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Just where is downtown for Manteca?
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This could end up as a make or break year for the future of downtown Manteca.
The Manteca City Council in approving $40,000 to hire a facilitator with redevelopment agency money to try and help businesses and property owners to decide whether they are willing to tax themselves for a downtown improvement district made it clear this could be the end of the road for city help.
The warning came after years of false starts, projects going forward when consensus was obtained only to have support unravel when work started, and spending in excess of $5 million on everything from Library Park upgrades and street improvements to loan programs.
Mayor Willie Weatherford believes the problem is a case of myopic vision. The definition of downtown has been unchanged since the early 1900s. The definition generally consists of the area bounded by Center Street, Main Street and the railroad tracks plus a block east of Main Street.
The mayor believes such a narrow definition of downtown hampers progress plus puts Manteca at a disadvantage in making sure there is a thriving central district with a vibrant social and cultural life as Manteca grows toward 125,000 residents.
“Maybe it is time to extend what we think of downtown east to Powers Avenue and north to Alameda Street,” Weatherford said. “The historic downtown could keep that designation.”
The mayor noted that gives the downtown areas that can be redeveloped with new combination structures such as retail, restaurant or services with residential above. It also allows for a transformation similar to Pleasanton where older homes are converted into restaurants with patio dining.
City Manager Steve Pinkerton has suggested the possibility of concentrating efforts on Center Street that is wider, doesn’t have wall-to-wall buildings flush with the sidewalk, and has property that may be suited for private-public partnerships.
The mayor has noted that expanding the downtown district could allow putting in place special standards like the core downtown district now enjoys including waiving or the realization of parking requirements. Such an expanded district would have allowed a chiropractor to go ahead and occupy a home he purchased in the 600 block of East Center St. for a new office. After being unable to overcome the parking requirement, the chiropractor gave up and continued using the home as a residential rental
One of the key goals is to get more foot traffic downtown. A chiropractic office would bring patients to the central district.
The Community Development Department under the leadership of Mark Nelson made a $1 million investment for a major remodeling that made the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and the Ironhorse Deli that will open soon a reality. The city did that by working with the property owner to ease parking requirements that would have made the project impossible to purse under city standards that are currently in place.