Claremont Insider: Changing Times

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Changing Times

Dave Allen weighed in with his take on the Claremont Village Expansion and the ad campaign that has accompanied the new businesses and buildings west of Indian Hill Blvd.

Allen noted the ongoing debate in town on whether the attempt to update downtown Claremont into a mini-Pasadena is all good:

I like the Expansion myself, with reservations. The theater is a terrific addition, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is becoming a hangout, the plaza has a neat fountain and there are now more restaurant choices and more to do at night.

Some of the chains are annoying, but as John Pixley has observed in the Claremont Courier, San Luis Obispo has many of the same chains, and more, yet manages to keep a healthy mix of local merchants.

Architecturally, the Expansion looks a little canned but it isn't bad. If its two-story frontage seems a bit pushy, maybe that points to how dull and empty the east side of Indian Hill looks: parking lots, the rear end of buildings and that godawful ziggurat at First Street.

Why does all this matter? Because the existing Village is the valley's most successful downtown. The streets are walkable, the shops are eclectic and there is a sense of place, even of magic.

But now that the Village has essentially expanded by one-third, this feels like a turning point for Claremont. Will the Village absorb the Expansion, or - gulp - vice versa?
One wonders if all the changes will be intended ones. We suspect that something of the town's character will change - perhaps for the better, perhaps not. We will undoubtedly be altered in some subtle ways, and the mom-and-pop feel of the Old Village may in time fade.

Other cities in the area, Monrovia for example, are experiencing this already as renovations and chain stores and restaurants drive up rents, shuttering older businesses.

We're reminded of some lines from the Richard Wilbur poem "The Beautiful Changes":

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon's tuning his skin to it.....