Riverside’s Chavez Center to get Much Needed Renovations: $25M Structural Upgradation Project Announced

By: Sharjeel Sohaib


Jul 13, 2022


A newly rebuilt arts complex will benefit the youthful talent at the Riverside Arts Academy on the city’s Eastside. Legislators and community leaders from the Inland Empire announced on Friday, July 1, that the California budget for 2022–2023 contains $25 million for the renovation of the Cesar Chavez Community Center inside Bobby Bonds Park.

About the Chavez Center

The city of Riverside manages the Spanish colonial-style structure, which was built more than a century ago and is currently home to many students and is in desperate need of renovations. University Heights Junior High School originally occupied the building on University Avenue.

The old structure was formerly a school and is now a community center. According to a news release, it is utilized mainly by the academy, which has provided kids with free art classes and music instruction for almost ten years.

According to Collette Lee, president of Riverside Arts Institution, the objective is to transform a “beautiful historic structure” into a “high-tech arts academy.”

“The place is like a dungeon… when we first started at the Cesar Chavez Center in 2014, we didn’t even have doors on the boys’ restrooms,” she said. “At our spring concert, we had a full capacity crowd, and the plumbing could not accommodate the building. We had an overflow in the bathroom.”

According to Lee, the air conditioning does operate in the summer, causing academy students to abandon their classes and seek out more excellent areas of the facility.

Funding for the Chavez Center

The institution has always “thrived” with brilliance, but she said that structural improvements need finance. At least 89 percent of the participants in the program are young people from low-income families who are eligible for free music lessons and equipment.

On Friday, she was at the Chávez Center to announce funding for the project from the state budget alongside Riverside City Council members Jose Medina and Sabrina Cervantes, Democrats from the Inland Assembly.

The previous school building “had not received any repairs since 1938,” according to Medina, who represents the 61st District, needed “much-needed renovations” when she approached the academy and local officials in 2019.

“I am proud that our cultural and educational priorities are receiving much-needed investments after years of advocacy by our community,”

Jose Medina | Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

Medina met with representatives from the city and the school to establish a committee, gather funds, and draught a budget plan for the legislature.

Lee expressed her “joy and honor” at the assembly members’ success in obtaining money for the project. With the funds, the school can plan improvements like constructing a Wi-Fi hub and purchasing a ceramics kiln for its expanding visual arts department.

Although a timetable for the renovation and construction has not yet been established, Lee expressed hope that the restored arts academy will open “between two and three years.”

The facility will remain open for most repairs and will begin providing summer music lessons this month.

“Our passion is social justice and equal access to the arts,” Lee said. “I hope we can have an art academy in Riverside that is not only award-winning, from a theater arts standpoint, but (that would) maintain a level of excellence in the arts. This is going to transform the Eastside without question. And it already has.”

Other Funding and Investments in the Riverside

Mayor Lock Dawson announced four other funding and investment projects for the City of Riverside. These investments will improve the quality of life and provide better access to different facilities in the county.

Wrap Up!

The city of Riverside will receive $25 million in public funding to help fund a major overhaul of the Chavez Center. The center is a multi-purpose facility with a convention center, theater, and event space.

As Riverside is the heart of the Inland Empire, funds and investment projects will help strengthen its economy.


  • Avatar Of Sharjeel

    Sharjeel joined Startempire Wire as emerging technologies editor. Earlier, he worked at Silicon Canals, a leading English language technology media source for the Benelux and wider Europe. He covered the European technology and startup ecosystem digging into latest funding rounds of startups.


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