Mention Moffat Boulevard 20 years ago and terms like “armpit”, “sleaze, “trash” and “eye sore” would often pop up in conversations.
It lacked curb, gutter and sidewalks for long stretches. Trucks parked for overnight — and sometimes for days — wherever they wished. Vacant warehouses were flophouses for homeless who more than a few times started fires that burned the structures. The pavement quality made South Main Street in front of Walmart seem smooth in comparison. There were dive joints, several abandoned and trashed service stations. People seemed OK with pulling up with their pickups and dumping garbage on city property.
In short, it was anything but appealing. And it all started less than two blocks from Yosemite Avenue and Main Street — the heart of downtown and Manteca.
Today much of that is history. There are curbs, gutters, and sidewalks from Main to Spreckels. Truck parking is history as is trash dumping for the most part. A number of dilapidated and vacant buildings have been torn down. A trailer park that redefined sub-standard is gone. One of the worst “efficiency” motels is long gone.
The City of Manteca built a stunning transit center that doubles as a community gathering place that in a few years will become an ACE train stop. The Tidewater Bikeway runs along the corridor.
The city built the Moffat Community Center/Manteca Veterans Center that has pumped new life into the area. A storm retention basin was added with grass instead of the original plan to leave it barren and fenced off like the one next to the old Kmart store. The city added a well water treatment plant and made sure it was well landscaped so it would be an attractive addition.
Moffat was repaved from Austin Road to Main Street.
Working with AKF Development and 209 BMX, the city created one of the nicest — if not nicest — BMX tracks in Northern California.
The private sector has stepped up as well. Crossroad Grace built a new church campus. A good-sized business park featuring office/business condos opened next door.
Spreckels Park replaced the smelly former Moffat Feed Lot with a host of business park tenants along and just off Moffat. Manteca Veterinary built a new clinic with one of the city’s first French drains that incorporate river rock and such into landscaping to retain as much storm water on site as possible to allow it to percolate into the ground.
Now Manteca High may be re-orientated to face Moffat and the city is moving toward acquiring more property to expand transit center parking that’ll be needed when commuter train service stars.
There’s a lot more to do but it’s clearly a work in progress.
Worthy of note is that although $160,000 was forked out for a Moffat corridor design plan to address potential future uses as well as to clean up the area, it really was common sense and a commitment to “good government” and enforcing rules when necessary that has allowed a slow but steady and effective transformation along the Moffat corridor.
That is why the approach being led by City Manager Tim Ogden and his team when it comes to downtown offers hope that the 50-year donnybrook to get the private sector and public sector in synch may finally end.
There have been five or six plans since the 1960s for downtown. And while a lot has changed especially after the Vision 2020 Task Force report that set the stage for the old-style lights and street furnishings, the Library Park expansion and upgrades, the mural project, two mini plazas being completed plus the transit staging doubling as a downtown gathering place, more needs to be done.
There have been property owners that have stepped up as well as businesses. But there are more than a few property owners that could care less or see downtown as an ATM and not an investment.
That’s where the steps before the City Council to strengthen property abatement laws to go after problematic structures as well as movement on upgrading the city owned alleys and parking lots offer a lot of promise.
Downtown, like Moffat, can undergo a slow but significant transformation if the city does its part in providing the basic infrastructure that’s in good repair — sidewalks, curbs, gutters, streets, and municipal parking lots — and puts in place rules they are willing to enforce.
Two decades ago the thought of any private sector concern — church, business park developer, or even a veterinary clinic — investing any sizeable money into the Moffat corridor was deemed absurd.
It happened, though, because the city tended to its basic business and had property maintenance laws that they enforced fairly and consistently over the years.
The Miracle of Moffat happened not because there was a grand plan or self-proclaimed geniuses better known as consultants were hired to tell Manteca what to do but because the city did what the citizens expect them to do. And that’s to provide basic services and enforce property maintenance laws to address blight instead of waiting for someone to complain that they should do their job.