Our Opinion: Districting downtown

March 13, 2002

We have long thought that El Centro's historic downtown was its jewel, albeit a jewel that needed some shining.

A good start on that shining was a recent downtown renovation project that brought a charming meeting area, improvements to streets, parking and landscaping and some building facade rehabilitation. Downtown looks better, although we would still like to see more facelifts for buildings.

Still, if the downtown is going to keep its new attractiveness and grow even nicer, maintenance needs to be done. The city, therefore, is contemplating establishing business improvement and lighting maintenance districts for Main Street between Fourth and Eighth streets and some connected areas.

We support these plans. The districts would provide sidewalk sweeping, tree maintenance, graffiti removal, security, economic development, marketing and promotion and parking-related actions. Other activities that could help the area would be unique to one district or the other.


The business improvement district would have to be approved each year by the City Council and the lighting district would have to be approved by a weighted vote of downtown property owners. We hope both are given the go-ahead, with the caveat that services not be duplicated. We are convinced the expense would be worth it for the downtown area (and if we get pulled into the district, of which we are on the periphery, we would be willing to pay our part.)

One of the best things about the establishment of the districts would be that the city could hire a full-time director to coordinate activities and events downtown. We have seen such directors work magic in other historic downtowns and the right person for El Centro's downtown could do the same.

Some might see the fact that three of five City Council members have voting conflicts in downtown matters because they have business interests downtown as a problem. We look at it as a positive. It shows that those who care about and appreciate El Centro are willing to invest in its heart. Yes, one of the three will have to vote on downtown matters and that will be decided by the drawing of straws, but we still see their connections to downtown as a positive.

With a regional shopping mall on the horizon, it is time for El Centro's downtown to establish itself as a shopping and activity hub now. The good thing is downtown is already part of the way there; it has never stopped being a bustling area, and the recent improvements and additions have only added to its appeal.

The business and lighting districts should only make El Centro's jewel even brighter.

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