Dream Extreme. That’s the slogan for the city of Lake Elsinore, a small community with the largest freshwater lake in Southern California. Once known as a vacation playground for Hollywood’s elite, the city’s economy has been in steady decline for years. Though recent measures have been taken to change this, some residents are wondering if the measures taken have been the right ones.
In 2012, an $8 million boat launch was installed, most of it subsidized by the state’s now dissolved redevelopment agency. It was a huge investment for a small city of 55,000, but was it the right investment?
If a new boat launch was supposed to attract more tourist dollars, two years later, it’s still not evident in the nearby businesses directly across from the lake. At Lakeshore Plaza, stores and restaurants have played a revolving game of openings and closings. With the exception of a few fast food restaurants, many small business owners have struggled to keep their doors open.
Maria, who requested that her last name be withheld, had this to say of Lake Elsinore, “Given the choice, of course I would take my boat to Lake Havasu. Yeah, it’s a drive; but it’s worth it. I know a lot of people who feel that way. Havasu is bigger, cleaner, and nicer than Lake Elsinore. Plus, there’s a bunch of nice restaurants and big department stores close by.”
The continuing problem
The oldest neighborhood in Lake Elsinore comprises the quaint historic buildings of Main Street. There are a few antique stores, the most distinguished of which is The Chimes. The store is only open on weekends which is telling of how few people come to shop. A spate of restaurant closures on the small street have left many asking what more can be done to help businesses stay open.
The possible solution
A look at the City of Lake Elsinore’s website reveals the city does have plans to revitalize the historic Main Street corridor and the nearby lakefront. The “Downtown Master Plan” includes a conceptualized lakefront reminiscent of the famed Navy Pier in Chicago, complete with giant ferris wheel, restaurants, and shops. Add to that a new community playhouse, a museum, a spa hotel, and upscale office buildings.
The “Master Plan” is beyond impressive. Unfortunately, less impressive was the final section of the plan entitled “Guide to Implementation.” To answer the question of where will all the money come from to fund Lake Elsinore’s city of the future, the guide was vague, at best. Listed were some options for possible government funding, but not much else.
With grandiose plans and no way to fund their execution, it’s an appropriate footnote for a city which has chosen “Dream Extreme” as its slogan.