Community Voices Shape Downtown San Dimas with Pioneer Square Proposal

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An artist rendering of the Pioneer Square plan shows the future Gold Line train passing through the intersection at Bonita Ave. and Cataract Ave. Photo Courtesy: Depiction, LLC

By Brian Birmingham

San Dimas’ downtown stretch is short–just one-quarter mile–with three restaurants, seven antique shops, and seven beauty salons. Residents are not apt to complain about what’s already there, but rather what’s missing. 

“I would like to see a more diverse and dynamic mix of businesses in our community,” said San Dimas resident Raymond McDonald. “This would help improve the quality of life of our residents.”

Julie Henry, a San Dimas resident who’s lived in the city for more than 30 years, believes the city needs more places that are open in the evenings and on the weekends.

“We need to enliven our sleepy downtown area with a cohesive space that extends and, at the same time, revitalizes our old downtown area, while keeping in mind the rich historical story and architectural style that already exists,” she said.

McDonald and Henry were involved with the No Big Hotel campaign, a grassroots effort started by Phil and Isabel Ebiner, who requested the city put the breaks on the development of a four-story, 110-room Marriott Fairfield Inn by the Fine Hospitality Group. If the proposal were to go forward, the hotel—San Dimas’ sixth—would be constructed on the four-acre vacant lot off of Bonita Avenue, between Cataract Avenue and Acacia Street, next to Pioneer Park, right at the entry to downtown’s main stretch. 

When the No Big Hotel Campaign gained momentum and negotiations between the city and Fine Hospitality Group slowed, founder of Creative Housing Associates Michael Dieden, who has a history of creating community-oriented spaces across Los Angeles County, teamed up with a group of professionals to form the Pioneer Square (PSQ), LLC and work on a new proposal. 

The team includes J Lou Development, the company behind the restoration of several historic Los Angeles buildings including the Normandy Hotel and the iconic Cassell’s Hamburgers, and Arteco Partners, the firm responsible for the Redlands Public Market, the Fox Theater in Pomona, the Claremont Packing House, and other developments and restorations. 

On Aug. 25, 2020, the City Council decided in a 4-0 vote to negotiate the sale of the property with PSQ, LLC. The PSQ team now has exclusive rights to the property. Council Member John Ebiner recused himself from the vote, because he owns property near the site.

The Pioneer Square proposal includes a 60-80 room boutique hotel, approximately 28,000 useable square feet for commercial service and retail uses (among the proposed businesses is potentially a Vroman’s Bookstore), 15,000 square feet of office/flex space, approximately 40 residences in the form of lofts and townhomes, and a large, subterranean garage equipped with an estimated 200 parking spaces. The hotel plans include a rooftop bar at the north corner of the property that would be open to the public. 

The rest of the site, which constitutes about half of the total space, will be reserved for a main square and paseos connecting Bonita Avenue and Pioneer Park. The square would host live music, and eateries would range from casual to upscale. The goal is to attract more independent and locally owned businesses operating downtown. 

Sarah Gonzales, a San Dimas resident of six years, likes the idea of Pioneer Square. 

“I think it’s definitely something we need, especially in a time like right now,” said Gonzales.

However, Gonzales also expressed concern about the boutique hotel. 

“My biggest concern with our city having a boutique hotel is that it won’t be utilized as much as they think it will be,” Gonzales said. “I think their goal should be what the citizens would utilize and visit the most frequently.”

Other residents have also brought up concerns about viability, safety and increases in traffic. Dieden and the team welcome these kinds of questions and concerns from community members. They plan to host a series of community events to answer questions and share information about the development. 

“It’s all about really getting down and understanding each and every resident,” Dieden said.

If all goes according to plan, the PSQ team hopes to complete the development by 2023. 

An aerial view of the Pioneer Square site plan shows where the hotel, retail, and residential units will be located. Photo: Depiction, LLC

3 Comments

  1. There are actually many residence in San Dimas that own businesses in that area and surrounding San Dimas areas. Many have been there for 20 years plus. Trying to keep them afloat and thriving in this city would be positive to. At least keep their businesses here In town a positive. Sad that some moved out of the area. There have been some fantastic businesses that have moved on.

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