We've Only Just Begun
Old Monterey downtown revitalization is a success story.
Thursday, January 22, 1998
Since 1770 when the Spanish staked their claim, Old Monterey has been a center of activity on the Monterey Peninsula. Today the Old Monterey Business Association-which encompasses a downtown 26-block area and 460 members-takes the lead in its revitalization efforts.
In 1974, the association became an assessment district when the majority of businesses felt a need to invest and promote themselves. A new city Downtown Plan was adopted in 1991 in response to the increase in downtown vacancies due to shopping centers and discount houses. After several applications, and the support of the city council and community, Monterey became a California Main Street City in 1992. The statewide program was designed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to revitalize downtowns through focused economic development.
California Main Street at the time offered technical assistance and focused on organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. It also required an office and full-time staff. One of the main accomplishments during this time was a reorganization of the board of directors to include businesses, property owners and city representation in equal proportions. This cooperative arrangement is now looked upon as a national model in downtown organization.
Dramatic changes occurred on the streets of Old Monterey, as evidenced by outside seating, hip new businesses, increased foot traffic and a sense of pride. A new vibrancy was seen with private investments along with the associations. Full-time assistance to those who showed interest in locating their business here was provided along with scheduled special events and promotions that brought a new awareness of our downtown. New partnerships were formed and support for community activities such as First Night, Adobe Days, Festa Italia and the preservation and purchase of the State Theatre were also developed. Public parking adjustments were made and public signage installed. Path of History maps were widely distributed along with dining and shopping guides. Co-operative advertising programs in local newspapers, TV and radio were established
As City Manager Fred Meurer commented at our recent membership luncheon, "In the last five years we have gone from being a downtown where a person could die of loneliness at night to having a downtown that''s very much alive almost 24 hours a day."
With our success came new challenges and the program directed itself toward keeping downtown clean, safe and friendly. In partnership with the Monterey Police Department, a downtown foot patrol was established and financed. Additional maintenance, garbage pickups, sidewalk washings and poster removal were also initiated. Panhandling and the homeless issues were met head on and handled proactively. The results of the Old Monterey Business Association were gratifying.
Certainly one of the greatest single factors in Old Monterey''s resurgence is the Peninsula''s largest weekly event each Tuesday afternoon. The Old Monterey marketplace is a major attraction for downtown and regularly brings thousands of locals, Peninsula visitors and tourists. Overall, our membership finds this weekly "happening" of benefit as a recent survey on Alvarado clearly showed.
Looking ahead, while maintaining our current expanded program, plans call for an updated full-color Path of History map. With the city''s participation, new gold ceramic sidewalk markers that clarify the Path of History should also be in place by spring. Additional Christmas decor is in our workplan; public restrooms, enhanced street furniture and lighting are future projects, as is improving the tenant ratio mix. Additionally, we look forward to the completion of the linkage and landscape project on Calle Principal at Bonifacio.
Our spirited and committed 18-member board will continue to bring about improved opportunity and the revitalization of historic Old Monterey.
Richard Briscoe of First National Bank is president Old Monterey Business Association President.