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In-Depth: Indio sees transformation after years of investment

Big changes are underway in the Coachella Valley's largest city, as it enters an exciting new phase of development. News Channel 3's Peter Daut took an in-depth look at a transformation worth millions of dollars and years of investment. And as he discovered, it's not just a revitalization; it's a renaissance.

When American Idol winner Abi Carter recently visited her hometown of Indio, the timing could not have been better. She performed at a new entertainment venue, Center Stage, in the city's revitalized downtown.

The renaissance of Indio can be seen and heard throughout its historic downtown area: from several new businesses to a new, 64-unit apartment building to new murals and public art, the city has received more than $200 million in private and public investments to make Indio "the place to be."

"Indio has experienced the most change that we've seen in over a decade," Indio's Economic Development Officer, Miguel Ramirez-Cornejo said. He added half a dozen businesses have opened in downtown in just the past six months. "It's all been a long-term vision from the city council, which approved the downtown-specific plan in 2020. That just facilitated the revitalization of downtown, and now you're starting to see everything open up."

Included among the projects is the expansion of College of the Desert's Indio satellite campus, a facility that officials say will double its capacity to about 10,000 students. That includes a new Child Development Center, which will allow students and the community to acquire affordable childcare while also allowing early-education students to get hands-on experience.

"We're also adding a cyber security program; we're adding lecture halls; additional computer labs; so pretty much anything a student needs to complete their degree at College of the Desert in Indio, they'll be able to get right here at their door," COD's Director of Education Centers Jessica Enders said.

New downtown businesses include Gabino's Creperie, Music Hall and Coffee Shop, and the Indio Tap House. The Indio Tap House is inside of a remodeled old building.

"I wanted to do a restaurant in downtown Indio, because there was nothing here," Indio Tap House co-owner Roman Whittaker said. Since the business opened a few months ago, Whittaker said it has become a destination for beer and food enthusiasts from all over the Valley. And soon, they'll be opening additional restaurants inside the building as well. "I always saw the vision, and now the vision has come to life," he said.

Several more businesses are set to open in downtown, including the city's only craft brewery. Meanwhile, the owners of older businesses that have been in Indio for decades said they welcome the change.

"A lot of customers would tell us, 'Why is it so dead here, why is it so quiet?' And then boom, it just happened. It just changed out of nowhere. So it's been nice, it's been a great change," Indio Florist owner Jennifer Avila said. Indio Florist is also taking advantage of the city's beautification program, which is giving businesses up to $50,000 to remodel.

As if all that wasn't enough, Indio will soon have a new, three-story city hall building and library. There's also the new, 43,000 square foot public safety campus. Phase One was completed this year, which includes a new fire station and dispatch center.

"It's an exciting time because the residents have been wanting to see something happen here in downtown. We hear the stories that it used to be a ghost town. And now you see people walking up and down the streets in the mornings, afternoons, and it's wonderful. Because it's just a place for the community to come enjoy," Ramirez-Cornejo said.

According to the most recent census, Indio's population is the largest in the Valley at nearly 90,000. And with a median age of 39, the city said the timing was right to appeal to people of all ages and to make downtown a great place for people to visit, work, go to school or live.

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Peter Daut


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