Downtown San Bernardino- A struggling Downtown in the heart of the Inland Empire

I used smaller boundaries than what is typically considered Dwtn Bernardino. I feel this better captures what should be considered a “downtown”. I decided to evaluate this as a neighborhood as Dwtn Bernardino is not a major job center and lacks many of the qualifications of a typical major city Dwtn. The boundaries I used include I-215, Sierra Way, 5th St., and Rialto Ave.

San Bernardino really came to form starting in the late 19th century as the City proved to be an important  commercial hub at the crossroads between Southern California and the American Southwest. This helps explain why San Bernardino has such a large historic railroad station. The City reached 13K residents in 1910 and 43K by 40K. Since then San Bernardino has continued to sprawl and now hosts around 220K residents. Sadly, the City, especially the urban core has fallen on hard times. The City filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2012 after having more than 1 Billion in debt.  Even through these challenges San Bernardino remains an important regional hub for the Inland Empire and hosts multiple consulates for Hispanic countries, due it is large Latino immigrant population.

While once a thriving and well built urban environment, Dwtn San Bernardino is a former shadow of itself. Only chunks of the original historic fabric remain. Most of historic San Bernardino was removed for parking, government office towers, or the failed Carousel Mall. Dwtn currently feels like a drivable Dwtn that permits pedestrians to exist if they choose. But there are still some positives not to overlook. Downtown has good ADA infrastructure, excellent public transit access, several walkable schools, decent cultural and retail amenities, and good parks. There are major plans underway to redevelop the former Carousel mall into a lively mixed-use hub. Hopefully this can succeed and pave the wave to an attractive Downtown San Bernardino again. There is just too much development pressure in Southern California for this dwtn to languish.

Click here to view my Dwtn San Bernardino album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGHTHS:

* Pretty good ADA infrastructure.
* Excellent public transit access.
* Walkable access to some jobs in Dwtn San Bernardino. Convenient 15 mins drive to Riverside and 45 bus ride.
* Very Hispanic population but good racial diversity overall. Also a surprisingly high number of households with Children Dwtn.
* Several walkable schools in the Dwtn area with decent ratings.
* Several Housing Authority Sites in the Dwtn area.
* Ok Cultural amenities. Only a handful of restaurants & bars, a couple cafes a cineplex, historic performing arts theater, a couple art galleries, and a couple night clubs/live music venues.
* Decent Retail Amenities as well including a budget supermarket, a drug store, a suburban power center on the southern edge of dwtn includes many retail stores, handful of boutiques & consignment stores, lots of gov’t offices and court houses, several banks, dwtn post office & public library.
* Not much hsg dwtn but a decent mix of retail, governmental bldgs, and entertainment venues.
* Several good park amenities most notably the large Seccome Lake Recreation Area. Meadowbrook Park is another decent sized park and there are several plaza spaces spread throughout dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very low density. This is partially attributable to this being rather Dwtn in character with limited residential bldgs.
* Poor bike infrastructure Dwtn with few dedicated bike lanes and not bike stations.
* While there is good public transit dwtn I can’t say this is a very walkable neighborhood given how auto oriented it is with half the land dedicated to parking lots.
* Very impoverished area with 35% living below the poverty line.
* Rental housing is fairly inexpensive for CA standards but very little of it Dwtn.
* Some for sale product in the Dwtn area. 1-bed condos sell btwn 60K-200K, 2-beds sell btwn 100K-400K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 300K-500K.
* San Bernardino is pretty notorious for high crime rate. This certainly pours into dwtn, but a bit more activity here so doesn’t feel terribly unsafe.
* Some blocks of historic fabric but much of dwtn is surface parking and lots of auto centric fabric.
 * Lots of auto centric crap but some interesting 70s & 80s in fill.
* What remains of Dwtn’s historic architecture is decent, but so much has been demolished.
* No real heart to Dwtn Bernardino. Imageability is pretty poor.
* Not great vibrancy dwtn as most people drive
* Tree canopy is so 

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