If Mayor Ben Cantu has his way, the day may come when you will no longer be able to drive directly down Yosemite Avenue to go from the Target Store to Big Lots.
Instead, you will be forced to turn down Fremont Avenue and then turn left onto Center Street. After that you will need to travel 14 to 16 blocks down Center Street and then turn to the left on either Walnut Avenue or Union Road and resume your travel on Yosemite Avenue by making a right turn.
A cornerstone of Cantu’s plan to revitalize downtown essentially sacrifices the relative convenience of direct travel on what is Manteca’s major east-west corridor connecting major commercial. That would then allow for physical restrictions that would prevent through travel eastbound on Yosemite Avenue at Walnut Avenue and westbound travel on Yosemite Avenue at Fremont Avenue. The aim is to transform Yosemite through downtown into a street with less traffic as the first step toward making it more pedestrian friendly in a bid to attract dining spots and specialty stores.
The plan outlined by Cantu would also change traffic patterns on the narrow streets south of Yosemite Avenue between Walnut Avenue and the railroad tracks to access some of the city’s oldest neighborhood.
The mayor shared the vision for downtown he is aggressively pushing during Thursday’s meeting of the Manteca Rotary at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
Cantu declared traffic as the No. 1 problem facing efforts to overhaul downtown followed closely by what he essentially described as the city’s anemic commitment to spending money on the city’s core.
The mayor told Rotarians the city in the past two decades has spent around $9 million on downtown.Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.
“Essentially the city has spent pennies on downtown,” Cantu declared.
Actually since 2004 Manteca has spent in excess of $11.6 million on major downtown initiatives that includes building a transit station with a large community room and expansive plaza designed for community events, the expansion and upgrading of Library Park for community events as well in addition to an interactive water play feature, the specialized streetscape including decorative street lights and traffic signals, two pedestrian plazas, crosswalk and sidewalk pavers, and alley and parking lot upgrades.
Cantu suggested possible ways of increasing money to pay for more downtown upgrades is through either a special sales tax on transactions in the downtown district or a property tax mechanism such as a community facilities district that would encompass property in and around the central district.
The mayor noted what makes this downtown push different than the five or so others that failed previously was the council decision to appoint himself and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead as a two-member committee to cobble together a plan for downtown, devise an implementation plan, and recommend ways to fund it.
Cantu said there was too much input in previous plans done by council appointed committees with fairly robust membership given everyone had their own vision on what to do. He also noted property owners and businesses believed it was the city’s responsibility to take the lead while the city held the exact opposite view.
Whatever plan the committee comes up with it would need to be approved by the majority of the city council.
Cantu also favors a sizeable municipal investment that could easily exceed $20 million to relocate city hall downtown. He said such a move would jump start downtown’s transformation by putting 200 plus potential customers — city hall employees — within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and services in addition to those who have city business they need to tend to at city offices.
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