The first steps toward revitalizing downtown Santa Maria are now in motion. Tuesday night, the city moved to adopt its new downtown streetscape plan.
Downtown Santa Maria started with four corners.
“Santa Maria started out with the four founding fathers which were Fesler, Thornburg, Miller, and Cook. They each donated the four quadrants which became the downtown,” explained Brooke Bradley, Board President of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society.
As the years went on, much of downtown was flooded several times. The in the mid-70s, the idea to build a mall downtown began to take shape.
The mall, however, wasn’t the beacon of sales and tourism many had hoped.
“My personal opinion is there is contention because there is nothing historic in Santa Maria left. At least, not much of something left. So you’re not going to be able to turn this big mall that tore down all these historic buildings and businesses. It’s just not gonna come back and you can’t turn the mall into that,” Bradley said.
Now the city is looking to build again, starting with making the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, then eventually mixed-use buildings with more restaurants and stores.
“The specific plan looked at a three-prong approach: to add more activities in downtown, to beautify the downtown area and to incentivize and partner with businesses to bring more uses in the downtown. So this really fell into the branch of beautification and partnership,” explained Neda Zayer, Principal Planner for the City of Santa Maria.
This is exciting for people like Scott Clark, owner of Main Street Cycles. Clark’s in a unique position. He’s a business owner of a downtown store and an active advocate for safer pedestrian access.
“Doing something to beautify and make our downtown a destination moving forward is good long-term for all businesses here. To make our downtown also more pedestrian friendly puts us more in step with what’s happening in cities globally to maintain beautiful downtown areas and encouraging people to come in other methods instead of just by car,” Clark said.
The city says it talked to more than 2,000 people before committing to this plan. They plan on conducting a traffic study soon to see how to best improve streets for pedestrians in places like North and South Broadway, as well as West Main St.
The city says it could take several decades before the revitalization is completed.