Friday, November 17, 2006

Council Backs Grants For Aid To Downtown

Council Backs Grants For Aid To Downtown
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Armed with nine meetings of public comment and the Vacaville City Council's support, a city department will apply soon for grant funds for downtown improvements.

The city council gave its blessing Tuesday to the Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which will go after a Transportation for Livable Communities facilities grant offered by the Solano Transportation Authority. When the next funding cycle happens in the spring, the agency plans to have an application prepared identifying a potential project downtown.

In January of 2005, the agency received $25,000 in grant funding through the TLC program to plan and gather public input. Since that time, staff has gathered comments and ideas at nine public meetings, with an estimated 150 people participating.

Housing and Redevelopment Director Cynthia Johnston said during these meetings, staff shared ideas that would complement "what we already have," as well as a planned multi-story, mixed-use development around Opportunity Hill. Plans for the development include a ground floor mostly for restaurants and retail and an upper floor for offices and residences.

Some themes emerged in gathering public input, including the idea that a successful downtown should have a mix of uses to stay vital. There was also consensus that a good downtown has a critical mass and that the local downtown does not feel finished

Parking was another theme, with participants agreeing on the importance of the correct number of spaces in the right locations.

An extension of the CreekWalk to Dobbins Street was mentioned as a possible project, according to a department staff report. The presentation also identifies a site at the corner of Davis and Catherine streets that could be suitable for a parking structure.

"People seemed very excited," Johnston said. "They were interested in making sure it reflected our community." She said at this point, the department has not determined the amount of grant funding it will request.

Mayor Len Augustine, who is also the STA chair, said projects have a better chance of being funded if they are ready to move forward and matching local funds are available. While a proposal is still in the idea phase, he said a Vacaville project would fulfill the purpose of the grant and "certainly be competitive."

"To me, it would be a kick-start for doing a project that would bring new life to the downtown area," he said.

Johnston said she also feels good about the chances, as "STA has been very supportive of what we've done so far."

The director added that the agency continues to welcome and encourage public comment. The department can be contacted by phone at 449-5660 or by e-mail at

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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