Trackside Center: Fulfilling the Evolving Needs of Downtown Davis


Trackside-1By Joy Cohan

Downtown Davis is enviably blessed with attributes that both serve our community and attract visitors. There’s no denying that the presence of UC Davis is enormously helpful. Furthermore, great dining, entertainment, retail and service businesses and a walkable/bikeable environment add to the appeal.

High-quality mixed use (residential and retail) buildings also are a part of Downtown Davis’ success. They are well-recognized by economic development professionals as key to the vibrancy of a small-to-medium sized downtown. On a local level, as the former Director of Davis Downtown, I participated in numerous meetings with city staff, elected officials, downtown business owners and community members, where the goal of densification to add downtown residents was agreed upon as imperative to Davis’ economic vitality.

Several recent projects in Downtown Davis have added residents, complementing the existing dynamic of mixed use properties and nearby residential neighborhoods. Continuing this history, the proposed Trackside Center development in the Downtown Commercial Area’s Core Transition East area, promises to further these goals while expanding downtown’s potential to serve Davis’ evolving demographics. The site is on 3rd Street to the east of the Union Pacific railroad tracks, and presently houses tenants such as The Candy House of Davis, 3rd Street Jewelers and Kwan’s Framing.

Two distinct generations are experiencing a common need for attractive rental housing in settings that offer live/work/play elements. Millennials (born in the 1980s and 1990s) and baby boomers (now in their 50s, 60s and 70s) share a desire to live in well-appointed apartments that are “right-sized” for their lifestyles, and relieve them of the responsibilities of repairs, maintenance and property taxes. Furthermore, they want to be close to dining, entertainment, recreation and employment opportunities, so that driving isn’t required.

As proposed, Trackside Center answers this need with four residential floors and a fifth level featuring both residences and rooftop amenities, all atop street-level commercial uses, interior bike storage and underground parking. Varied residence sizes and configurations will accommodate both downsizing empty nesters and young professionals, as well as visiting professors and corporate executives. Who better to shop and dine in Downtown Davis on a regular basis? This sustainably-designed, iconic building would bring revitalized energy and economic benefits by replacing the two aging, one-story commercial buildings that now exist on the under-utilized property. The site’s current commercial tenants are aware of the proposed development, and have been invited to return when the enhancements come to fruition.

Over the years, Davis’ city staff members, council members, planning commissioners and residents have demonstrated enormous foresight regarding the need to balance the economic health of our community with a desire to maintain the integrity and charm of downtown-adjacent neighborhoods. In the 2001 collaborative document titled Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods Design Guidelines, community members express that, “Mixed-use Transition areas bordering the Downtown Commercial Area are intended to provide space for intensified mixed-use projects that maintain a residential character while also serving as a physical and use transition to the three surrounding residential neighborhoods.”

Because Trackside Center is proposed for a designated transition area, great attention has been paid to the project’s architectural design elements. Multiple setbacks and step backs, as well as a more traditional residential look and feel on the eastern edge of the building facing the Old East Davis neighborhood, demonstrate aesthetic sensitivity to the transition to residential use. Facing Third Street, the building will display a pedestrian-oriented storefront experience, with the upper floors set back from view. Along the railroad tracks, a more industrial façade will be featured, reminiscent of the site’s more than 100 year history of large, multi-story manufacturing facilities (including a 70’ high water tower) and light industrial uses.

In 2000, the City of Davis prepared a Core Area Strategy Report. In this document, the Planning Department identified more than 30 under-utilized downtown sites that could be redeveloped privately or through joint public/private partnerships. Among these was the very property upon which Trackside Center is proposed. With an eye toward this type of exciting future for Downtown Davis, the Davis Downtown and Traditional Residential Neighborhoods Design Guidelines also state that, “Proactive partnerships and incentives are required to achieve the policies identified by the 2000 Core Area Strategy Report. The projects assume that the City will use its land to actively pursue the implementation of housing and retail uses for downtown, and it should leverage its assets by engaging in partnerships with the private sector.” With the demise of the Redevelopment Agency, unfortunately, said partnership opportunities no longer exist. In spite of this, Trackside Center, LLC formed with the collaborative investment of more than 35 Davis residents whom all share a dedication to community involvement. My husband, Steve, and I are proud to be a part of this ownership group and exciting development proposal.

Projects recently proposed and in-progress in other, similarly-sized college downtowns point to the trend toward mid-rise, mixed use developments in settings similar to that of Trackside Center. A recent quote in the Corvalis (Oregon) Advocate seems particularly apropos: “Our little downtown…is becoming a burgeoning hub, with new businesses and buildings arriving all the time. We can be delighted or dismayed by all this, but the truth of the matter is, change is inevitable. Sometimes what we think we want is vastly different from what our town needs to thrive.”

May we all keep a similarly open mind when considering what benefits Trackside Center can contribute to the economic future of Davis.

Joy Cohan served as the Director of Davis Downtown from 2007-2011


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

15 thoughts on “Trackside Center: Fulfilling the Evolving Needs of Downtown Davis”

        1. Barack Palin

          Thanks, I didn’t read this today because I read it in yesterday’s Enterprise and must of forgot that it had been mentioned.

          The ‘point’ is fairly obvious don’t you think?

      1. hpierce

        I guess from your ‘obvious point’, one must discount/disregard any opinion if the opiner has any “interest” in an ‘outcome’ that is promoted.

        Ironically, on this particular project, I ‘frankly don’t give a damn’.

        The problem I have with some folk is when they don’t disclose their “interest”.

        1. SODA

          I apologize that I missed the ‘disclosure’ after reading in both publications however, I believe the byline at the bottom of both should have disclosed this. You must admit it is kind of buried. To me, it doesn’t reduce the readability of the article but certainly puts it is perspective. Giving the byline as the previous DDavis Director without investor label seems incomplete.

        2. Matt Williams

          The problem I have with some folk is when they don’t disclose their “interest”.

          Point well taken hpierce.  That does not appear to be the case in this article.

        3. hpierce

          SODA…  I don’t believe Joy tried to ‘hide’ her association… putting it in the ‘byline’ would be redundant, but I understand where sometimes folk want to be ‘told’ multiple times.  I got to know the author professionally.  Years ago.  However you view the project, Ms Cohan is not deceptive, but wouldn’t you expect someone who served as the director for Davis Downtown (an advocacy group) [disclosed in the byline] to be an advocate for something that they decided to ‘sign on to’?

          Believe what you will on the merits/problems with the project proposal.  There are both merits and flaws.

        4. Davis Progressive

          bp – i talked to one of the ‘investors’ – most of them are not expecting to make money on this and most decided to invest because they believed in the project and its goals rather than the other way around.  so i don’t see anything incompatible between joy sharing her views and her status as an investor.

  1. SODA

    hpierce:  I don’t seem to be able to indent to your last comment to me, but I would expect the editors of both publications to ask for disclosures and add to byline. That is indeed what I see in the medical literature and I guess I expect it here too.

    1. hpierce

      I don’t disagree with you philosophically, SODA (and in my field I expect the same disclosures as you do, on technical matters), but the fact is, this is a blog, where people can opine (fervently, at times) on matters such as AIM, without an expectation that the opiner discloses whether they have (or hope to have) kids/loved ones in the program.

      If the VG wants to require full disclosure of interests, OK.  But it should be ‘across the board’, IMO.


Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for