And now, from the man who brought you E! Entertainment Television, comes — the city of Riverside, Calif.
Alan Mruvka, a Beverly Hills-based producer/developer, is pitching California's 11th largest city with the same fervor he employed to attract $50 million to fund the cable channel he founded in 1984.
From his first investment in a dilapidated building in Riverside in 2001 to his current plans for a $75 million downtown mixed-use project — Mruvka has immersed himself in all things Riverside. “His Hollywood experience gives us an advantage we wouldn't otherwise have,” says Gerald Buydos, Riverside interim economic development manager. “It's very unusual to have a private citizen on the team, but he brings so much to the table.”
Mruvka knew little about Riverside before his assistant e-mailed him pictures of the Ironworks, abandoned since World War II, which she noticed on a drive through the town, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. (Before becoming a television executive and movie producer, Mruvka renovated buildings in the New York area.) He turned the Ironworks into luxury office space. For his next project, he took on the Santa Fe Depot, an historic rail stop built in 1904, which he's marketing for retail or restaurant use.
His enthusiasm so impressed Riverside officials that they asked him to turn the city's lackluster downtown into a mixed-use project with 200,000 square feet of retail space. The result: The Villaggio — a planned development adjacent to the century-old Mission Inn.
So, you might ask, what do cities and movies have in common when it comes to marketing? They're both products, says Mruvka, who no longer has a financial interest in E!. As such, “it's all about branding.” He agreed to redevelop the city center only if he could be an integral part of the city's marketing team.
He got his wish. Mruvka played a big role in creating a new logo (above). He also recommended hiring a publicist to push positive news about the city of 285,000 in the fast-growing Inland Empire, again to spiff up its uninspiring image. While it has four museums and a convention center, you're more likely to read about Riverside's polluted air.
He hopes the marketing campaign, potentially including new highway signs highlighting some of Riverside's attractions, to encourage drivers of the estimated 325,000 cars (averaging 1.8 people per car) that pass by the city on two major highways to stop in and see what's happening. “If you get 1 percent, that's 10,000 people a day that you can get to shop,” he says.