The Redlands Mutual Orange Co. Packinghouse will soon become Redlands’ central marketplace for local food culture, according to its new owner, Arteco Partners.
Jerry Tessier, president of the Pomona-based company that has restored more than 25 historic buildings throughout Southern California, will join Redlands Mayor Paul Foster to kick off guided tours of the future public market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18.
Escrow on the $320,000 sale closed Monday, Tessier said. It will take Arteco Partners about a year to retrofit the building, which is covered in stucco. Brick restoration experts say it is too risky to remove the stucco on the outside, but the original bricks will be visible on the inside, Tessier said.
The nondescript white building between the Santa Fe Depot and the former Krikorian Theater — now the Studio Movie Grill — has long been controversial. In the summer of 2011 the City Council agreed to sell the building to theater owner George Krikorian.
Krikorian planned to expand his business in the existing parking lot along Eureka Street and tear down the packinghouse for parking. A new council, acting as the redevelopment agency, later bought the property.
The city started working with Arteco Partners to develop the property a few years ago.
“Tours will feature great historical information as well as a look into the new project plans and renderings,” says a press release. “On the grounds there will be a Historical Booth hosted by the Redlands Conservancy, a giveaways booth featuring exclusive merchandise with the new project logo and refreshments host by the Riverside Food Lab will be available for free to all in attendance.”
The Riverside Food Lab is one of eight local projects led by Arteco Partners. It is next to the Fox Theater in downtown Riverside and has 14 restaurants. Some of those restaurants also have locations in Redlands.
Tessier, a Claremont native, restored the Claremont Packinghouse in 2007. Built in 1922, it was the largest co-op in Claremont, operated by the College Heights Orange and Lemon Association. He also restored the 1931 Padua Hills Theater in Claremont. Arteco also restored the 45,000-square-foot Fox Theater in Pomona in 2009. Its website describes the 1931 national landmark as an art deco movie palace, “Pomona’s most distinctive architectural icon.” It is now a state-of-the-art live music venue and mixed-use entertainment complex.
Arteco also restored the Pomona Packing Plant, which was established in 1915, and the Emporia Arts District in downtown Ontario, and operates the School of Art and Enterprise, a charter school in Pomona.
The Mutual Orange packinghouse is a rectangular brick building now sheathed in stucco, according to a Historic Resource Inventory filed in May 1986.
“The roof closely resembles a truncated hip style of corrugated metal and features closed eves at building face,” according to the survey provided by Nathan Gonzales, an archivist at the A.K. Smiley Public Library. “Square wooden posts support the corrugated metal porch, which is attached to the wall. Straight cement stairs lead to structural opening at the left of the building.”
Brick-trimmed windows with radiating brick at top feature blind panes, which replaced the original glass.
The structure in the middle of the building on the west side was a cull bin, according to “A Virtual Tour of Redlands,” published in 2012 by James E. Lancaster and Bill Messecar. Damaged fruit was stored in the bin and later hauled away to a be used for orange juice.
“They had to cull the bad fruit from the good,” Tessier said.
The historical survey said it was built in 1906, but Tessier said his research dates it back to 1890. It was upgraded in 1906 and again in 1912 and went through a full renovation in 1930.
Redlands Mutual was a member of the Mutual Orange Distributors, a national sales and distribution organization that was still in business operating out of the Pure Gold offices when the survey was filed. It cost $7,000 to build. By 1929, it was shipping 224,000 boxes of fruit a year.
The packinghouse remained in operation until 1951, the survey says. It was used briefly as office by J. Mulder in 1961. It also was used by Missile Fuel Inc. and Astro Electronics that same year. Quality Slacks is listed as the final tenant listed in 1976.
“This landmark building’s rich history will be preserved as it becomes a culinary marketplace that celebrates Redlands’ agricultural heritage and today’s finest hand-crafted cuisines,” says artecopartners.com/redlands-packing-plant.
The market will showcase more than a dozen eateries and food artisans who vow to make residents become regulars and turn visitors into food tourists, the website says.
The masonry and steel-framed building has brick walls and arched doorways, skylights, an old service elevator, basement and other remnants of its days in the citrus-packing industry.
It’s considered a contributor to the Santa Fe Depot District recognition as National Register of Historic Places, which includes 17 contributing properties in the downtown core.
The building is near the Redlands Mall, another building that is expected to be revitalized soon, Santa Fe Depot train station, the downtown core and the future Redlands Passenger Rail Project.
The building will be part of the downtown parking district. When the parking structure planned to accompany the new rail project at the depot is constructed it will be a major asset for the public market, Tessier said. Evening and nighttime traffic will not compete with peak commuting times, he added.
The Krikorian Redlands Cinema 14 opened on Nov. 26, 1997, with 14 screens and was expected to draw 750,000 people a year.
From the start, Krikorian wanted to add more screens, according to cinematreasures.com.
“By September of 2000, plans were afoot by George Krikorian to add six more screens,” the website says. “Over the years Krikorian submitted various plans to expand the theater but none came to fruition. One of the reasons given was that local preservationists opposed the expansion because it would mean the demolition of an historic packinghouse.”
In July 2011, there were discussions about putting a Sprouts market in the packinghouse, but that never happened. The Sprouts Farmers Market is now the anchor of the Packinghouse District, a shopping center west of Eureka Street.
Studio Movie Grill took over the Krikorian on Sept. 1, 2017.
The city’s now-defunct Redevelopment Agency bought the building from Harold Floyd, who had owned the building for many years, and had been using it as a storehouse and his office in the southeast corner of the building, recalls Sherli Leonard, executive director of the Redlands Conservancy.
“It was paneled and the walls were covered with animal heads, presumably ones he had killed,” Leonard said.
The conservancy filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get information about the sale, she said.
“The sale to Krikorian was contingent upon him fulfilling a requirement that had to do with a landscaping plan within a time limit,” she said. “That's the requirement he failed to meet and when he asked the council for an extension. The council denied it and the sale was terminated.
Throughout the debate preservationists advocated saving the building and reusing it, and appealed to council members regularly, she said.
Krikorian maintained the project was not a viable project, so it would have to be demolished. The council then prepared a plan to reach out to other developers, requiring a project to reuse the building. Arteco has a great record of reusing packinghouses, and they submitted a project plan, Leonard said.
What: Redlands Mayor Paul Foster and Jerry Tessier of Arteco Partners will kick off a tour of the Redlands Mutual Orange Co. Packinghouse.
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18.
Where: At the former Redlands Mutual Orange Co. Packinghouse, 330 N. Fourth St., south of the Santa Fe Depot and east of the Studio Movie Grill.
More information: artecopartners.com/redlands-packing-plant
The Riverside Food Lab Family
• Augie’s Coffee Roasters (Perfectly Roasted, Hand-Selected Coffee from Around the World)
• BeerFarm (Select Craft Brews from So Cal and Beyond)
• Bolcupop (Acai Bowls, Agua Frescas, Popsicles)
• Bricks and Birch (Homemade Brick-Oven Pizza)
• Dhat Creole Grill (Caribbean Fusion Cuisine)
• Dia de Los Puercos (Mexican Food with a Chicano Twist)
• Freelyraw (Fresh Cold-Pressed Juices)
• Fufu’s Grill (Traditional, Homemade Lebanese Food)
• Masala Mischief (Traditional Indian Food)
• Monty’s Good Burger (Plant-Based Burgers)
• Pig Pen Delicacy (Pork-Centric Comfort Food with a Twist)
• Soho Ramen (Homemade Ramen)
• Sweet Combforts (Dessert Waffles on a Stick)
• Wilson’s (Craft Cocktails)
For more information about the Riverside Food Lab, visit RiversideFoodLab.com.