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The Cheech Chicano Art Center awaits council approval to break ground

A decision in next Tuesday’s City Council meeting may conclude a nearly four year process to establish a management agreement for the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Arts and Culture, or the Cheech, but some are concerned about what it might cost Riverside taxpayers.

According to Deputy City Manager Moises Lopez during a Financial Performance and Budget Committee meeting on January 8, the most updated memorandum of understanding outlines an initial 25 year term between the city, Mr. Cheech Marin and the Riverside Art Museum, who is the designated manager of the Cheech. 

According to the tentative agreement, the city of Riverside will be responsible for a $800,000 annual management fee paid to RAM, with an additional increase of $25,000 annually after the first year. This would continue through the 10th year, bringing the total to a possible $9.1 million. The parties would then be able to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. 

Drew Oberjuerge, executive director of the RAM, said during the January 8 committee meeting that the fees are necessary for the initial stability of the center. 

“City investment in the management agreement will provide incubation for RAM to build strong programming that will attract future donors, members, museum goers, facility rental clients and museum store clients,” she said in the meeting. 

Alongside the management terms, City Council is also being asked on Tuesday to authorize the commencement of construction to the old downtown Riverside Main Library which will become the Cheech. The renovation project is expected to cost $9.7 million and will be funded by donations for which RAM is responsible. 

In a Budget Engagement Commission meeting in December, City Manager Al Zelinka said he believes this is a time for Riverside to seize an opportunity, even while the city’s financial situation is of great concern.  

“These opportunities don’t come at good times most of the time,” he said in the December meeting. “I am unbelievably worried about this financial predicament we’re in, but I’m also unbelievably committed to making sure we see our way through it.” 

If the agreement is approved, the Cheech is expected to open in late 2021.