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Our Opinion: A move toward the future

June 07, 2002

After years of debate, the El Centro City Council voted to begin the necessary steps to create a lighting and maintenance district in the downtown area.

Unless the district is rejected, based on a weighted vote, the area's property owners will tax themselves to make Main Street a nicer place. It is, after all, the heart of the city. The city engineer was directed to prepare a report that analyzes the assessments to be levied and the potential benefits to those properties within the proposed district. The district's boundaries would be the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on the east and Imperial Avenue on the west. Only Main Street would be included.

Some of the expected activities allowed under the lighting and maintenance district include providing street, sidewalk, alley and public parking lot cleaning and other municipal maintenance services supplemental to those normally provided by the city, and installation of certain physical amenities throughout downtown.

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Not surprisingly, there are a number of places downtown that could certainly use some cleaning up.

For example, where the La Reina Restaurant once stood, there is an awful flock of dirty pigeons that have left and continue to leave a mountain of waste. That should be cleaned up, and it would be nice if the city didn't wait for LMD money to do so.

Another real eyesore is what remains after the old Salvation Army Thrift Store burned down — walls that would look much better if they were sand-blasted at the least. A fresh coat of paint would be nice.

Something also might be done about the old Crest Theater, what with graffiti and broken glass becoming all too common.

The original plan was to include the north side of State Street and the south side of Broadway in the LMD, but the city will start with more modest designs. That will, of course, reduce the amount of money that can be raised.

The important thing is that there be a start.

With the recent approval of a business improvement district, the downtown area promises to continue as the city's main attraction and business district.

Although there will be more money for some extraordinary maintenance, above and beyond that which is already done, the downtown is not without problems. From what we hear, the main problem remains parking. It was nice that the city's Redevelopment Agency spent more than $5 million, but the loss of parking at the Town Square, and what with the huge planters — well, people don't like to walk all that much, especially during our blistering summers.

We haven't forgotten the city is making efforts to make parking more amenable by installing shade devices, resurfacing some lots and installing eye-pleasing landscaping. Our only hope, and likely that of downtown merchants, is that there not be any further reduction in the number of parking spaces.

We also hope, that with the loss of Channel 9's headquarters, that the city will move quickly to convert the area behind the building into additional parking once the television station's antennas are removed.

The city is clearly putting some eggs in its downtown basket, and we think overall it is doing a good job.

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