As the land of eternal sunshine our horizons now encompass the tourism market, the California cannabis industry and new synergy in our downtown, Mayor Steven Hernandez said today during his annual State of the City address.
Speaking to a luncheon gathering at the Spotlight 29 Casino, Hernandez said Coachella’s first hotel is expected to open April 9, which is just in time to tap into the lucrative Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals next spring.
Stuart Rubin of Glenroy Coachella LLC is building the first 68 units of a 130-unit horizontal casita style hotel on a 24 acre site next to Rancho Las Flores Park, he said.
“Building our first hotel is a major milestone for Coachella because until now we have never been able to tap into the lucrative tourism business that results from the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals and other special events here that take place here in the valley each year,” Hernandez said.
“Nor have we been able to capitalize on the tourism marketing efforts that promote the Coachella Valley to visitors from Southern California, across the country and around the world. Now we can.”
Hernandez added that Coachella’s restaurants, gas stations and retail stores will feel the ripple effects of tourists coming to the city. “Having our own hotel is also good news for people attending our own special events who will now have a local hotel to accommodate them,” he said.
Hernandez added that he was confident Coachella would soon attract additional hotels and tap into the regional tourism marketing efforts that promote the Coachella Valley to tourists across North America and around the world.
Coachella’s economy is also being fueled by the city’s recent decision to allow the production of medical cannabis, Hernandez said.
Last month, he said, Cultivation Technologies Inc. of Irvine broke ground on an 111,500-square-foot facility to cultivate and produce medical cannabis. When the facility is fully operational next summer, it will produce $2.5 million a year in additional sales tax revenue for the city.
“This is a critical new revenue stream for Coachella,” Hernandez said, “because it helps us cover the dramatic increases in the costs of police, fire and paramedic services that are affecting cities throughout Riverside County that have to contract out for these services.”
Hernandez said the City Council made it city policy to encourage local investment in medical cannabis manufacturing facilities because polling indicated that voters in Coachella and across California were likely to legalize the use of medical cannabis in the 2016 election. “So we saw this as an opportunity to create a new economic engine for the city and we took advantage of it,” he said.
The Revitalization of Coachella’s Historic Downtown
In addition to promoting Coachella’s entry into the tourism and medical cannabis industries, the city broken ground on a new 15,800-square foot library that is more than four times the size of our existing library. The new library is being built downtown and will include three study rooms, a program room as well as separate reading spaces for children, teens and adults.
“This is a life changing educational resource for the people of Coachella because by building a new state of the art library we are giving not just the children of Coachella, but their parents and grandparents a resource they can use to further their education, learn new skills and reach their full potential,” Hernandez said, adding that the library project means a great deal to him personally because of the transformative effect it can have on people’s lives.
“As many of you know, I was raised by my grandparents,” he said. “I grew up working with them in the fields every year during the table grape harvest. I still remember the hazards of that job, the spiders and the thorns and the snakes, and the wisdom of the other farmworkers I interacted with. They would tell me, ‘You better do well in school, or we’ll see you out here again next year.’
“You know,” Hernandez added, “I always remembered that, and so I did do well in school, and with the encouragement of Raul Hernandez, a principal at Coachella Valley High School, I had the chance to go to college. Mr. Hernandez saw potential in me and encouraged me to apply at UCR so that I could find a career that would enable me to reach my full potential. So, to me, I see this library is a life changing educational resource that can help everyone in this city to reach their full potential.”
Hernandez said he sees libraries as “the great equalizers” of people in society.
“They are truly democratic spaces that are open to anyone, regardless of their place in society. Libraries are places that stimulate our minds, that stimulate us to think about our lives and our futures and about the things we can do to make the world a better place. They are places we can go to learn how to use computers and do research, and find information and answers to questions that can literally change our lives.”
Hernandez said Coachella is already developing educational enrichment programs with College of the Desert, Cal State San Bernardino, UCR and the Mexican Consulate.
“So when the library opens in October of next year,” he said, “we will be able to hit the ground running. From my perspective, this library is a big deal because it’s the single biggest thing the city has done during my time as Mayor to improve the education and quality of life and future earnings potential of the people of our community.”
Hernandez added that the library was made possible with the support of Coachella residents who passed a one cent sales tax in November 2014.
But the library project will do more than change people’s lives, Hernandez said. “This project will also revitalize downtown and draw tourism as well as new business into our community,” he said.
This Spanish revival themed facility will also house a 6,650-square foot conference center will include three meeting rooms, space for a cafe that faces Sixth Street as well as its own pre-event lobby area.
The library and conference center will also include a 900-square foot lobby that can be used for special events and programs as well as a 34,000 square foot park that includes a landscaped paseo, outdoor reading spaces, meeting break out patios, green screens and beautiful landscaped areas.
“The library and conference center complement our beautiful Veterans Park, which we completed last fall in time for Veterans Day,” he said.
“The Veterans Park is important not only because it provides open space, but a place to learn about the history and sacrifices of our parents and grandparents and the people across the Coachella Valley who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and ensure our freedom.”
As part of Coachella’s efforts to recognize and honor the city’s past, the city is also completing work this month on a monument at Rancho De Oro Park to honor Cesar Chavez, who fought for decades to improve wages, working conditions and safety for farmworkers in the Coachella Valley and across the country.
In addition to these important projects, the City of Coachella is also continuing to secure millions of dollars in grant funding for infrastructure projects that improve public safety, traffic flows and the quality of life in our community.
During this past year, we completed a traffic synchronization project along Harrison Avenue that reduces drive times during peak traffic periods.
In the coming months, Hernandez said, the city will complete several additional public safety projects with millions of dollars in grant funding, including:
— The widening of Avenue 48 west of Van Buren
— The widening of Avenue 50 from Calhoun to Harrison
— New sidewalks, stop signs and traffic signals to ensure safe routes for children to our schools (including Coral Mountain Elem, Cesar Chavez, Palm View and Bobby Duke, Valley View and Valle Del Sol).
— More than 7 miles of bike lanes throughout the city.
Late next year, Hernandez said, Coachella will also start construction on an interchange that will connect Avenue 50 with Interstate 10, opening up a major new access point to the city.
“In sum,” Hernandez said, “we are not only successfully diversifying and growing Coachella’s economy, but we are creating new educational opportunities with our new library and we are taking visible steps to improve public safety, the flow of traffic and the quality of life in Coachella. All of these efforts are making Coachella a vibrant community with an increasingly promising future.”
For more information about Coachella, please visit www.coachella.org.