Commentary: Properly Designing the Downtown Can Pave the Way to a Bright Future

E Street Plaza is one of the few public spaces in downtown Davis

The evolving discussion over the future of the Davis Downtown is critical to the future of Davis.  There are certainly those in the community who wish to keep things as they were once, or perhaps as they are now.  The problem with that view is that the present is not sustainable.  This is an overused cliché, but it is also accurate – change is happening whether we actively pursue change or we stand still.

The only real question is what that change looks like.  Right now things look okay in the city, but that is an illusion.  The cost of living is increasing, housing is in short supply for large segments of the population, the city lacks the ability to fund basic infrastructure and the city lags in terms of retail space and economic development space.

The tension is there now.  We have seen voters turn down a tax measure that would have funded roads for the next decade.  Somehow we need to figure out a way to pay for roads and other basic infrastructure.  We have Measure R in place, which has limited our ability to grow on the periphery.  And we have citizens fighting each proposal to add density to existing development in the city.

There are a number of battles coming in the next few years – there will be a push anew for economic development, a push for affordable housing, a debate over the renewal of Measure R, and a debate over the future of the downtown.

With the latter will be the question of how we utilize existing spaces and maximize our utilization of land.  That figures to be a key battle.  There are those who see the downtown as under-utilized.  There is little in the way of housing.  Most of the buildings in the core are one or two stories, and thus, with a more efficient use of land, we could see some of our needs met.

Then there are those who will push back, that we should maintain the downtown as a place with public gathering spaces, that it is great as it currently stands, and we cannot solve all of the city’s problems through downtown planning.

In a way I would argue that there really is no tension between those views if we plan properly.  We should be able to develop our downtown more efficiently, retaining its good points, but also better utilizing scarce land.

Interestingly enough, the way toward the future will be shown through a number of potential projects – some are in the core, while some are right outside of the core.

For example, there is a proposed redevelopment of University Mall that would take the current commercial space which is only a single story, retain the bottom floor as retail, while adding a mix of housing to create a four-story mixed-use development that provides the same amount of retail space, but also provides for housing.

If we can do that at University Mall, why can’t we do that in the downtown core?  By putting in housing, it will help developers to pencil their projects out with the ground floor of retail and restaurants, and the upper levels with housing.

This is what the new owners of the Brinley Building eventually envision.  In a recent conversation, they indicated that the plan is probably ten years off, but in the meantime they will fix up the current building – then the wave of the future appears to be four to six stories, with mixed use.

Traditional retail is a challenge, with changes to the market due to the advent of the internet and the proliferation of online sales.  But by providing additional housing downtown, you put people where the retail and entertainment is, and therefore you create energy and a market that was lacking before.

Some of the focus will be not on traditional retail or entertainment, but rather the development of high tech, innovation space – either in the core in the form of offices, co-working and flex space, or near downtown.

Throughout the discussion, student housing has been the pushback from some who argue we also need workforce housing.  One place to put that workforce housing is in the core, right where the jobs are located.  That could enable young professionals who have graduated from UC Davis to have a place to live that is close to campus and the core, and at the center of what could be the next wave of R&D and other innovation space.

Clearly, the potential is here if the community is willing to move forward with a new vision for what the downtown could be.  The irony here is that, with good design, we can maintain the aspects of the downtown which are attractive right now.

Right now the downtown is a safe and walkable space.  There is some – albeit limited – open space.  But we could actually create better public spaces than what we currently have.  Right now E Street Plaza is probably the closest thing we have to public space in the heart of downtown, and even that is fairly small and limited.

With redevelopment, we could have a larger dedicated space and a more efficient use of land.  We could have more in the way of entertainment, better restaurants, and by bringing more people into the core area on a 24/7 basis, we will have a better base by which to re-establish some form of retail.

What remains troubling is that some people are not willing to give anything.  They oppose peripheral development, they opposed the tax measure, and they will oppose densification of the downtown.  Without a new stream of revenue, the city of Davis is not going to be the community we have been over the last four decades.  We have to change a little in order to maintain those high levels of service and amenities that make this a great community.

—-David M Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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62 thoughts on “Commentary: Properly Designing the Downtown Can Pave the Way to a Bright Future”

  1. Ron

    There’s a lack of honesty, regarding the push to add more residential downtown.

    Seems more likely that the goal of some is (simply) to add more housing.  Why not just come out and say so?

    I recall a couple of articles on the “other” Davis blog, which noted that increasing residential density in a commercial area (in San Francisco) did NOT result in increased business activity.  There were empty storefronts, perhaps partly due to commercial tenants’ inability to pay (increased) rent – as a result of redevelopment.

    On a somewhat related note, it will be interesting to see what happens to the businesses that will eventually be displaced by the redevelopment of Trackside. (I’m assuming that some of them may not choose, or perhaps even be able to occupy the redeveloped space.)

     

    1. Don Shor

      Seems more likely that the goal of some is (simply) to add more housing. Why not just come out and say so?

      I don’t know anybody for whom that is the sole or even the over-riding goal. The goal is to increase business activity and revenues to the city, and make a more attractive downtown environment.

      You didn’t exactly say this, but I agree that the impact on existing business tenants should be a definite consideration in these discussions. Redevelopment is usually not great for the existing retailers because their rents go up. I don’t think we’d see San Francisco level rents, but nobody who redevelops a building is going to be charging the same rate per square foot that they did before.

      1. Ron

        As you noted, it’s a threat to existing businesses.  The article mentions a “pipe dream” of attracting high-tech/innovation companies (to replace existing businesses?).  Sort of a “build it, and they will come” approach.  Never mind that there’s absolutely no evidence that this would occur, or that the redeveloped space would be appropriate and affordable enough for that to occur. (Assuming that such businesses are “waiting in the wings” for a spot downtown, in the first place!)

        If the city makes it harder for those in surrounding neighborhoods (and beyond) to visit downtown (e.g., difficulties in parking, congestion), economic activity will deteriorate. That’s what adding residential development will “accomplish”.

        I maintain that there’s a “fake” argument being put forth by some.  If the goal is simply to add more housing, then say so.

        I suspect that (if allowed to do so), many developers would prefer to eliminate the commercial components altogether. Residential seems to be where the money is, for developers.

        1. Don Shor

          I maintain that there’s a “fake” argument being put forth by some. If the goal is simply to add more housing, then say so.

          For about the dozenth time, Ron, urban development with residential as a component (retail ground floor, commercial next floor, residential above) is a standard precept of urban planning and has been so for decades. If you have evidence that “the goal is simply to add more housing” then I suggest you provide that evidence. Just repeating the assertion doesn’t make it so.

          If the city makes it harder for those in surrounding neighborhoods (and beyond) to visit downtown (e.g., difficulties in parking, congestion), economic activity will deteriorate. That’s what adding residential development will “accomplish”.

          Plenty of evidence otherwise in cities all over the country. The people who live there become part of the business activity as they go about their daily lives. Yes, parking has to be considered. Just redeveloping with bigger buildings without addressing increased parking needs would not be good planning. The city has had a parking task force, the council has implemented some of it. Parking issues are a part of redevelopment.

          I suspect that (if allowed to do so), many developers would prefer to eliminate the commercial components altogether. Residential seems to be where the money is, for developers.

          There is no basis for your suspicion with respect to redevelopment of downtown retail and commercial sites.

        2. Don Shor

          The article mentions a “pipe dream” of attracting high-tech/innovation companies (to replace existing businesses?). Sort of a “build it, and they will come” approach. Never mind that there’s absolutely no evidence that this would occur, or that the redeveloped space would be appropriate and affordable enough for that to occur.

          Actually, there is. See Area 52 and Inventopia for starters. There’s no shortage of firms that would like to locate in or near Davis.

        3. David Greenwald Post author

          “The article mentions a “pipe dream” of attracting high-tech/innovation companies (to replace existing businesses?). ”

          That’s not really what I was talking about.

        4. Ron

          Don:  There’s nothing to prevent commercial redevelopment, already.  There is no evidence that additional residences are needed, to support it.  According to some, there’s already an “imbalance” in Davis, in that there’s too much residential development (compared to commercial development).

          The plan being put forth by some (to add even more residential development in existing commercial areas) would make this imbalance even more pronounced, while displacing existing businesses.

          Again, I recall articles on the “other” Davis blog discussing redevelopment efforts in San Francisco, which resulted in empty commercial spaces on the first floor. Suggest you review those articles, if you’re looking for evidence. (I understand that the Vanguard won’t allow direct links to that site.)

          I’m also still curious about the “mixed use” development at 5th and Pena (which I believe was formerly a commercial-only site). Did that result in a lot of new businesses, on the first floor of those new buildings? (I’m skeptical.)

        5. Ron

          Posting a general article does not address any of the points I made, above.

          Also, if there’s such a large demand for commercial sites, why are other sites such as Plaza 2555 being converted from commercial to residential?

          Again, evidence shows that the money (for developers) is primarily in residential development, not commercial. (MRIC is likely another example of this. Possibly Nishi, as well.)

          1. Don Shor

            The point of the article was so you’d do some research and understand the philosophical basis of this type of redevelopment. It’s nothing new and has been applied elsewhere. I’m not concerned enough about the ‘imbalance’ to try to debate that with you. I consider San Francisco an extreme real estate market that has little comparison to Davis. I’ve seen the articles in question, as well as many others about urban planning, and they simply illustrate that there is risk to any development plan. There is also risk to leaving things as they are. Both have somewhat predictable outcomes, though as retail and dining habits change any new development will have to adapt. Demand for housing remains strong. Demand for commercial property is not really in question.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            What I find interesting is that people as diverse as Sean Raycraft and Eileen Samitz have lamented the lack of workforce housing in Davis. There is a general belief that companies are going to be reluctant to locate their businesses in a given area unless they know that their employees will have a place to live. The lack of live-work space in the Silicon Valley has been disastrous in a number of respects. We ran a story a few weeks ago where the Mercury noted that a huge amount of traffic problems were caused by the long commutes workers had to endure to get from where they live to where they work.

        6. Craig Ross

          RE: The other blog and empty space in SF…  I definitely think we shouldn’t do anything that doesn’t have 100 percent chance of success.

        7. Craig Ross

          RE: demand for commercial space.  Housing is a bigger money maker.  There’s also such a crisis of housing that the demand is huge.  You really have no idea what you’re taking about.  edited

        8. Ron

          Don:  And then, there’s the example that you’ve cited yourself:

          The Cannery, in which the owners were apparently willing to let the land sit idle, rather than pursue a commercial development. (Not sure if they were willing to consider even a partial commercial component.)

          edited

          1. Don Shor

            (Not sure if they were willing to consider even a partial commercial component.)

            They absolutely were not willing to do so, and we had lots of anonymous commenters on the Vanguard telling us over and over that commercial would never work at that site.
            You do understand that not all developers think, invest, and act exactly the same?

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            And a few years after the approval of the Cannery, the city put out an RFEI for innovation centers and got three proposals which led to two applications. What killed the projects was not lack of commercial incentives, but uncertainty and cost of Davis land use.

          3. David Greenwald Post author

            I think you need to be more precise here. What people were asking about was what we now refer to as an innovation center- i.e. a specific type of commercial development (as opposed to a strip mall or other kinds of commercial development). The research on innovation centers is that they have to be closer to the freeway for access. By conflating this specific type of commercial development with a more general discuss, you are likely to confuse the issue.

        9. Ron

          David:  “What I find interesting is that people as diverse as Sean Raycraft and Eileen Samitz have lamented the lack of workforce housing in Davis.”

          I understand that some of Eileen’s concerns included using up existing sites for what is essentially student-only housing, which ultimately displaces others (as well as potential commercial activity at those same sites), and which costs the city even more money, over the long-term.

          All issues that you seem to consistently downplay.

          Regarding freeway access – yeah – that would add even more commuters, coming into the city. For example, it would probably easier to reach MRIC from Sacramento, than it would be from parts of Davis.

          Honestly, I have no idea what you’re advocating for, anymore.  Other than build, build, build.

          1. Don Shor

            Here are some of the practical considerations that arise in a planning process. Discussing and perhaps changing the city’s zoning and planning documents to reflect new community consensus on things like this is what the process is all about.
            If a property owner wants to replace a current building, how many stories can the new building be? How many parking spaces would be required for the new site? Where?
            Would residential be allowed as part of that redevelopment?
            If the mix of commercial and retail drifts toward more food establishments, can the city deal with the change in parking needs?
            How many places in or near downtown will tall buildings be allowed?
            Do we want to experiment (again) with changing traffic flow? One-way streets, closing off streets, reducing parking allowed or mandated in some sections?
            Is there a desire for, and a practical way of providing, more open spaces in the downtown?
            How would changing traffic flow and parking standards affect nearby residential neighborhoods?
            Are we willing to entertain changing the planning basis for neighborhood shopping centers to allow larger/regional/specialty retailers to a greater degree?
            What would have to be done, that is practical, to increase the city’s revenues from the retail sector?

        10. David Greenwald

          “All issues that you seem to consistently downplay.
          Regarding freeway access – yeah – that would add even more commuters, coming into the city. For example, it would probably easier to reach MRIC from Sacramento, than it would be from parts of Davis.
          Honestly, I have no idea what you’re advocating for, anymore.  Other than build, build, build.”
          It’s actually good that you put these three things together, because it illustrates the problem.
          The first, is that I don’t downplay – I prioritize.
          The second is that the issue with the freeway access was not a commuter issue, it was a commercial issue for shipping and transporting goods as well as the need for business meetings ,etc.
          Third point is that you never really understood what I was advocating for and you always assumed it was about build, build, build.

        11. Ron

          Regarding freeway access, there’s likely more than one reason.  But, one of those reasons is ease of commuting, for those living outside of the city. There is no way to prevent that from occurring. And, it’ naïve to think that including housing would “solve” this (same) problem that would instantly be created by such a development. (Or, that workers would even be primarily from Davis, at all.)

          But, this article is supposed to be dealing with downtown, so it’s drifting somewhat off topic. And, you haven’t even addressed some of the points I brought up, regarding that.

        12. Ron

          I would also question whether or not market demand for innovation centers is being met by the sites proposed, outside of Davis.  (I also wonder if they’re having any difficulties in attracting commercial tenants, under what is supposedly very strong and growing economic conditions.)

          And, if they’re having trouble attracting commercial tenants now, what would be the market demand during an inevitable downturn?

          1. Don Shor

            I would also question whether or not market demand for innovation centers is being met by the sites proposed, outside of Davis.

            You would “question whether or not” based on what? Conversations with commercial property brokers? People with any background in property development? Things you’ve read in trade publications? How exactly have you looked into this to “question” it?

        13. Ron

          Don:

          I would question it based upon the lack of interest (by developers) in pursuing commercial development/activity at the sites I’ve already mentioned in this comment section, including Nishi, MRIC, Plaza 2555, the Cannery, the “mixed use” development at 5th and Pena, and even downtown. Probably other examples, as well.

          And again, I’d examine the demand for commercial developments at the sites outside of Davis, as well.  Are they having trouble finding commercial tenants? The answer to that, along with the apparent lack of interest (in the examples I’ve provided above) might provide some pretty strong clues, regarding commercial demand.

          Thought that these same points were already pretty clear, throughout this comment section.

           

        14. David Greenwald

          That’s a very biased analysis Ron, you’ve summarily excluded all of the commercial projects.

          City put out an RFEI in 2014, got three innovation park applicantions.  The first Nishi project had an R&D component, it got voted down.  Cannary has a commercial component.  Trackside is mixed use.  U-Mall is commercial and housing.  URP is commercial and housing.  Marriott and Hyatt house are housing.  Mace Alhambra is commercial business park.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Another way to look at this:

            MRIC – spent probably $5 million investing in an Innovation Center which included a full EIR but backed out
            Davis Innovation Center – spent over $2 million before backing out
            Nishi 1.0 – how much did they spend on the first project?
            Area 52/ Sierra Energy – they’re investing millions
            URP/ Fulcrum – they’re investing millions in their research park

            That’s at least $10 million, maybe $15 million going to five different innovation / research parks off the top of my head. I think you’re analysis is completely false and you selected your cases on the dependent variable as we used to say in grad school.

        15. Ron

          David:  Ironically, you’re using some of the same examples I’m using.

          Folks weren’t “opposed” to an innovation center component at Nishi.  They were opposed to the impact at Richards/Olive, in reference to Nishi 1.0. 

          In reference to Nishi 2.0, you’ve already noted that UCD was opposed to granting access for a commercial component.  To be fair, we really don’t know what the developer would have preferred, but I suspect that they’re quite happy with a residential-only development.  (Assuming that they’re able to overcome legal and access challenges.)

          MRIC had a legitimate opportunity to pursue a commercial-only development, but declined to do so.

          Don noted that the Cannery developers had absolutely no interest in a commercial development (or apparently even a commercial component, within the development).

          Trackside is being converted from a commercial development to one that primarily consists of residential development.

          And again, I understand that the commercial site at 5th and Pena was converted to include housing. (It would be interesting to know if there are actually viable businesses, on the first floor of those residences.)

          Regarding U-Mall and URP, I’m not sure what the current use/zoning is.  Is it already commercial?  If so, have applications been submitted to (now) include housing?

          You’re quick to blame Measure R, but refuse to face reality regarding commercial developments.
           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You’re all over the place in terms of your argument. You questioned “the lack of interest regarding commercial development” – I cited 11 projects with commercial development, so you’ve now shifted your argument.

        16. Ron

          I haven’t shifted the argument at all. I’ve cited some of the same examples as you, but noted that they were (apparently) converted to include housing. (Or, were not pursued at all, regarding commercial development.)

          There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of examples of purely commercial development proposals.  More often, there’s examples to either change the zoning to include housing, or to entirely eliminate the commercial zoning/proposals.

        17. David Greenwald

          So what you’re noting is not a lack of interest in commercial development, it’s that the trend is towards mixed use which makes sense given the lack of available space and the specter of Measure R.  It means that a single-story commercial development is not efficient.

        18. Ron

          David:  You’re the one who is shifting the argument, and attempting to blame Measure R.

          Measure R has no direct impact on proposals within the city.  However, it (should) make it more imperative to proceed carefully, regarding zoning changes (and continuous accommodation of UCD’s plans).

          And again, I’d be curious to see what’s going to happen to the businesses at Trackside, and whether or not there’s any viable businesses at the new “mixed use” development at 5th and Pena, for example.  (Which I believe is yet another example of a loss of commercial zoning.)  Not to mention Plaza 2555, in which the commercial zoning is apparently being entirely eliminated.

          “Mixed use” seems to be primarily a way for developers to build housing projects, including in Davis’ limited downtown area. Unlike other cities (that sprawl outward, bypassing downtown), Davis is still dependent upon downtown.

        19. David Greenwald

          So you don’t believe that Measure R has an impact on what gets proposed?  You don’t believe that Measure R creates an incentive for developers to increase density?  really?

        20. Ron

          Of course it creates incentives ($$).  But, those incentives seem to be heavily weighted toward housing/residential development.  (At the expense of commercial sites, if allowed to do so.)

          It would be interesting to see what developers would (actually) pursue in Davis, in the absence of all zoning requirements. (Pretty much like Houston, I understand. However, I assume that Houston is also expanding outward. At least, until a flood takes them out, again. At which point taxpayers pick up the tab.) But, I digress.

    2. Jeff M

      I recall a couple of articles on the “other” Davis blog, which noted that increasing residential density in a commercial area (in San Francisco) did NOT result in increased business activity.  There were empty storefronts, perhaps partly due to commercial tenants’ inability to pay (increased) rent – as a result of redevelopment.

      This isn’t a valid consideration as there is overwhelming evidence that smart development which includes a mix of residential and commercial results in vibrant self-contained neighborhoods as long as the commercial includes enough office space.

      The other requirement is a good demographic mix with a strong percentage of young professionals and young families.  Every great urban community recognized as attractive to live in has this.  Davis does not and it continues to grow even less so.

    3. Alan Miller

      > it will be interesting to see what happens to the businesses that will eventually be displaced by the redevelopment of Trackside.

      Several will be returning, according to the developers.

      Ah ahahahahahahahahaahAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHA!

      Pardon, I couldn’t hold in the comedy.

      1. Tia Will

        My information is now dated by over two years, however, when Trackside was initially proposed, I spoke personally with three of the current businesses and none of them foresaw the ability to remain at that location because of the increased rents.

        In Redwood City where I have been spending several weeks yearly for the past two years, a similar pattern of small mom and pops being pushed out in favor of national chains such as very large Starbucks, Chipotle and The Spaghetti Factory seems to be steadily occurring. I suppose this is good, bad, or indifferent depending on your point of view. However, I see it as a definite negative for those who are displaced.

        I do see a certain irony in noting that retail is challenged by increasing on line sales and then maintaining that retail will be a vital part of a “vibrant” downtown. Please note virtually meaningless buzz word “vibrant” used deliberately.

         

        1. Alan Miller

          Developers claimed they had MOUs with more than one of their tenants, to return.  I’d place dollars for donuts that ain’t gonna happen.  Certainly that more than one will.  Just another ploy.

    4. David Greenwald Post author

      “Seems more likely that the goal of some is (simply) to add more housing. ”

      Really? As opposed to the goal of what? I’m not sure what you are saying here.

      “noted that increasing residential density in a commercial area (in San Francisco) did NOT result in increased business activity. There were empty storefronts, perhaps partly due to commercial tenants’ inability to pay (increased) rent – as a result of redevelopment.”

      Or maybe it has to do with the shifting business environment? It’s hard to draw conclusions in such a dynamic and changing environment.

  2. Jeff M

    Sebastopol is not a good bogie for Davis given that it is a mostly rural wine country and Bodega Bay gateway tourism destination about 30 minutes away from San Francisco, but was just there and spent a day at The Barlow https://thebarlow.net/ and just shook my head over the missed opportunities in Davis filled full of a bunch of retired and grumpy government workers with the ability to block development projects but lacking capability and capacity for envisioning anything but something that does not upset their stasis senses.

     

      1. Ron

        The video link that Jeff posted is interesting.

        I’ve previously noted a lot of similarities between Sebastopol and Davis (probably demographics, political orientation), and definitely attitudes toward growth/development. In fact, it seems like the slow-growth movement is more firmly established in towns like Sebastopol (compared to Davis). Sebastopol is one of the “birthplaces” of the slow-growth movement.

        However, Davis has something that Sebastopol does not have (besides a UC):  Davis is about the only town (between the Bay Area and the Sierra/beyond) that’s worth stopping in, for a meal and a break from I-80.  It’s about the halfway point, as well.

        I know folks (including some from areas near Sebastopol) who do this periodically, now.

        1. Don Shor

          Davis is about the only town (between the Bay Area and the Sierra/beyond) that’s worth stopping in, for a meal and a break from I-80. It’s about the halfway point, as well.

          Vacaville almost certainly captures far more of that market than Davis, because there are dozens of restaurants (every chain imaginable) along I-80 where the Nut Tree used to be. And I once heard that the Cattleman’s in Dixon is the highest-grossing one in that chain. If Davis wants more of the freeway dining market, we’d need to develop more sites along the freeway and improve freeway access for them.

        2. Ron

          Not necessarily disputing that Vacaville draws more (a larger city with vast malls/chains – as you noted).  However, the folks I know prefer stopping in a walkable, more charming downtown area that’s not dominated by chains. (And, we all know the challenges that large-scale malls are facing.)

          Unlike other towns along the I-80 corridor, Davis already has a good reputation (among the folks I speak with, who live in the Bay Area).

          “Cattleman’s” is not a good fit for a town like Davis.  (It would be interesting to know if beef-based restaurants are a shrinking market.)

          The video that Jeff posted references a revitalization of the commercial downtown area, of Sebastopol. (Not a peripheral mall.)

        3. Craig Ross

          My friends and I rarely eat in town when we go out.  Davis is too pricey and frankly mediocre.  We’re far more likely to get something in Vacaville, than Davis

      2. Jeff M

        Ha!  Well, when you put it that way.

        My vision for Davis would be to leverage the situation for UCD being the #1 food science university in the world, and the fact that Yolo County is a very prolific and somewhat diverse producer of agriculture products.  One of the top wine schools.  One the top brewery science schools.  I believe we could easily support a concept like The Barrow.

        The rail location make for a challenging redevelopment project for the downtown.  I think Davis is large enough in population to envision a second commercial center other than the downtown.

        1. Alan Miller

          > The rail location make for a challenging redevelopment project for the downtown.

          How so?

          > I think Davis is large enough in population to envision a second commercial center other than the downtown.

          Where so, do you see this?  Asking seriously, not as a challenge.

        2. Alan Miller

          > I believe we could easily support a concept like The Barrow.

          The Barlow is built on an old railroad-served ag warehouse and processing block of some size, the entire railroad abandoned and the ag site out of use.  There’s nothing like it to redevelop in Davis, except The Cannery, but those buildings were torn down and that fine fine housing project (did I mention it was fine?) is half built and that ship has sailed.  Don’t see anywhere else that would work.

  3. Jim Frame

    There are a couple of large-ish underutilized spaces downtown, as long as your definition of “downtown” extends north to Sweetbriar Lane.  Hibbert Lumber occupies over half a city block — roughly 1.2 acres — and the Davis Center north of the Co-op plus the vacant corner parcel together make up about 2 acres.  Both are ripe for renewal.  (I’d be sad to see Hibbert’s go, but it doesn’t seem to make sense to have a lumber yard downtown anymore.)

    Looking to the east, the PG&E laydown yard is also a candidate for redevelopment, though likely one with significant toxic issues to be dealt with.  But at about 25 acres, it represents a unique opportunity to substantially extend the core area with a mix of uses.

    Nothing will happen with any of these unless/until the financial incentives overcome the inertia of the status quo.  The Davis Center owners are a fractious group, the Hibbert family is probably content to keep running the lumber yard, and PG&E is too large to place any kind of priority on relocating a local facility.  But the day will come…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Nothing will happen with any of these unless/until the financial incentives overcome the inertia of the status quo. ”

      At least with both Brinley and U-Mall, that appears to be the case.

    2. Alan Miller

      >  as long as your definition of “downtown” extends north to Sweetbriar Lane.

      The commercial arm does for G Street only.

      > PG&E . . . represents a unique opportunity to substantially extend the core area.

      Redeveloping PG&E — EVENTUALLY, as I don’t see it as remotely imminent — is fine in and of itself — it’s the idea this represents “an extension of the core” that I ain’t swallowing.

      1. Todd Edelman

        Unless Davis wants to “lose” PG&E, it should move on it sooner rather than later, because there’s probably no better location than near the Mace exit on I-80 — where MRIC is supposed to be.
        Definitely not the Downtown, just a couple minutes away by bike.

        Man, oh man would it help if I-80 was covered here…..

        1. Todd Edelman

          Perhaps we can finesse it in relation to the settlement regarding last Oc,tober’s fires?

          Do they want to avoid an eminent domain situation?

          In regards to energy efficiency and GHG’s, a move to e.g. near Mace reduces lower speed traffic on local streets (an argument that supported the location of the new Nugget HQ) and – assuming a good supply of housing that could be used by students at the N.ew Not-So East Davis location – would bring a lot of students close to campus (5 min by bike if the Downtown bike route is done right…. similar to the argument that supported Nishi 2..0).

        2. Howard P

          Ignoring the political reference, the line,

          Finesse is as foreign to Davis as…

          Is spot on!  Can think of many ways to finish that line… first that came to mind was “explaining astrophysics to an Australian Bushman, in Turkish.”

  4. Todd Edelman

    safe and walkable space.

    So many parents refuse to let their kids go Downtown by themselves; in my opinion the so-far proposed pedestrian area is too modest: it should include E and F between 2nd and 3rd, at the very least. (Go to Europe to see why this is better…) The default design for intersections should allow diagonal crossings — that’s right, one movement… just like cars and bikes. (It’s already 100% legal to cross perpendicular to street orientation on streets where there are no signals at both intersections at the ends of any street section – without priority – and this should be encouraged.)

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