Adaptive reuse isn’t the most understandable term. It sounds bureaucratic, but it’s an accurate description of a grand mission for more than two decades to preserve the classic buildings that help make Redlands a special place to live.

As Sherli Leonard explains in her story on page 13, the Redlands Conservancy was formed to lead this campaign. She is executive director and has been a regular contributor to the Community News since it was established three years ago.

Of course, the conservancy has expanded greatly since it was formed in 1994, particularly when it took over the historic Asistencia from the San Bernardino County Museum in 2018. It cares for Redlands’ extensive network of trails, manages the Land Trust that protects public property, operates the citrus preservation campaign and much more.

But adaptive reuse remains a major part of its mission. It’s website,, lists several historic buildings it has helped restore such as the Barton Villa next door to the Asistencia.

The city of Redlands bought the house in the 1990s. It had fallen into disrepair and was the victim of vandalism. The city wanted to tear it down. Conservancy board members spent their own money to evaluate the structure. Local preservationist Dr. Terry Vines, a dentist, purchased the building from the city and restored it.

It is now a wedding venue, as are many of other historic structures rescued by the conservancy, such as the Mitten Building and Mission Gables.

Built as an apartment complex in 1893, Mission Gables was ideally situated next to the Redlands Bowl. The city owned it and had plans to turn it into a parking lot.

Not so fast, said the conservancy. Leaders convinced the city to make it an adaptive reuse project to provide bathrooms for thousands of people who attend the bowl every summer, offices for the music association and a rehearsal hall. It’s now a gem.

Finally, there’s the Mutual Orange Distributors packinghouse built in 1912. George Krikorian, former owner of the movie theater now known as the Studio Movie Grill, wanted to tear it down for new stores. Fortunately, that never happened.

Now Arteco Partners, a Pomona-based company that has restored several historic sites, plans to turn it into the Redlands Public Market with more than a dozen restaurants. It is ideally situated next to the Santa Fe Depot where the new train will start rolling later this year.

All these projects help Redlands remain the Jewel of the Inland Empire.