The more consumer preferences change, the more they stay the same. For the City of Fontana, CA, that has meant consumers have made 6.6 million trips downtown for an average of over 2 hours to a downtown “didn’t have a purpose or identity.”

That’s according to Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who, along with Deputy City Manager Phil Burum, has unveiled a strategic vision to draw more consumers to the one of the Inland Empire’s most populous cities. And they are confident the combination of entertainment, unique retail and mixed-use—along with a touch of star power—will draw real estate opportunity just as much.

Enter Stage RED

Bringing a literal rock star to the project team is an outstanding way to raise the profile of a new entertainment district. Stage RED, named after native son Sammy Hagar, aka the Red Rocker, will launch from a multi-million-dollar building renovation.

“Sammy really loved the idea, and he’s getting very hands-on with it,” said Burum. Citing the intimacy of the new venue, Burum states the venue will provide a fan-based experience with a level of attention to the artist “that is nothing like what has been built anywhere in the West, perhaps in the world. “

It’s a centerpiece to a downtown redevelopment that plans for 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 60,000 square feet of Class A office space, abundant multifamily living and an anchor hotel. As Warren notes, the City is home to 220,000 residents and has two million within a 15-minute drive. She believes they will come for something lost in yesteryears’ big-box retail environment: uniqueness.

“What Fontana’s looking for is that unique brand. We’re in if it’s cool, if it’s unique,” said Warren. “The city is ready to embrace it. It’s about character and, as for project level, nothing’s too big or too small.”

Connected & Convenient

To accommodate downtown’s new focus, the plan redesigns downtown traffic movement, to create a lighter, slower flow downtown, while leveraging the historic Route 66 that runs right through the middle of Fontana. This adds to the livability of the “live-work-play” district, and Warren underscores it will all connect with 21-mile bike and pedestrian trail and benefit from having three parks within walking distance.

More importantly, they’ve set up the redevelopment to appeal to developers. The City has already taken care of much of the heavy lifting such as land acquisition and entitlements.

“Tying up the land is a big deal because now it’s kind of a one-stop shop for developers,” Burum said. “With the land assemblage process complete, often the largest impediment to redevelopment, developers can now just design a worthy project and present their proposal to the city. If their project is selected, because all the environmental studies are completed,  we can have them out the door and under construction in four to six months rather than two to four  years.”

Special Opportunity

The best is yet to come for the City of Fontana, which will build on its economic strength, population growth, diversity, and locational momentum that is adding a destination feel to an already strong sense of belonging and home.

Warren notes it’s a big bet on Fontana’s future. “The money we’re investing today will pay us back 20, 30, 40 years from now. We’re doing just fine without a downtown so this will be an amenity for our citizens. Our motivation is to create an entertainment district and a sense of place, and we’re looking for the right people with the right product to do that.”

Visit City of Fontana at ICSC Las Vegas 2023, booth 3324G