annenberg Theater keeps an eclectic calendar including live performances in ballet, opera, jazz, American standards and theatrical programs.
The Spa Resort Casino downtown is another of the City's most popular attractions. The casino, owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is affiliated with the Spa Hotel Resort. Few Indian reservations in California encroach into urban areas, as is the case in Palm Springs. (Or, conversely, few cities have developed on Indian reservations like in Palm Springs.) Opened in November 2003, the casino boasts 119,000 square feet of gaming, support and restaurant space. It was designed by the architectural firm of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG) of Newport Beach, California, and constructed by Penta Construction.
Located in an historic building at the north end of the downtown district is the Palm Canyon Theatre, a 206-seat live theatre venue which remains the only Actors Equity theater in the desert. The theater runs a full season from late September to May, and has recently entered a partnership with the Palm Springs International Film Festival to be a film festival venue during its run in January.
An “expansion” of the Convention Center has turned into a stunning metamorphosis. The $34M
project designed by Denver-based Fentress Bradburn Associates almost turned the center on its ear. Now facing the mountain, it has the “wow” mountain view convention goers have always deserved. The 145,000 square-foot, recently-completed center has panoramic mountain views from its 18,000 square- foot lobby and huge covered patio where the roof is supported by palm-tree patterned pillars. The architecture celebrates nature's curvaceous lines. The reception area carpeting is the color and texture of shifting sands, all adding up to another one-of-a-kind Palm Springs experience.
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