Why do people choose to live in Redlands? On January 30, members of the Redlands and University communities gathered at a Redlands Forum event, sponsored by Esri and University of Redlands Town and Gown, to explore that question.
A panel comprised of recent arrivals and products of multigenerational Redlands families emphasized Redlands’ strong sense of community and rich history, while also commenting on what could be done better. Moderated by Jack Dangermond, president of Esri, and Larry Burgess '67, historian and director emeritus of A. K. Smiley Public Library, the event resonated with a sense of civic pride.
Here are some of the perspectives expressed. Remarks were edited for brevity and clarity.
“When my family was thinking about moving, I looked at Boston, Orange County, Austin, and other places, and I just couldn’t find a place that had community spirit and good schools… The Redlands community now means so much more to us than we could have ever expected. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
—Elizabeth Ahmed, global construction project and real estate manager
“I grew up in Illinois and then chose to continue my life in Southern California. When I came to this community, I was immediately embraced. I can look around and see so many friends, and that’s why I stay in Redlands—because of the people.”
—Marguerite Wilson, retail product developer
“The people in this city are why I’m here. My family wasn’t born in the U.S. so Redlands has become a family for us. From a millennial’s perspective, there are a lot of things to do here. There are four breweries in the city now, the nightlife is great, and there are a lot of local businesses. That’s what’s keeping me here.”
—Kadir Fakir, pediatric nurse and founder of Cheesewalla
“My husband and I graduated from Redlands High School. Our granddaughter is a teacher here. We’ve worked to invest in Redlands because we love it.”
—Carol Rochford, cofounder of the Rochford Foundation
“When I first started hosting Restored, the network asked where they would find a city that would resonate throughout the country and if there was any place that stood out to me. I told them about Redlands and the amazing community and the perfect blend of great people, rich history, and architecture. There’s a lot that has been preserved, from buildings to open spaces, for future generations. It’s evident that the people who live here love this town.”
—Brett Waterman, preservationist and host of Restored, a home improvement show on DIY Network and HGTV
On areas for improvement and advice for the future
“When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike to my friends’ houses, and I’d get to know the streets. I knew people because they either went to school with me, with my parents, or with my grandparents. I think we’ve lost a little bit of that—we need to get to know our neighbors better. That will make our city a better place.”
—Dave Wilson ‘95, consultant and fiduciary
“When I was starting my business, the challenge I ran into was that it’s really hard to find talent and keep it here. We’ve hired people who are moving to Redlands, but one thing we can do is create affordable spaces for young people to come and live here.”
—Saj Ahmed, chief executive officer of WISE Healthcare
“To be honest, I had a very difficult time meeting people. The opportunity finally presented itself when I decided to start a business, and, without that, I don’t think I would have been able to meet anyone on this panel. Having opportunities, like this forum, for people to come and mingle are important. Finding a way to have business owners directly connecting with the community is an area for growth.”
“One area where we could grow is with senior housing. People are living longer and they still want to be active in the community, and it can be difficult for them.”
“It’s our duty to save some of the land we have, some of the orange groves, trees, rivers, and canyons, for future generations. Once we build on that land, we’re never going to get it back.
On telling other people about Redlands
“People often ask me why Redlands is such a big part of my life. The explanation I give them is that Redlands is my town. I don’t get that same feeling in Rancho Mirage or Palm Springs. I know that I belong here.”
—Tim Rochford, entrepreneur and cofounder of the Rochford Foundation
“Redlands is an idyllic town. There are beautiful parks and good schools. It’s a place for the young and for the old. It’s a bit of a dream in many ways, and it’s realized here.”
“There aren’t a lot of cities that have an air show, a bike classic, an art walk. There are so many things to do here and being able to have community events is a huge benefit.”
“As a newcomer, you have to be friendly, reach out, and show up, and then the community will show up for you, too. Being neighborly to each other and getting involved in local organizations really matters.”
A followup discussion, titled "Why Redlands 2.0 — What can YOU do?" is scheduled for Wednesday, February 7, at 5:30pm in the Esri Auditorium. Registration, which opens one week prior to the talk, is required. For more information, see the Redlands Forum website.