View Mobile Site

Youth & Teen Center park project in Lathrop is step in right direction

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED April 6, 2010 3:13 a.m.
A while back, I wrote a column about downtowns. Specifically, what I had in mind was the city of Lathrop and where its downtown is or should be in light of all the developments taking place west of Interstate 5, namely: Mossdale Village, Central Lathrop Specific Plan’s Richland Master-planned Communities, and the gargantuan River Islands development west of the San Joaquin River.

When one speaks of downtown, the image that comes to mind is the historic heart of a town or city like downtown Manteca, downtown Ripon which has recently taken significant historical-preservation steps by launching an ambitious and far-reaching downtown-enhancement project that was just completed, and downtowns Stockton, Modesto and Livermore which have seen a dramatic comeback from shuttered-down commercial buildings and empty streets to vibrant shopping, recreational and dining destinations, thanks to the infusion of redevelopment funds that were dangled as incentives to developers.

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding by a former Lathrop council member whose vote resulted in a 2-1 split against the proposal, killed what would have become the Lathrop Redevelopment Agency which the proponents were hoping would be the saving grace for the blighted areas of the city such as portions of the Lathrop Acres north of Lathrop Road between the Interstate 5 freeway and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the east, as well as similar scattered areas in the historic Old Town District.

The current efforts to get the ambitious multimillion-dollar East Lathrop Community Complex which will include the Youth and Teen Center building in the heart of historic Seventh Street between Thomsen Road and L Street has been a long-drawn process. Long, as in years and not just months. It has been a dream of city leaders and residents from Day One of the city’s incorporation, and even long before that, to resurrect Old Town Lathrop to its heyday before the 19th century and just after the turn of the 20th century when Manteca was just a county community of sand. Former mayors Steve McKee, Bennie Gatto and Mac Freeman who were all on the early council panels can attest to that dream.

Former mayor Gloryanna Rhodes and other subsequent council members kept the torch alive for that dream of Lathrop. And it is heartening to note that Mayor Kristy Sayles and her colleagues have continued to hold on to that dream, and are now bringing that dream to fruition as the last stages of the building project are within grasp of becoming a reality. In fact, the mayor has stated at one recent council meeting that the new Youth and Teen Center Complex and related improvements in the city-block area could be open for business in the spring of 2011.

This project, truly, is a giant step in the right direction for the city. As Lathrop west of the freeway – Mossdale Village and the former Richland Communities – and the River Islands west of the San Joaquin River – went on fast-track to create modern residential, commercial and recreational neighborhoods, city officials starting with the first city council seated after incorporation have always worried about the Old Town District being left behind and forgotten in the process. They did not want to see a rundown historic Lathrop replete with crime and blight problems. A few years ago, former council member Leroy Griffith and a handful of concerned residents even went as far as to form a committee whose goal is to promote the preservation of the old downtown.

There has not been any movement lately from that group which, at one time, even met regularly at members’ homes. With work on the community complex now under way, maybe the time is ripe for that group to be rejuvenated.

The best part about the Youth and Teen Center project is that no taxpayers’ money is being infused into the construction costs. It’s all developers’ money which are funds paid to the city for community improvements.

There’s an added bonus to the building of the center project. Besides being the facility where area teens will be able to meet and hold programs, one wing of the building will be set aside for the Lathrop Branch Library. The city has been renting part of the ground floor of a building on Seventh Street for the library, so moving it to the new facility will save the city money.

The entire city block is already home to the Lathrop Skate Park, a Head Start program, an abandoned home on the northwest corner of the property which the city purchased from the homeowners a few years back, and the old office of pre-incorporation Lathrop County Water District which is being used as an office for the corporation yard located next to the skate park. This aging building, as well as the abandoned house will be torn down to make room for all the improvements planned on this community park.

According to the current master plan, the approximately three-acre park which is just a block away from Lathrop Elementary School will include a center amphitheater with turf seating, meandering walkways, an art walk, landscaping and play equipment.

While the present Lathrop Historic Old Town District has a long way before it can rival the likes of the downtowns in Manteca, Ripon, Stockton, Modesto and Livermore, the East Lathrop Community Project is a significant small step to that direction.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...