Riverside working on Fox parking garage plan

It's probably impossible to please everyone, but Riverside city officials have made an attempt with the latest plans for a parking garage next to the Fox Performing Arts Center. 
They're not final yet, but the draft plans include 400 parking spots, a "black box" theater that would seat up to 300 people, a possible 10,000 square feet of museum exhibit space, and spaces for a restaurant and retail shops.

The garage would be built on the south side of Sixth Street between Market Street and Fairmount Boulevard. City Councilman Mike Gardner, whose Ward 1 includes the garage site, placed rough costs between $10 million and $15 million.

The theater will add a key venue for community and regional groups that want a quality performance space but wouldn't be able to fill the 1,600 seats at the Fox, said Patrick Brien, director of the Riverside Arts Council. A black box theater is one that has no fixed stage or seating, so it can be reconfigured to suit various types of performances or displays.

"This would provide kind of an in-between for the groups that don't really fit (the Fox)," Brien said. "It is that missing ingredient."

The exhibit space will be larger than one the city has been renting to serve the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Gardner said.

The design also would preserve one historic building on the site and the façade of another, both designed by locally renowned architect Henry Jekel. That at least partially pleases historic building lovers like David Leonard, who is president of the Old Riverside Foundation for Historic Preservation.

Leonard's group is happy the 1925 Press Bindery building on Fairmount will be saved, he said, but he would have liked to see more of the Hess building on Market Street preserved.

The plans keep the Hess façade as a sort of arcade that sets off a plaza and walkway between the street and the parking garage. The city was required to keep some of the historic structures if possible.

What will be saved of the Hess building is "as minimal as possible," Leonard said, but "It's far better than what was originally approved." Earlier plans called for razing the site.

Gardner said not only will the garage be designed to complement the adjacent Fox theater, a concert venue the city opened in January after a $32 million renovation, but "There's a real effort to make it not look like a parking garage at all."

The City Council is expected to vote in May on a design-build contract for the Fox garage. Final plans will be drawn up by the firm that gets the contract.

Gardner said officials hope to have the garage ready by late 2011. 
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