July 24, 2006
Jury still out on Trilogy's impact
By Mike Corpos
Mitch and Sandy Reed of Hesperia look at a map of the area while eating lunch at BettyÕs Slider Cafe in downtown Rio Vista. (Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD - Several years after the Trilogy retirement housing development opened in Rio Vista, the community's effect on the rest of the town is still being determined.
Depending on whom you ask, the growth has helped, hurt, or not affected the downtown area.
Some businesses have seen a real boost since folks began moving into Trilogy in the late 1990s, while others have seen little - if any - effect.
Betty Marlowe, owner of Betty's Slider Cafe on Main Street said the Trilogy residents have been a huge boon to this rural town of less than 8,000.
"It definitely brings us more business - and they're very pleasant people," said Marlowe, who's been in business for seven years. "We have a lot of regular business form there. It's been a boost for me."
Marlowe said she's thankful for the Trilogy residents, and added that she feels, "We're going in the right direction."
"Before Trilogy opened, you knew exactly where you were," Marlowe said of the town's rural setting. "There's not much that brings people up here - the bass derby and that whale that came up the river."
"It brings new life to the community," Marlowe said. "It's refreshing to meet new people."
She added that since Trilogy opened, she's seen more businesses open downtown.
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"There's especially a lot more real estate offices - one just opened up across the street," she said. "I think it's boosted a lot of people's businesses."
James Witt, owner of Rio Vista Auto Repair, said he wasn't entirely sure that trilogy has helped the downtown area much.
"It's helped my business," he said. "I've had more people to draw from."
Witt said that while his business has increased, the limited choice of auto shops in town ensures that he'll be busy. He added that he's not sure how much other businesses are benefiting from Trilogy or other new developments in town
"I don't think it's increased things much," he said. "They're good people to work for, though - that's for sure."
Witt added that his wife and mother both own businesses in the Downtown area, and neither has seen much increase in business in recent years.
Witt said he real concern was not so much new housing developments, but rather the potential for new retail along Highway 12.
"My only concerns is that they keep building out there," he said. "The downtown is going to get neglected - especially if they start putting strip malls up out there."
Even with the influx of new residents, Witt said he's concerned that the growth will hurt older parts of town.
"It happened to Fairfield and Suisun," he said.
In his 15 years living in Rio Vista, Witt said he's seen a lot of change. In that time, he's seen the population of Rio Vista double.
"You used to be able to walk across Highway 12 - now you have to run," he said.
A new housing development under construction in the Gibbs Ranch are on the north side of town will only speed up the change, he added.
"That's going to have a big impact," Witt said. "Two other shops have opened up in town, and it hasn't slowed down."
Others think Trilogy has had a decidedly negative impact on the riverside community.
Steven Bissell, a longtime downtown businessman, said the retirement community could contribute more to the rest of the town.
"There's been a major negative impact," Bissell said, noting that a recent golf tournament at Trilogy did not include anybody from other parts of Rio Vista. "It separates the community. They're good people out there though."
If the downtown area is to be preserved, Bissell said the city needs to take a more active role in preserving it.
"If they don't start promoting the businesses they won't stay," Witt said.
Bissell agreed with Witt on the possibility of new retail on Highway 12: "A big store out there would be a major drain on downtown."
Trilogy resident and Rio Vista Vice-Mayor Ron Jones said he feels that the gated community has had an overall positive impact on the town as a whole.
Jones, who's lived in Rio Vista for eight years, said he feels the fact that trilogy is a few miles from downtown, and it's a gated community can give people the impression of two separate communities.
Through his work on the city council, Jones said he's tried to make it clear to residents that Rio Vista is one community.
"We're all from Rio Vista, some of us just happen to live in a development called Trilogy," he said.
As for how downtown has been impacted, Jones said it's been largely a positive impact.
"A lot of businesses in town have increased their patronage as a result of the population increase," he said. "We have more dentists, more real estate offices and agents."
Jones said he didn't think any business has not seen an increase.
"I really think the town has also benefited through volunteerism," he said, adding that because all of Trilogy's residents are older than 55 and most are retired, they have a lot of time to give.
Along with Jan Vick, Jones is one of two city council members from Trilogy.
Others still are neutral on whether Trilogy has changed life in downtown.
Sara Whitton said she's lived in Rio Vista for about four years - not far from the municipal boat launch in downtown.
"I've worked at a bar down here for about eight months," she said. "It mostly just the same old regulars. There also a lot of people from out of town."
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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