By Michael Bisch and Joshua Chapman
All too often, economic development is considered synonymous with real estate development in our lively community debates. The reality is that many individuals and organizations regularly generate economic activity in our community, most of whom have no connection with real estate development.
The Chamber of Commerce, Yolo County Visitors Bureau and Davis Downtown are primary examples of local economic developers, although many more also contribute. As leaders of Davis Downtown, we hope you’ll share our enthusiasm for what our dynamic organization does to spur economic activity.
As a nonprofit organization, Davis Downtown makes prudent use each year of a $140,000 budget funded by assessment fees from downtown business and property owners. These dollars are devoted almost entirely to economic development efforts, both directly and indirectly.
Our mission is carried out by a highly motivated professional staff of four and an all-volunteer board of directors and committee members. It is worth reflecting upon some of the activities Davis Downtown has either started or completed in 2013 to encourage more downtown visits, while steadily improving downtown as a hotbed of entrepreneurial and creative activity:
* Welcome-back concert on Saturday: Yes, a free street concert! Come downtown Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m. to welcome UC Davis students and regional visitors. While D Street will be closed to vehicles between First and Second streets, it will be open for your enjoyment of six touring bands. The concert is sponsored by First Northern Bank. The seventh annual Jazz and Beat Festival, presented by the John Natsoulas Gallery, also will take place this weekend. Downtown will be hopping!
* Integrated downtown website and iPhone app: Davis Downtown has designed and launched the nation’s first fully integrated website and iPhone app for a shopping, dining, art and entertainment district, at http://davisdowntown.com.
Want to know what’s happening downtown on any given day of the week? Check out our events calendar. Want to enjoy a happy hour cocktail with your friends? Check out our happy hour listings. Want to know which retailers are running a sale? Check out our shopping listings. Want to share your downtown experience? Post a photo. All this and more can be explored virtually on our website and app. Real-time parking space availability? Coming soon!
* Wayfinding and parking management: Davis Downtown is working closely with the city of Davis to design, fabricate and install significantly more user-friendly signage to direct residents and visitors to destinations, such as the Davis Farmers Market, UC Davis and public parking lots and structures.
Paired with this effort, Davis Downtown is working collaboratively with the city and the Downtown Parking Task Force to develop and implement a new integrated downtown parking management plan to provide every downtown visitor an even more enjoyable experience.
* Downtown gateway improvement project: We have long felt that the primary entrance to downtown, the area around the Richards Boulevard tunnel, could use significant aesthetic and functional improvements. This is where visitors form their first impressions of our community.
In its current condition, the gateway fails to communicate anything about the character of our community, our history or our aspirations. Together with our partners — the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the city of Davis — we are developing design concepts that will be presented to the public for input to be followed by construction. Stay tuned for more details.
Following are additional programs and activities Davis Downtown has completed or initiated in 2013: Second Friday ArtAbout, downtown gift card, Sidewalk Sales, Valentine’s Day HeartAbout, May Bike Month, Halloween Treat Trail, Zombie Crawl, ARTober, summer concert series, Day of the Dead Festival, 12 Days of Downtown Davis, Discover Downtown Instagram contest and Discover Downtown Davis Fall Welcome Week.
In partnership with other community organizations, Davis Downtown also offered financial, promotional or organizational support to the following 2013 initiatives: A&E District/Arts Alliance, Davisbarnstorming Crowdsourcing/Placemaking, Fall Welcome, Pajamarino, Holiday Tree Lighting, Picnic Day, Aggie athletics events, Davis Music Festival, Jazz/Beat Festival, Tour de Cluck, Davis Art Center’s Discovery Art Program, Mother’s Day Tea, Soup’s On, downtown art and murals, Clips Beer and Film Festival, Rock Band University in E Street Plaza, Yolo Small Business Summit, Good Health Festival, Fourth of July Criterium, Davis High School Grad Night, ASUCD, A Taste of Davis, St. Baldrick’s Day, Davis Beer Week, Radiate Art Artists Collective and Downtown Giving Meter.
As much as Davis Downtown has accomplished toward economic development this year, our efforts are but one piece of the pie. The cumulative efforts of our members create impressive results. The shopping, dining, arts and entertainment, hospitality accommodations, professional services, social services and more offered in the downtown area result in an estimated 3,100 downtown jobs, $990,000 in annual sales tax revenue to the city, $617,000 in annual hotel room tax revenue to the city, and an estimated $1.3 million in annual property tax revenue to the city and the Davis Joint Unified School District, all within a 96-acre area developed many generations ago. This economic activity is in addition to the downtown’s key role as a gathering place for the community.
All of this is critical to fostering a sustainable Davis community. So if you want to know what economic development looks, sounds, tastes and feels like without requiring further open space development, go downtown!
— Michael Bisch is president of Davis Downtown and Joshua Chapman is vice president.