Young city in Inland Empire plans 153-acre downtown on former dairy farm

12-year-old Eastvale wants civic center but pushes back on New Home Company plan for 2,500 homes

Eastvale (Eastvaleca, iStock)
Eastvale (Eastvaleca, iStock)

The relatively new City of Eastvale in the Inland Empire aims to create a 153-acre downtown and civic center but has cast doubt on a newly revised plan to include thousands of homes.

A recent workshop conducted by the 12-year-old city in northwest Riverside County included the unveiling of a proposal to construct a city hall, library, police and fire stations, nearly 600,000 square feet of offices, shops and restaurants, parks and up to 2,500 homes, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

But residents and some public officials objected to its new emphasis on housing over downtown commerce.

“It looks like it is overrun with housing,” said Planning Commissioner Andrea Hove.

The downtown Eastvale development would take place on a former dairy farm owned by the Leal family. Community Development Director Gina Gibson-Williams called it “the single most important project in the city’s history.”

Some called for fewer homes. Others called for bigger stores. In order to make a downtown viable, one official said it must be busy to avoid creating “a homeless hub at night.”

The Leal project, as it is known, was planned by The New Home Company, based in Irvine. The firm, which just submitted the revised plan, is in escrow to buy the property from the Leal family should the city approve the downtown project.

While the commercial element has been trimmed, it would still amount to 595,000 square feet of small shops and restaurants, according to New Home Company consultant Peter Carlson.

“It equates to 13 Hamner Places,” he said, referring to a local hotel and restaurant complex. “It also equates to 70 sit-down restaurants like a Lazy Dog.”

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He said the Eastvale center would still be larger than inland commercial hot spots such as downtown Claremont, with 528,439 square feet of commercial space; or Old Town Temecula, with 488,103 square feet; or The Shoppes at Chino Hills, with 375,000 square feet.

The landscape of commercial and retail has changed dramatically since the pandemic and the rise in online shopping, which has come as shopping malls in the region and nation decline, Carlson said

“This is not about big-box–this is not about a Target,” he said. “This is about restaurants, about boutique stores, about smaller offices.”

The 2,500 housing units under consideration would include apartments, condominiums and single-family houses.

Council Member Christian Dinco said he would prefer to “squeeze down some of that housing.” At the same time, he said Eastvale and other Inland Empire cities face a state mandate to build more homes in order to address a widespread housing shortage.

Dinco said the Leal project would be a good place for high-density housing because it would be near commercial areas. Mayor Pro Tem Todd Rigby said the people who live there could walk to shops and restaurants.

Eastvale, a 13.1 square-mile city incorporated in 2010, once consisted of mostly farms and dairies. It is surrounded by Chino, Ontario, Norco, Corona and the newly incorporated City of Jurupa Valley.

[Riverside Press-Enterprise] – Dana Bartholomew

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