How did downtown Redwood City, formerly known as Deadwood City, become the entertainment hub of the Peninsula? More importantly, what are the lessons to be learned from that transformation for the City of Martinez?
That is the point of Friday’s field trip, the first of a series of workshops and sojourns to other downtowns that have managed to reinvent themselves. The project, called Downtown Matters, is sponsored by the city’s planning department as part of a general plan update, and is being headed by Susan Moeller, the former redevelopment director of Redwood City who helped bring a lot of that downtown back from the dead (or at least near-dying).
For Martinez, she said, redevelopment is off the table.
“Redevelopment is not an option for Martinez,” she said. “So we’re going to talk about what other cities have done, how they have transformed themselves, the economic realities of the 21st century – global warming, rising gas and food prices, change in demographics.”
For instance, Moeller said that every day, 8,000 people are turning 65 years old, and that’s going to be the case for the next five years.
“It’s not going backwards,” she said. “How do we plan for these changing demographics?”
It’s a conversation she wants to have with as many people in the city as possible. Though the bus trip to Redwood City is not exactly brimming with people, she hopes that more and more will join the upcoming workshops and trips to Livermore and Lodi – other downtowns that have transformed themselves.
In Redwood City, for instance, “we built a city from the ground up,” she said. “Part of the reason we were successful is we spent time with a shared community vision. What does it take to make a good place? What are the opportunities? What are the strengths, what are the weaknesses? How do you create a community gathering place?”
Now, Moeller said, Redwood City hosts a weekly entertainment event at Courthouse Square downtown that is attended by 2,000 people. Those are people who shop and eat downtown, she noted.
The city is also the county seat and has a train station downtown, so it has some of the same challenges, and advantages, as Martinez.
The field trip to Redwood City is Friday from 2 to 8 p.m. For more information, call Laura Austin at 925-372-3515.