Retired educator Fred Fink used to tell a story about the first time he saw Manteca.
He was living in Southern California and had applied for a Manteca Unified teaching position.
The administrator that called him for an interview - Harold Hughes who went on to become district superintendent - gave him directions using Highway 99 by taking the old Moffat Boulevard left lane exit on Manteca’s southern flank.
Fink recalled how he and his wife passed the old Moffat feed lot, the pulp smell on the back side of Spreckels Sugar, dilapidated gas stations, few trees, shuttered businesses, crumbling pavement, weed-infested lots, aging trailer homes, and motels that had seen their better days.
By the time he reached Main Street, they were ready to turn around. Instead they went ahead with the interview and ended up falling in love with Manteca.
Should a potential teacher enter Moffat Boulevard today en route to a job interview, the scenery would be a lot less jarring.
There are now modern business parks, a new church with a sweeping architectural canopy, more than 300 trees, crisp pavement anchored by curbs, gutter, and sidewalks, a separated bike path, a recreation park with a state-of-the-art BMX track and a $6.9 million transit station under construction.
“There’s been a lot of changes on Moffat,” noted Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford
Fifteen years ago Moffat Boulevard was one of the last few left exits for northbound traffic traveling Highway 99 through the Central Valley.
Once motorists crossed over southbound traffic on an arching bridge they were dumped onto Moffat and basically saw what Fink did.
The urban blight has slowly given way to urban renewal along what was once a segment of old Highway 99.
It might not rival The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley but a renaissance is clearly underway on Moffat Boulevard. It has been fueled by municipal investments including a liberal amount of funds from the Manteca Redevelopment Agency that ceased to exist in early 2012 as the latest casualty in California’s never-ending struggle to balance the state budget.
Signs of the investment by the City of Manteca and the private sector have made over the past 12 years along Moffat can be seen from Austin Road to South Main Street. And once the transit station is completed this spring the days of Moffat being a long neglected stepchild when it comes to corridors of commerce in Manteca will fade even more.
Among the private sector investments in recent years:
•The Crossroads Community Church complete with its JFK Airport-style canopy accent to a fountain featuring a massive stone sphere of the earth.
•The Manteca Business Park.
•The southern portion of Spreckels Park including Frito-Lay Distribution and in-line warehouses owned by Hunsaker.
•The first new building on Moffat in more than 20 years opened in 2004 to house Honest Automotive.
•A new California Welding building on Moffat near Woodward and the tearing down of the old welding firm’s structure and an adjoining nightclub that had become blighted.
•A security/safety fence installed between the tracks and the Tidewater Bikeway by Union Pacific Railroad.
Among the municipal investments:
•The Spreckels Park BMX Park.
•Extending Industrial Park Drive across the railroad tracks to Moffat where it intersects with Spreckels Avenue.
•A landscaped storm basin complete with trees.
•More than 250 trees planted along the Tidewater Bikeway’s Moffat leg.
•A new water treatment plant that was also landscaped.
•The installation of curbs, gutter, and sidewalk as correction of storm drain problems from Spreckels to Main.
•Tidewater-style traffic signals at Spreckels/Industrial and Moffat.
Equally important are things that are no longer on Moffat.
•The old Moffat Feed Lot where market cattle were fed sugar beet pulp to produce the odor that hung Manteca with the moniker “Manstinka” for decades.
•Elimination of overnight truck parking on city property in the heart of the Moffat corridor, trucks, though, are now parking on the street and on the dirt between Woodward Avenue and Austin Road.
•A successful effort to stop illegal dumping on city property that parallels the Tidewater Bikeway.
•The razing and removal of several abandoned buildings and other structures gutted by fire.
And there is more in store.
The development of the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park in the coming years will allow the Moffat corridor to tie that project into not just downtown but Spreckels Park as well.