Banning held a special city council meeting Tuesday, June 4 to reach out to the public for opinions on what to do with the vacant lot downtown that was once home to the San Gorgonio Inn.
The purpose of the meeting was to receive public input for the future development of the city-owned property located between East Ramsey and East Livingston streets, east of North San Gorgonio Avenue in Banning.
“We’re kind of taking a shotgun approach,” said Adam Rush, Community Development Director for Banning.
Rush said that the city’s goal is to find the highest and best use for the community by addressing concerns of the public and taking that feedback for staff to review.
According to Rush, the hope is to add to the downtown commercial area by providing a cornerstone for future growth, and that they are not looking for more of the same, but something that can make Banning a destination.
The first point that was made clear by residents who shared ideas was that the history of Banning needs to be preserved.
Suggestions of mid-level dining like Romano’s Macaroni Grill or The Old Spaghetti Factory attracted some interest to those in attendance but, as contributions and ideas became more plentiful, opinions shifted.
“We want a hometown feel, and had that reputation before. We need the revival of something uniquely Banning,” said a resident in attendance who only gave her name as Pat.
The idea seemed to take precedent throughout the rest of the meeting as more and more of the public began to keep this theme.
“We need to commit to the history of the community to bring these types of southwest styles,” said Nick Parra a Banning resident in attendance.
Parra went on to suggest that in keeping with the rich heritage and history of Banning that we should reach out to Native communities and get in touch with the classic southwest roots that the city was built around to develop the future of the community.
The economic viability of a cornerstone business gathered concern and was a central point in much of the debate. Residents were largely focused on suggestions that would build real longevity for the future of the commercial district by building an accessible, entertaining downtown.
One resident and retired architect suggested that the city rebuild the San Gorgonio Inn. This idea was echoed by former City Council Member Frank Burgess who asked, “What happened to the Inn? We should restore the old Inn, Banning needs a landmark to identify it.” Burgess said it was and had been a historical landmark for decades prior to its demolition and felt that the reconstruction would be that revitalization everyone was looking for.
Opinions were mixed in response to this idea but the consensus was that residents want whatever development comes to be branded correctly and designed in a way that remains true to the city’s motto of Stagecoach USA.
The former Bryant Building, built around 1885 and named the San Gorgonio Inn in 1930, after it had been operating as the Hotel Banning. The San Gorgonio Inn closed in 2007.