Modesto block party draws attention to new vision for 10th Street

06/28/2014 8:38 PM

06/28/2014 11:14 PM

The vision is simple: Make 10th Street between the DoubleTree Hotel and the Gallo Center for the Arts a place where people come to shop, walk, dine, relax and recharge.

It’s with that goal that Leadership Modesto Class of 2013-14 hosted the five-hour Celebrating the Arts on 10th Street this weekend.

“This event is really more about awareness,” said James Baker, part of the Leadership Modesto program, put on through the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. “If we raise money, great, but what we’re really trying to do is raise awareness for the project.”

Saturday’s downtown block party featured a variety of food vendors, musical performances, art displays, and wine and vodka tastings.

The project is similar to what’s already been done to spruce up 10th street between K Street in front of the DoubleTree and J Street. The area features trees, seating areas and planters and is in stark contrast to the block slated for improvements. City budget constraints shelved the second leg of the project, and Baker said his group has dusted off the plans to complete the vision.

“Tenth Street between I and K should be a place where people want to come spend time, relax, enjoy the scenery and learn more about the local art scene,” said Patrick Burda, a participant in Leadership Modesto. “Improving 10th Street will also, hopefully, encourage business growth along the 10th Street corridor.”

Tenth Street once teemed with businesses and was part of the main drag during the glory days of the cruising era. Now, there are empty storefronts that organizers hope one day will be filled with restaurants and entertainment-based businesses. Downtown has a 16 percent vacancy rate, according to a city report released in 2013.

Leadership Modesto is soliciting donations for shade trees (19 at $1,000 each), flower boxes (four at $1,000 each), benches (four at $2,000 each) and a bike rack ($2,000). Project partnership sponsorships are also available from $2,500 to $10,000.

The plan for the 10th Street Art Block envisions trees, bike parking areas, pavement with concrete stamping, areas for installation of public art and the creation of social gathering places at intersection corners protected by posts and framed by planters. Red paint on 10th and I streets marks where driving space would be narrowed and sidewalk areas extended to create the beginnings of a parklet – a small urban park.

Converting pavement to green space to create parklets is an idea borrowed from other cities, including San Francisco, Livermore, Lodi and Sacramento.

Baker said the group has been working on the project for three to six months, and hopes to complete it by the end of this year or early next year.

The Downtown Hospitality Program, commissioned by the City Council in June 2012, began working on ways to improve downtown that year and unveiled the 10th Street Art Block concept in February 2013. The program’s mission is to make the city center more hospitable and attractive to residents, visitors, businesses and investors.

The project is supported by several organizations, including the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Improvement District, Modesto Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Stanislaus Economic Development & Workforce Alliance and the city of Modesto.

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