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Downtown should reflect whole community
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I want to offer a solution to the apparent current topic of opinion - downtown Manteca and how best to address its circumstances.  Mr. Wyatt wrote an opinion on the matter and, my friend Mr. Perry responded, both from different perspectives yet both coming to the same conclusion.

I remember the days when downtown was the center of trade in Manteca, the plush velvet seats and 10-cent popcorn of the El Rey theater, Tipton’s was the center of stationery and gifts, Honodel’s was the pharmacy, where all the banks were located, and the center of hardware was Turners and Hardware Mart.  I also remember the days when you could not shop downtown because of the horrendous traffic backed up for several blocks in all directions, because Highway 120 went right down Yosemite Avenue.  I remember when downtown was the center of social activity; and when there were over 8 bars downtown.  I also remember the days before Wal-Mart opened, when many of the major merchants in downtown retired because they understood that their customers were moving to the new Wal-Mart Center on South Main Street.  I remember the period when there were many vacant storefronts downtown, and less desirable types of business moved into the vacant units.  And, I remember how each new commercial center developed on the outskirts of town siphoned another bit of life from downtown.
If there is something t
o be drawn from our history, it is to learn from its events.  Simply, do not repeat the mistakes and take advantage of the positive while moving forward.  I agree with Mr. Wyatt, we need to take a visionary approach to improving the state of downtown, and the merchants do not have the resources to take on the task alone.  I also agree with Mr. Perry’s positive comments that we need to take real consideration of our downtown merchants and their voices, but let us make certain that the merchants understand the total picture, including the history and the facts, as they exist today.  

If downtown is to become a viable economic center in our community, the project will require a cooperative movement comprised of city government, the merchants, and the community.  Under any circumstances, it should not be undertaken to benefit just city government or just the merchants; I believe the movement will only succeed if its preamble represents the entire community’s best interest and all will benefit from the final product.  

Finally, I remember the days when traffic movement on Yosemite and Main streets was regarded by traffic light cycles - how many cycles did it take to get through downtown, not to get to downtown.  A new downtown will only function if potential patrons are allowed access to and from downtown and to parking, they should not be required to compete for maneuvering room.  The days of counting people in nonmoving vehicles stopped in front of the store window due to stopped traffic, is not good business practice today.  History has proven that a free moving traffic flow and easy access to parking brings in patrons, and that the “old way” of stop and block in our downtown does not work today.
Benjamin Cantu
Nov. 17, 2009