Ray Bradbury on how to save downtown Pomona

Author Ray Bradbury, who’s visiting Pomona on Friday, visited at least twice in the 1970s, both times at the behest of civic groups, to present ideas on rescuing the city’s downtown. He’s no architect, but he’s a fan of architecture, and some of his design concepts were used in San Diego’s Horton Plaza. He’s long had interesting things to say about urban design.

In 1973, he offered concepts for Pomona’s ailing pedestrian mall. In 1978, he spoke as part of a “Save the Fox” program, during a period in which the theater was used as a civic auditorium.

Among his ideas for downtown: winding pavement, an artificial river, theaters, performing arts, open-air dining, shops, a farmers market and, intriguingly, an orange grove near a Mexican restaurant to evoke Pomona’s early days. The whole effect, he said, should be “theatrical” and “fun” and should offer activity until midnight.

“Make the kind of place people will talk about,” Bradbury urged in 1973. Five years later, he said downtown appeared to be fading and said the whole thing should be rethought: “You must do it or you’ll be bled dry by surrounding malls.”

Civic leaders gave him a proclamation, shook his hand and evidently ignored everything he said. Yet more than 30 years later, the Fox has been saved, the arts are a linchpin and some nights there is activity until the wee hours. Something tells me nobody has had the imagination to consider planting an orange grove, though.

You can read the Progress-Bulletin articles on Bradbury’s twin visits by clicking on the thumbnail versions below. Thanks to the Pomona Public Library’s special collections department for locating the articles.

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  • “Civic leaders gave him a proclamation, shook his hand and evidently ignored everything he said.”

    Always nice to see small-town politicians performing at a level that would make the big boys in DC proud.

    [They were probably hoping he’d suggest something simple, like, “If you’d get a shoe store, that will do it.” — DA]

  • Kim

    So let’s turn the empty lot/pit/former condo development on 2nd into a cute little orange grove.

    [At this point it will have to be a sunken orange grove. Or, since the pit fills with water when it rains, it could be the manmade river. — DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    Well, last night at the Big Read, his two main suggestions on how to solve problems were, as the World’s Greatest Lover, was to love what you do, and others who doubt should “go to hell!”

  • Eric Sanders

    I was a senior at Ganesha High School in 1978 and went to the Fox. It was considered somewhat risky to even be in downtown Pomona after dark, but there was a large turnout and Bradbury presented a compelling vision which, as you note, was largely ignored at the time. It’s nice that 30 years on some of that vision has been fulfilled — the Fox has been renovated and the Mall has evolved in ways no one really could have imagined at the time.

    [True. Who would have imagined storefronts turned into art galleries or the Thrifty drugstore as a concert hall? But they work. — DA]

  • Kenn Coble, Pomona Planning Commissioner District 6

    Much of what Ray Bradbury suggested still holds true for the downtown area. A significant water feature, a walking district on Second from Garey to the university, on Second form Garey to Park and on Main from Second to Third and a return to the outdoor mall that downtown once was would make all the difference.

    But more than that we have a significant consumer base that is ignored throughout the valley. Echo Boomers born 1982 through 1992 are the next big market. These are almost in, in, or just out of college (or that general age). Within 15 miles of Pomona city core are 60 Professional Schools, Colleges and Universities with over 260,000 students as an aggregate cohort. From this we can infer that there are at least a half million Echo Boomers in the same geographic area. Consumers.

    This Echo Boom should be the mantra for a renewed Pomona. Multi-cultural coalescence and urban renewal is the strategy we need reflected in the New General plan and synergy with the local universities.

    For an example take a look at USC which has in just a few years reduced its undergraduate commuter population to just over 10% by working with developers and the Los Angeles Planning Commission. The improvements have not only been good for USC but have also improved the lives of all that live in that area.