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Palm Springs unveils master plan for a new downtown

A virtual look at the plans to revitalize Downtown Palm Springs

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The Coachella Valley got a sneak peek at Wednesday's special City Council meeting of what will be the new Downtown Palm Springs.

"I'm just seeing it for the first time. I'm absorbing it, kind of getting a sense of it," said J.R. Roberts, of Palm Springs, as he scoped out the virtual sketches presented.

The Wessman Development Company and its team of hired architects presented the 14-acre master plan of "Palm Springs Reimagined."

"It looks like a very modern, glassy, almost like a New York City style. I don't really see its Palm Springs roots yet," said Roberts, a member of the city's planning commission.

However, it's only the beginning of the approval process. The city hopes to build the ultimate outdoor dining and shopping experience for locals and tourists. The proposed 3-block layout is all about connectivity to the surrounding area.

With a new street configuration, the plan includes restaurants, local boutiques, offices, free parking structures and the latest spin on the project, a 4-star Kimpton Hotel off of Taquitz Canyon.

"It's a pedestrian-friendly, entertainment arts center. Not a mall. It's not a plaza anymore," said Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.

It'll be unlike the current so-called eyesore, the nearly vacant Desert Fashion Plaza.

"Anything is better than that," said Roberts.

There's been plenty of controversy over whether anything would ever actually be done to fix it.

"This is going to happen, guaranteed," said John Wessman, of Wessman Development.

That's not without the help of Measure J, the city's increase in sales tax to help fund the project. Some call the plan to revitalize the downtown area, the biggest project in the history of the city.

"This is probably the most important thing the city will do in the next 50 years toward the future. We've got to do it right this time," said Roberts.

The proposal is on a bit of a time crunch. The city hopes it can be reviewed by its planning commission and architectural review committee, and then passed on to the City Council for approval by Dec. 19.

Demolition of the old plaza could take off as soon as February 2013 with construction beginning in the Fall.

If all goes as planned, Mayor Pougnet says locals and visitors could be doing their Christmas shopping at the new downtown center by the end of 2014.

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