With its new downtown performance venue – Stage RED – on the cusp of opening this June, the City of Fontana, CA is now looking to the next phase of its massive redevelopment plan. The next phase, according to Phil Burum, deputy city manager, will build on Stage RED's draw, focusing on retailers, restaurateurs, developers, and entrepreneurs to curate a bustling downtown experience.

That uniqueness is key. For Burum and Rhonesia Perry, economic development manager for Fontana, the goal is to attract a collection of tenants and uses that will make downtown a destination, a central place to gather, to enjoy a true live-work-play experience. 

Hospitality Happenings

Burum notes that to fill out downtown, having a social aspect will be key. "The vison is for microbreweries, restaurants, and boutique retail shops as the focal point, creating a walkable environment where the community can host festivals, art walks, and other unique events." says Burum. In keeping with Fontana's focus on uniqueness during the revitalization, he also points out Fontana is Open for Business, as our economic development team is aggressively seeking out tenants to fill downtown parcels. 

Perry uses another term to describe some of the concepts the city has been entertaining. "A great word is 'eclectic,'" says Perry. "I'm working with a company that wants to introduce a bookstore with a speakeasy concept to Fontana, and we're actively looking for retailers, restaurant groups, entrepreneurs that will shape our downtown experience and to grow their following in Fontana. Our near 225,000 residents are craving new experiences."

"On the west end of Downtown, the city owns a two-story, 26,000-square-foot building that is looking to drive daytime traffic with a unique co-working space and ghost kitchen collaborative," they revealed. "This will be a place where creatives, innovators, artist including culinary arts can grow and thrive," says Perry. 

After decades of disinvestment, Burum notes that Downtown will shape into an economic driver for Fontana. The Fontana City Council, led by Mayor Acquanetta Warren, is committed to making downtown the heartbeat of the city again and they ensuring staff has the tools to make it happen. 

Places to Call Home

Meanwhile, residential development is underway. "A developer is working through pre-construction of a five-story building downtown," he said. "An exciting mixed-use project anchored with retail, office space, and penthouse apartments to line the top floors. In addition, we assembled five acres of land within the downtown core that the city will soon be soliciting proposals for from multifamily developers."

Burum points out the office and residential will ensure downtown is active throughout the day. We're focused on continuing to build a strong future for Fontana, according to Burum.

"Right now, what we are building to carry this city into the future as an economic and entertainment leader in the Inland Empire," says Burum.

"We know lots of cities in Southern California, and the Inland Empire specifically, are planning for downtown redevelopment. With the full support and commitment of our Mayor and City Council, however, we are actually doing it. We are a bit different. Our diverse population gives us the opportunity to do things other smaller cities aren't able to, expanding our appeal to a broader audience. Fontana is growing exponentially in nearly all aspects, from household income and employment growth to a modest explosion in population, we have the demographics and the traffic counts to support a significant boost to business in the downtown core. The perfect mix, exactly what retailers look for, now we need the brands, the reason to make people stop and get out of their cars, we are ready to talk deals," says Perry.  

Visit the City of Fontana at ICSC Las Vegas, Central Hall booth 3324G – Don't miss our Networking Reception, Monday, May 20th at 3pm


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Rayna Katz

Rayna Katz is a seasoned business journalist whose extensive experience includes coverage of the lodging sector, travel and the culinary space. She was most recently content director for a business-to-business publisher, overseeing four publications. While at Meeting News, a travel trade publication, she received a Best Reporting award for a story on meeting cancellations in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.