By Heidi Simmons –
There is a clock tower that sits on the edge of the valley’s major thoroughfare. Behind the chiming tower, a shady park with a whimsical, cockeyed fountain invites interaction with children of all ages. Poised between sculpture, movie theaters and eateries is the grand Civic Center of Cathedral City — a tangible mixture of business and pleasure.
Cathedral City is the second largest city in the CV. With 52 thousand residents, 90 percent live there year round. According to the 2010 census, nearly 65% are families. The city runs and maintains it own fire and police departments.
It is 22 square miles and stretches north of Interstate 10 and south of Highway 111. To its west is Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage is on the east. Sandwiched between these more affluent and seasonal communities, Cathedral City is a hard-working, business centric town.
Incorporated in 1981, the city is still in its early history. “We came late in the game,” said Donald Bradley, City Manger for the last 14 years. Bradley is retiring this week and will continue to live in Cathedral City. “It puts our public finance at a handicap, but even with limited resources, we are one of the valley leaders.”
Cathedral City does not benefit from Proposition 13 property tax revenue like older established cities and therefore must generate the majority of its funding from business. “It is one of the things that makes the city so special. If there is a problem, people roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to make it happen,” says Bradley proudly.
One way the city has skillfully and successfully managed to merge quality of life with their focus on business is to established entrepreneurial recreational opportunities. The city has partnered and encouraged private entities in the area of recreation.
There is Big League Dreams Sports Park, which has scaled-down replicas of famous ballparks. The company has eleven parks across California and the country. It has baseball and soccer fields with softball, soccer and kickball leagues. This year big League Dreams hosted 25 teams for the woman’s NCAA fast-pitch softball tournament.
Desert Ice Castles is a professional sized ice rink that has a hockey league and attracts Olympic hopefuls. There is Boomers, which has a mix of miniature golf, bumper boats and other fun family entertainment. An indoor go-kart facility called Xceleration is opening in 2013. There’s a Cinemark Movies10 where you can catch a flick on a big screen for two bucks before it goes to video.
Even with the closing of the city’s Department of Recreation, the city has done an amazing job to supply quality recreation. Before the state cancelled redevelopment funds, the city partnered with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) to build 13 fields, which are maintained by the organization. AYSO held its states finals in Cathedral City.
The Cathedral City Downtown Foundation is a nonprofit group that runs the Desert IMAX Theatre. When its original owners were going to close the theater, the city stepped in to preserve the popular high-resolution, giant-screen format theatre. There are 697 Imax theaters in 52 countries and to have one here in the CV is a real treat for movie buffs.
“The IMAX and Mary Pickford theaters create an entertainment complex that still has open space available. It’s a blank canvas with exciting potential to develop the town center into a year round recreational hub,” said Cathedral City Council Member Sam Toles. The theaters are subsidized by the city but managed by the private company UltraStar. “In the absence of public funds, we have reached out to private business.”
“We are all about building strong relationships,” says Lynn Mallotto, new CEO of Cathedral City’s Chamber of Commerce. “Our businesses provide major support to Cathedral City public services and quality of life. It’s not only a financial investment it is an emotional investment.”
With 325 members, the Chamber’s goal is to engage with business. “Whether a poolman, small business or major corporation, we want to do all we can through networking and cooperation to expand our service and build business,” enthused Mallotto.
The Chamber’s current approach is to build business clusters. They are working on developing business districts that can then be promoted and marketed.
The Cathedral City Auto Center is an example of how important the relationship between city and business is. According to Mallotto the dealerships have kept Cathedral City afloat. “The dealerships and their managers have stepped forward to do all they can. Even with sales tax increases, they understand and get behind the city with their support. You can’t put a price on it.” Mallotto said.
You might be able to put a price on what the Dealerships actually contribute to the city but talk to city officials and you start to understand the bigger picture the business relationship has with its community — “priceless”. Business privately supports the Boy and Girls Club and the Senior Center. Different businesses partner regularly with community. They are more than taxpayers; they are part of the fabric and heartbeat of the city.
“There are exciting new projects coming this year to Cathedral City; A Volkswagen dealership, boutique hotelier, more casual dining and a new film festival,” says Mayor Kathy DeRosa. “We are a city of value. We have award winning schools, the lowest crime rate, and the number one auto mall. We have easy access to the freeway and diversified neighborhoods.”
Community outreach is one of the Mayor’s primary goals and challenges. “Cathedral city has many different and wonderful neighborhoods each with its unique interest. We want to focus on a common goal — to bring the community together.”
The Mayor speaks with pride about the city’s accomplishments, and strongly about economic development, but she is most passionate about getting people involved in the city. “Whatever it means to volunteer, it doesn’t have to be difficult, help in your community. Step outside and say hello to your neighbor. Offer a hand of friendship. Be a part of your community in whatever way works for you.” She continued, “We’ve got to stop living in an isolated segregated world. Together, in numbers, we can do so much more. We can accomplish great things.”
There is growing room for the city. On their north boundary, they have ten miles of freeway and the unincorporated Thousand Palms is in their sphere of influence and there is talk of annexing it into Cathedral City.
Taking pride in its diversity, Cathedral City is an inclusive community. They have learned from their short past and are finding creative ways to serve the citizens and the wider CV. There is a can-do spirit that permeates this year-round working community and a unique symbiosis that mixes business with pleasure.