“City of Action” prepares for growth

02/13/2014 5:10 PM

02/13/2014 5:49 PM

The city hopes to expand its Crossroads Shopping Center to the west side of Oakdale Road, and the center’s latest store under construction is an Ulta Beauty, Mayor Richard O’Brien said Wednesday in a State of the City address that was heavy on business growth.

Riverbank is being lobbied to annex more land for housing, the mayor said. But he also predicted “significant retail development beyond our current footprint” and noted that BevMo and 2Die4 boutique came to town last year, while industrial jobs should sprout as the former Army ammunition plant transitions to a business park.

“No longer will we be a bedroom community with very high unemployment,” O’Brien said. “We will lead this region in employment opportunity with quality jobs.”

The mayor devoted some space to recreation, touching on the vision of BMX trails on 90 acres next to Jacob Myers Park and dreams of horse trails and walking and jogging paths along the Stanislaus River. Other city parks will get new picnic tables, play areas and restrooms, he said.

O’Brien also noted that City Hall recently assumed control over Riverbank’s signature wine and cheese festival, and he applauded the farmers market, Wednesday Night Out, Beyond Earth Day, the Christmas Festival and haunted hay ride events.

The annual speech, O’Brien said, might be the last hosted at Galaxy Theatres, which will undergo a $3 million renovation. The business hopes to attract a third more patrons, partly by becoming the Valley’s only first-run cinema to offer beer and wine.

“Riverbank is and will be a destination on many levels. ... People are coming to Riverbank for distinct experiences,” the mayor said. He singled out Galaxy, Jacob Myers Park and Crossroads as examples of places people head for, making the city more than just a pass-through on the way to somewhere else.

Citing “great strides” in commerce, housing and community events, O’Brien declared, “Our city is much better off than when I last gave this address.” He was elected in November 2012, and Wednesday’s State of the City speech was his second.

O’Brien used a political tone in some parts, sarcastically thanking past leaders for saddling the current council with heavy debt. He also said they “did not provide the best environment for developing positive relations with business,” and advised businesspeople to “never let the city get in the way of your progress.”

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