Marina plan envisions a walkable, mixed-use city center.

Downtown Redo: On the Reservation: Marina planners want to create a “downtown atmosphere” along the city’s main thoroughfare. —Jane Morba

Marina’s Reservation Road is more thoroughfare than main drag. Drivers whisking by the series of downtown strip malls see parking stalls in the foreground and businesses in the background. But all of this could change.

Reservation Road could become a two-lane meander with traffic circles, reverse-angle parking and widened sidewalks, says Elizabeth Caraker, Marina’s planning services manager. “The objective would be to slow traffic and make it more pedestrian friendly,” she says. “Reservation Road is big and wide and traffic is moving fast, and it’s not really conducive to a downtown atmosphere that we are trying to achieve.”

Narrowing Reservation Road is one piece of a downtown land use concept city staff and consultants will present to the City Council on Sept. 25. The focus is the core area along Reservation between Del Monte Boulevard and De Forest Avenue. Caraker says the plan calls for more mixed use with condos atop retail along Reservation and high-density housing a block removed from downtown.

The plan also calls for breaking up downtown’s long blocks by building more streets and bike lanes. The block between Seacrest and Crescent avenues, Caraker says, is about 1,000 feet long while the city’s General Plan calls for blocks around 400 feet.

Adding new circulation routes would also help divert drivers accustomed to zooming down Reservation Road to reach Salinas or Highway 1. City consultants will present the projected traffic impacts of narrowing Reservation at the Sept. 25 meeting. The City Council will then give staff direction on how to proceed but won’t make any final decisions.

It’s unclear whether the council will embrace such a dramatic change to Marina’s downtown. This is the same council that voted against changing the city’s 30-year-old logo after paying a designer and forming a committee to create a new image for Marina.

Councilman Dave McCall is wary of slowing down traffic too much. “There are a lot of people who live there who still want to get in and out of the city without trying to fight a downtown that is plugged up,” McCall says. He also says the change would make motorists cut across Reindollar and Carmel avenues to avoid downtown.

Mayor Ila Mettee-McCutchon likes the idea of narrowing the road. She says it would create a more typical downtown and make pedestrians feel safer. “It will enhance our ability to have people walk around downtown and feel secure in doing that,” Mettee-McCutchon says.

With or without a narrowed Reservation Road, the downtown plan, however, is only a roadmap. Marina can fund the street improvements but it will be up to the private sector to fill in the downtown blocks with sidewalk cafés and boutiques. It also doesn’t help that two big box developments – the Dunes on Monterey Bay and Wal-Mart – will lure shoppers away from downtown.

Councilman Ken Gray says the challenge will be convincing landowners to make investments and transform Marina’s strip malls into a vibrant downtown. “It would be nice to create an area that looks like Alvarado Street in Monterey or even Santana Row in San Jose, but that takes a lot of private capital.”

THE CITY COUNCIL WILL HOLD A STUDY SESSION ON DOWNTOWN VITALIZATION AT 6PM TUESDAY, SEPT. 25, IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 211 HILLCREST AVE., MARINA. 884-1278. REPORTS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT ci.marina.ca.us BY SEPT. 22.
THE WEEKLY TALLY 750,000
The estimated number of kilowatt-hours saved by the installation of 5,000-plus energy efficient light bulbs throughout the Monterey County Jail. The upgrades are projected to save $79,000 a year. Source: Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments’ (AMBAG) Energy Watch Program.

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