Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Credibility for a New Downtown - (10/04/05)

Credibility for a new downtown - (10/04/05)
By Times-Herald Editorial staff

Even the most cynical among us must admit that Vallejoans' long-held hopes for a thriving downtown finally are poised to come true.

With a unanimous vote last Tuesday, the City Council gave its enthusiastic preliminary okay for Triad Corp.'s sweeping plans to revamp, restore and renew more than a dozen square blocks downtown into shops, entertainment venues and homes.

A unanimous vote by the council brings solid credibility to the plan, which has been scrutinized by politicians, a variety of official agencies and Vallejo citizens since the notion first glimmered several years ago.

It's an exciting plan consisting of high-rises with commercial on the ground floor and upscale housing above.

Imagine, high-rises in downtown Vallejo to rival Marina Towers.

These business-residential plans are the best answer to growing population management. They put people in homes close to the services they need and want and they eliminate the need for more sprawl in our already scarce open spaces.

The plans, too, include the renovation of the Empress Theater to make that historic building come alive, restored as a central entertainment venue to what is hoped will be an arts and entertainment district attracting hundreds.

This all promises the end of decay, abandoned buildings, struggling businesses, and the constant roaming of ne're do wells through our downtown streets.

Vallejo has never completely given up on its downtown, but its appearance today reflects failed plans and a shirking of responsibility by building owners in our city's historic core.

All of that, by way of a unanimous "yes" amid applause and cheers in the City Council chambers, is about to change in the area encompassing Maine, Santa Clara and Capitol streets and Sonoma Boulevard.

The surrounding areas are not forgotten. Once this initial project is completed and proves its worth, those areas go on the drawing board.

Construction should begin next year.

We're ready, and business owners are ready, for the inconvenience of massive construction in a small area. Business owners know and accept there will be disruptions and parking issues over the many months of building.

The city knows it will need to manage well its scarce resources to invest its share of $10.7 million for upgrading streets, building a park and making sure there is a strong marketing plan in place to lure businesses here.

Vallejo has also forgiven Triad some $6.6 million in developer fees.

The inconvenience and sacrifice, however, is minor compared to the benefit - a downtown we will want to use, that we can visit after dark with no fears, and that hundreds will call home.

As Councilmember Gary Cloutier said: "I say let's get on with it."

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