Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ideas Aplenty For The Edge Of Downtown

Ideas Aplenty For The Edge Of Downtown
By Jennifer Gentile /Staff Writer

A rendering shows a vision of the proposal that features retail outlets as well as residential units and offices. (Courtesy drawing)

With a makeover planned for a portion of downtown's perimeter, it was clear Monday that Vacaville residents have no shortage of ideas about how these improvements should be carried out.

The public offered a wealth of suggestions during a workshop at the McBride Senior Center, which drew more than 30 people. Vacaville's Housing and Redevelopment Department hosted the gathering to solicit input for its Opportunity Hill project, which is an effort to revitalize two focal points - the Bush and East Main Street areas of the city.

Leading the meeting were representatives of EDAW, the firm chosen to help plan the development. By the time the workshop ended, facilitators had filled a banner-sized piece of butcher paper with comments, concerns, drawings and other material to incorporate eventually into its master plan.

Jim Ball, one of those present, said it is important for new development "to emulate, somewhat, the downtown area," noting that several of the existing buildings are at least 100 years old. Ball also said he hopes the city "will find one developer who will do it all."

Although she said she is in favor of a parking garage hidden behind other buildings and extending retail opportunities along Main Street, Jan Maguire said, "What I'm really interested in is how it will look." She suggested a variety of heights and textures "so it kind of mirrors what we have downtown already."

Opening the discussion about how much retail should be included and where, Pat Gideon said it should not be located on Wilson Street, which is not wide enough to accommodate it.

Responding to concerns about the market for retail space, and potential competition from elsewhere in the city, Developer Rich Lamphere said, "I think if you have more retail and restaurants, no one will suffer. "

Lamphere has created a rendering of his vision of Opportunity Hill, depicting development of the parcel that includes Bush Street, showing it from the perspective of someone looking down School Street toward McClellan Street.

Lamphere's concept features retail on the first floor, with subsequent floors for residential and office uses. In a written statement, he said his vision is to "build on the success of the what has already been created,

"We've shown a handful of people in the community," Lamphere said, "and everyone who sees it really likes it."

Other speakers said the development should be bicycle-friendly and reflect that Vacaville is a family-oriented city. Housing and Redevelopment Director Cyndi Johnston closed the workshop by thanking the residents for their involvement.

"As we move forward, we encourage you to continue to participate in the process," she said, "so we get a wonderful product we can all be proud of."

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at vacaville@thereporter.com.

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