Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Downtown's Looking Up

Downtown's Looking Up
Revitalization in Vacaville Gets Kudos
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

California Congressman George Miller (right) tours downtown Vacaville on Monday with Mayor Len Augustine (left) and Bob Vollmer, executive director of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District. (Rick Roach/The Reporter)

With a vision to establish a strong partnership with local government and the federal government, Congressman George Miller, D-Solano, took advantage of a visit Monday morning to northern Solano County and toured downtown Vacaville with Mayor Len Augustine.

Miller and Augustine strolled through downtown, stopping to meet and mingle with people on the street and meandered through the different businesses that were open.

Earlier that morning, Miller spent some time at the Back to School Breakfast at Travis Credit Union Park.

"The people seem really upbeat here," Miller said. "The whole revitalization effort is really coming together."

Noting that the last time he walked through downtown Vacaville, efforts to improve the feel and the draw for local business were just under way, still just an idea on paper.

The city's redevelopment agency since then, has invested heavily in streetscapes, public utilities, building renovations, as well as the new Town Square and CreekWalk.

"It's great that our dreams are beginning to materialize," Miller said. "I'm a big believer in public spaces and this is really coming together."

Miller said it's also nice to see that with the tension between the local businesses and the new big businesses moving in, for example the new Nut Tree project, hasn't negatively affected the smaller businesses.

"They have really found their niche and downtown is really making a comeback," Miller said.

The tour stopped in and met the owner of Spin a Yarn, a business that has been opened for less than a year and has benefited from its downtown Vacaville location.

"There are some exciting changes going on," said Debbie Tislau, assistant manager. "We love the charm and the feel of the downtown area."

Having Miller walk through downtown gives everyone an awareness and a better understanding of what needs to be improved, according to Bob Vollmer, executive director of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District.

"The changes have really added a big plus to the city as a whole," Vollmer said.

However, before leaving for a Regional Armed Forces Committee Meeting at Travis Air Force Base later in the day, Miller mentioned he still had some concerns.

"It's a sign of success, but we don't want parking to become a headache," he said.

The idea of a parking structure might come to fruition as more events are held downtown and its popularity increases Miller, Augustine and Vollmer agreed.

Infrastructure and traffic patterns are always a concern, as well as the sturdiness of the creek itself, Miller added.

"The creek has become an important community asset," Miller said.

A second retention basin could be built to help handle big flows of water, according to Miller.

"This has become a very livable and usable community and a pleasant place to come and spend time," he added. "It's a very remarkable atmosphere."

Augustine echoed Miller's positive sentiments of the city.

"We're trying to create a safe and friendly environment," he said. "People come here from neighboring cities to experience our downtown. The businesses really want to be here."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

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