Ripon wants a downtown vision

RIPON -- As developers of new businesses eye open land on the city's edge, civic leaders hope to shift their gaze toward downtown.

Tree-lined Main Street set a standard for restoring historic districts 15 years ago when it added parking and trees. Main Street still boasts far more cars and foot traffic than many of the region's downtowns. But several storefronts are vacant, and a mayor's committee is brainstorming how to keep the district from going the way of so many downtowns replaced by outlying shopping centers.

The city is inviting the public to a noontime meeting in council chambers Wednesday at 259 N. Wilma Ave. Redondo Beach-based consultant Economic Development System will conduct an information-gathering session on what attractions people think the city needs.

"Years ago, when we did the revitalization, at that time it was really cutting edge," said Mark Wilbur, a co-owner of Ristorante Giorgio on Main Street. "And as time has gone by, it has gotten a little dated."

Ken Zuidervaart, the city's director of planning and economic development, said the plan might include focuses such as restaurants or professional services or shopping or more housing above storefronts -- or even a theater -- and how to help encourage those businesses.

Now, developers are looking at the Jack Tone Road area partly because the open area is a place where they can build bigger than in the confines of downtown.

"A lot of places want more land for their projects," he said. "You saw that with Modesto, and now they have revitalized their downtown; we're trying to catch that before our downtown gets bad. It's a great downtown, but if you let it go and then try to revitalize it down the road, it is much more difficult."

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 599-8760.