Downtown, we are told, is dying.
It’s funny in a way given that someone forgot to tell the people who shop and access services in downtown as well as those that make their living there that they are on life support.
Yes there are vacant store fronts and problematic properties but take a close look without being blinded by your particular vision of what you believe downtown should be like. There are six financial institutions, five furniture stores, a pair of successful specialty markets plus a host of niche stores, services, dining spots and more. There is also more than $600,000 of public art in the form of stunning murals.
What downtown Manteca isn’t is downtown Livermore or downtown Pleasanton.
The city’s latest effort to try and forge a plan for downtown will now include the duet of Mayor Ben Cantu and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead that are part of a newly minted ad hoc committee or Version 9.0 of city hall’s latest venture to try and devise and implement a vision without sharpening what is already in place.
If you don’t think it is wiser to start small and build on that, take a trip to Maple Avenue and Center Street.
Two months ago what is arguably one of the biggest draws downtown and a prominent building as well — the Post Office — looked like a dump from the outside instead of a mainstay in a vibrant and growing community of 85,000 heading to 100,000 people in less than six years.
The grass had been dead for years. All of the planters in front were devoid of plants. What shrubbery was on the side along Center Street was so dry it was a fire hazard. The trash can at the front entrance reeked of “I don’t care.”
Take a look at it today. The grass is coming back. Plants that flower are in the ground and the trash can is more fitting.
The Post Office is not the Taj Mahl. That said it is a nice looking building. Today the grounds don’t convey a message of either “we don’t care” or “we are on our last legs.”
It is now on par with much of the 100 block of Maple Street.
The city has invested $1 million in alley and parking lot improvements on top of over $13 million of improvements during the past 16 years. That includes the transit center, expanding Library Park, creating two small plazas, and the streetscape that includes specialty street light poles, traffic signals and benches.
Mayor Cantu says he has a plan already to go. This time around instead of talking about plans perhaps the city might want to start first with a punch-list of things they can do to restore or clean what they have already put in place.
The list could include power washing pavers in crosswalks and on the sidewalks, replacing classless repair jobs of sidewalk pavers done with concrete and asphalt with actual pavers, make the $450,000 investment in the interactive water play feature not be a near colossal waste of money, and work on bringing more community activities to Library Park and the transit center.
It may surprise folks but the reason the city poured $10 million into Library Park, the water play feature, and transit center was to create places where the community would gather for cultural events or pursue leisurely activities.
The food trucks are a start.
But before we roll out yet another plan let’s see if the city can take care of what they have already put in place at great cost and make it work.
Bite the bullet and retrofit the water play feature with recycling capabilities so its use has to be severely limited. Maintain the pavers in place.
Bring more activities to the two city venues.
Then take a step to further enhance what is already there.
Cantu’s idea for a veterans’ plaza at the Yosemite and Main intersection falls in that category. So does approaching the Manteca Garden Club about a possible partnership replicating what is in downtown Ripon. That would involve the city putting in decorative sidewalk planters and working with the garden club or other groups to provide the color through routine changing of the plantings.
Cantu’s big picture approach is worthy of being looked at just like the four or five plans that have been advanced during the past 60 years. The problem is they have gone nowhere.
Trying another approach of starting small, following through on what the city has already done, doing what the Post Office has done and show pride in what downtown already has in place, and then build on that.
As for downtown Manteca dying, that’s what they were saying 60 years ago. Downtown is not dead. It is simply not putting its best foot forward. And given Manteca is the biggest downtown property owner — transit center, Library Park, tennis courts, library, two small plaza, and the Tidewater Bikeway — they might want to get their own house in order first.
Hopefully this isn’t
A while back the city removed concrete benches from Wilson Park located behind the Post Office along Center Street.
No reason was given as to why they were removed but if it was to discourage the homeless from using them as impromptu beds it has backfired.
The homeless are now “camping” some days and during the night on the concrete slabs left behind that are much drier than the grass.
And even the concrete tables were taken out for other reasons it would be nice if the city replaces them unless there is an assumption Wilson Park is now the unofficial homeless park in Manteca.
Thirteen is interesting
number on March ballot
Get ready to vote “yes” or “no” on Proposition 13 on the March 3, 2020 ballot.
The number 13 has been assigned to the $15 billion statewide School and College Facilities Bond.
Of course, Proposition 13 is forever ingrained in the psyches of most Californians as the 1978 ballot measure that the voters embraced to overhaul what was perceived as a burdensome property tax system.
From the strange
but true file . . .
Councilman Dave Breitenbucher a year or so ago bought a home in the Powers Tract neighborhood sandwiched between Manteca High and Spreckels Park.
It happened to be the house Mayor Ben Cantu grew up in as a child.
That little tidbit surfaced after the election. But what didn’t was the fact the two slept in the same bedroom although decades apart. That’s because when Cantu was growing up his parents had him and his brother share the master bedroom.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org