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Calexico set to give First Street thorough scrubbing

June 28, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — This city will begin revitalizing its downtown by cleaning up First Street from Border Park to Heber Avenue.

The downtown area is in for a thorough scrubbing, Calexico officials say.

City Manager Richard Inman said, "When we meet again in 30 days you will see a big difference."

He vowed there would be "significant changes."

He made the comments while addressing a room filled with city councilmen and department heads and Chamber of Commerce directors.

The joint meeting of the chamber and the city was held Thursday so the two entities could discuss and take action on plans for the city's downtown.

The group's unanimous conclusion: The city should focus its efforts on First Street, where the majority of Mexican border-crossers get their first impression of the city and California.

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Inman said staffers will be working on other downtown areas by replacing 500 old parking meters with new digital meters, repairing lights, emptying trash cans and fixing sidewalks. The Police Department will be on hand to maintain order.

Inman started the joint meeting by telling Calexico's leaders in attendance to "forget the past."

He said the city shouldn't dwell on previous meetings or plans, such as the business improvement district, that never panned out.

Inman said he favored a process that would have the city work piecemeal on downtown revitalization.

Once one block or sector of downtown is cleaned up, "It will show the other interested parties downtown what can be done," he said.

His idea was endorsed by chamber directors, who vowed to take on the responsibility of notifying First Street merchants of the city's plans.

Carlton Hargrave, owner of the Cole Road Hometown Buffet, said talk of cleaning up the downtown is one thing, but he wanted to know specifics as to what "cleaned up" entails.

Inman said it means the streets and alleys will be "tidy." Second, he said the clean-up could mean new facades, landscaping, benches and maybe a water theme.

The "water theme" idea has been heartily endorsed by Mayor John Renison, who has said for years that First Street should be a pedestrian mall.

Inman said the planning for such ideas would constitute the second phase of any downtown revitalization, and that planning could require a consultant.

Speaking of consultants, Inman said Brian Mooney of San Diego and one of his associates would be offering the company's services to the city's Redevelopment Agency in the near future.

In the meantime, before any consultant or downtown project manager is brought onboard, Inman said City Hall staffers Julia Osuna and Rosalind Guerrero will help him work on downtown issues.

Councilman Victor Carrillo said the general cleanliness of the downtown area needs to be improved.

He used Disneyland as an example of a place kept meticulously clean by constant attention.

Carrillo said city staffers could pay almost as close attention to the downtown area, repeatedly emptying trash cans so border-crossers and other visitors didn't find Calexico overrun by debris at the end of the day.

Chamber Director Stephen Wong said there should be some sort of traffic signals downtown.

Signalization downtown is a pet cause of Planning Commission Chairman John Moreno as well. Moreno plans to place the item on the agenda for a future commission meeting.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or aclaverie@aol.com

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