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Metrolink Plaza

& Pedestrian Improvements

By Larry Shield, regional editor

Just outside the Metrolink Station parking lot, these 8-foot banners show historical aspects of Rialto, including its history as the center of the citrus packing industry at the turn of the 20th Century.
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Streetscape improvements to revitalize and link the Metrolink Station to the downtown area were completed subsequent to the masterplan for a new Civic Center and downtown area in Rialto, Calif. The design for the streetscape project was inspired by the city’s history as a center for packing houses for the citrus industry.

Rialto got its name from a famous bridge in Venice, Italy, called Rialto. At the Citrus Exposition the Rialto Bridge in Rialto was built from oranges.

A new plaza adjacent to the Metrolink Station marks the entry to the downtown area.

Historic black and white photographs were used to show aspects of life in Rialto, including this panel of the Rialto Orange Company in 1900.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc.

A new plaza adjacent to the Metrolink Station marks the entry to the downtown area. Street furniture, bus stop shelters, pedestrian lights, signage and planting were designed for the project to create a pedestrian friendly atmosphere. The master planning and streetscape implementation project were the combined effort of landscape architecture firm Katherine Spitz Associates Inc. and David Denton Architect.

Four years ago the two firms teamed up to start the master planning process. Denton did the design guideline for the façade improvements, which were completed in 2003.Two or three buildings have already completed the improvements.

A clock tower in the center of Riverside Avenue serves as a focal point and is inviting for pedestrians.

The streetscape design is based on the historic citrus industry in Rialto, Calif. with the theme carried throughout banners, sculpture, street furniture, bus shelters and pedestrian plazas.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc.

“Having the city approve our downtown improvements was a fairly simple process,” Denton told LASN. “The city council held about half a dozen meetings with community leaders to discuss how they envisioned the new downtown. The people were excited we were going to incorporate elements of the citrus industry because this meant something to them. We got a lot of input from the community and they had some good input. We had two themes dictate the design of the project,” said Denton. “We wanted to incorporate the citrus industry and relate the design to the existing architecture. Most of the area was already painted white and we wanted to relate it to the clock tower and bus stop.”

According to Denton a federal grant was given in order to make a pedestrian connection to the Metrolink station and revitalize downtown Rialto. The total cost of the project was $2.5 million, with the department of transportation contributing some funds. The Metrolink Blue Line runs east to downtown Riverside and west to Union Station in Los Angeles through the heart of Rialto’s commercial district on Riverside Avenue. Commuters drive from the foothills and park their cars in the adjacent lot.

“This was a way to get the commuters into the retail area,” said Denton. “We wanted to create something for the pedestrians to go from the lot and cross the railroad tracks in the downtown area. The streetscapes are the only part we’ve worked on, but eventually the city plans on building a new civic center.”

A series of eight-foot towers has banners taken from orange crate labels, used by the packing houses. This lends a sense of history to the area, which celebrated Rialto as the center of the citrus industry at the turn of the 20th Century. A sculpture shows some historic pictures from the citrus industry and gives a replica of what the old train station looked like.

The masterplanning and streetscape implementation project at Rialto’s Metrolink Station were part of a collective effort of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc. and David Denton Architect. Rendering courtesy of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc.

To make this a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, Denton included the use of benches, graphics on signage, use of shade trees and better bus stops. Existing trellises were used for shading at seating areas. A clock tower served as a focal point, to encourage pedestrians to use cross walks. One of the goals was to get rid of the messy ficus trees. These features have drawn more attention downtown and helped with the recovery of the area.

Wildan Associates, the landscape contractor, installed several of the trees for this project, including the citrus trees, which have uplighting providing by Kim Lighting.

Architectural Area Lighting posts supplemented the current light fixtures and lit some sculptures. Spectra Series pole lights were nestled in trellises on the sidewalk for a canopy-like fixture with white Spectra Series bollard lights. Kim Lighting provided the recessed tree uplights with their LTV Series; post-mounted uplights with Scarab Accent Lighting; signage lighting with compact flood accent lighting; and stake-mounted tree uplights with square hood accent lighting.

Street furniture, bus stop shelters, pedestrian lights, signage and plantings were designed for the project to create a pedestrian friendly atmosphere.

According to Steve Lacap of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc., bubblers were used for trees and spray heads, with either 360, 180 or 90-degree sprinklers used for irrigating bushes. Mostly native plant materials and xeriphytic plants were used. The planting schedule included date palm, Mexican fan palm, silk tree, natal plum, variegated fortnight lily, variegated evergreen euonymus, yellow daylily, starburst double gold ‘monold’, New Zealand flax, cat’s claw and royal trumpet vine. When entering the gateway, orange trees can be seen on both sides.

The white Spectra Series light fixtures, mounted on a structural pole line 2P, are encased by a trellis, custom designed and built by Katherine Spitz Associates Inc. and David Denton Architect. Cat’s claw grows throughout the trellis.

“We had to do a lot of repair to the sidewalks because of the damage done by the ficus trees,” said Lacap to LASN. “We kept up the tree canopy all along so we had shade throughout the project, but eventually eliminated about half of the ficus trees and replaced them with other trees.”

Mostly colored concrete was use for the hardscapes, said Denton. The plaza has stripes through it with the lighter colors used for the walkways and the green areas used for landscapes. Walkways were set up along with ramps to encourage walking back and forth. Davis Colors provided a light sandblast integral colored concrete with Yosemite Brown and Kahlua. Natural concrete was finished with a steel trowel. A one-inch decomposed granite with no stabilizer was used. A stone veneer matched the end post of the existing Rialto welcome sign, located at the south entry median.

An artist rendering by Katherine Spitz Associates Inc. shows the goal of making downtown Rialto a center of activity, making it pedestrian-friendly and reviving the commercial area.
Rendering courtesy of Katherine Spitz Associates Inc.

Denton said getting rid of the beautiful, but messy ficus trees was controversial. The city had to decide whether to tear down the trees or leave them in place. Local merchants preferred to get rid of the trees and have them replaced by other trees.

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November 18, 2019, 2:53 am PDT

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