Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Downtown Summit follow-up

About 70 Lodi community members attended Friday's Downtown Summit, with guest speaker Michael Freedman -- the architect behind the School Street renovations of the mid-1990s (pictured to the right) -- the highlight.

Also unveiled were survey results. More than 60 business and/or property owners returned surveys, and another 50 downtown visitors were polled over three separate days.

Conclusions: Everyone identifies downtown Lodi with the theater, restaurants, farmers market and special events, with a generally positive view of downtown overall. Interestingly, the vast majority of visitors felt safe downtown, with 47 of 50 saying they felt "very safe" during the daytime, and 43 of 50 saying they felt "somewhat" or "very" safe at night.

There also was a consensus of those surveyed that downtown needs more parking more specialty shops/museums and more restaurants. A few areas showed dramatic differences of opinions between property/business owners and visitors. Visitors felt businesses should open on Sundays, but business owners disagreed. Meanwhile, businesses felt downtown needed to be cleaner, but that didn't register with visitors.

One thing the surveys couldn't reveal was what is the attitude of those people in the region who don't visit downtown Lodi. Is it because they don't know the city has a downtown recognized as one of the best in the Central Valley? Are there qualities of downtown that keeps them away?

Meanwhile, Freedman gave his opinion of what it would take to bring Lodi's downtown to the next level. Some of his observations: property owners, not the City, should now be the catalyst behind boosting downtown's vitality; Sacramento Street improvements should wait until School Street business intensifies; and a handful of underutilized key downtown properties could stall downtown's potential.

Summit attendees eventually broke into five discussion groups, where they each identified five priorities for boosting downtown.

A recap of the Summit is scheduled for the City Council's "shirtsleeve" session at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Carnegie Forum. Freedman is scheduled to attend and answer questions.

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