Saturday, February 17, 2007

Woodland's future has its bright spots

Woodland's future has its bright spots

By Crystal Lee/Democrat staff Writer

Article Launched: 02/11/2007 06:47:50 AM PST

Not all is the news is negative when it comes to doing business in Woodland. Plans are in motion for city's dramatic makeover. During the next 20 years, the city will unveil numerous new and renovated buildings while local gallery owners help create a vibrant art scene.

New construction like the Gateway Retail Center, the Spring Lake housing development, and the Community & Senior Center and adjacent Sports Park are expected to make the city a more attractive place to live and visit.

Additionally, the Capitol Hotel and the Porter Building, both on Main Street downtown, are undergoing renovations. When the buildings are ready, they will be the site of restaurants, retail and office space, and residential units - all within a historic small-town setting.

There's also the Woodland Lofts Project, which could bring two four-story condominiums to downtown Woodland along with several hundred well-off residents eager for local entertainment, restaurants and other amenities.

The new businesses and optimism of public officials and some private businesses contrasts sharply with others who have reported problems in working with the city.

The number of business licenses taken out also contradicts some who say they are leaving town because of problems encountered with City Hall.

Numbers provided by the Community Development Department indicate a steady increase of new business licenses issued each year from 2000 through 2006. There were 504 licenses issued in 2000, almost 600 licenses in 2003, and 809 licenses in 2006.

At the same time, the number of businesses that closed down in 2006 was significantly lower than in previous years, with only 39 businesses closing in 2006 compared to 361 in 2000.

According to these statistics, Woodland has been attracting more businesses than before, despite difficulties and frustrations expressed by some business owners. Fewer businesses closing in 2006 might also signify that the city is becoming more business friendly.

Adding to the optimism is City Manager Rick Kirkwood, who is right now working on bringing a multiplex theater to Main Street, replacing the Hoblit Dodge auto dealership. Hoblit Dodge, formerly Hoblit-Haynes, would ideally relocate to property near the Gateway Retail Center.

Owner Dave Hoblit said the dealership needs more space and that he had been looking to relocate for a long time. Hoblit and developer Paul Petrovich have been discussing moving Hoblit Dodge to 10 acres of property near the Gateway Retail center, where Petrovich hopes to build an auto mall.

"We've been all for it from day one," Hoblit said of the proposal.

Kirkwood meanwhile predicts that a sports park will become one of the best in the region and should attract tourism from all over Northern California.

Construction for the 60-acre park, which will include 12 softball and soccer fields, a lakeside restaurant and a dog park, will occur in three phases. Construction on the first phase on the park will begin this summer and should be complete by 2008, according to Parks & Recreation Director Dan Gentry. Gentry said it will probably be another 10 years before all phases of the park are built out.

Sporting events won't be the only attraction in town either - three new art galleries have set up shop within the past year.

In a "State of the City" address a few weeks ago, Kirkwood's enthusiasm was unmistakable.

"Woodland's a happening place," he said of the city's present and future.

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