At last week’s meeting, the council voted to purchase the property between 3090 and 3110 Main St., which includes Centro Mart, La Costa and the remainder of the shopping center to the north. The $6 million purchase comes on the heels of January’s purchase of the quarter-acre property at 3330 Main St., to the east of the shopping center. Financed with Redevelopment Agency funds, the properties will play a crucial role in the revitalization of the downtown area.
City Manager Bryan Montgomery said the acquisitions are key to executing the necessary façade improvements that will ultimately create a cohesive ambiance and make downtown Oakley a Bay Area destination.
“The overall goal is to implement our Downtown Plan and have, as the next step, the improvement of the parcel directly across from City Hall,” Montgomery said in an e-mail to the Press this week. “Most of the structures are likely to remain, but there will be a serious facelift and overall redesign of what you see now. Hopefully, it will eventually be a dramatic upgrade.”
According to the city staff report, the city initially planned to purchase only one acre for the right-of-way to connect Vintage Parkway with the northerly extension of Norcross Avenue, but after extensive discussions with property owners Centro Mart Inc., an agreement was reached to purchase the entire property.
The improvement of Main Street has always been central to the Downtown Plan. The upgrade comes in two parts: streetscape improvements and building frontage enhancements. The city cannot make any street improvements until it gains control of Main Street (which is part of Highway 4) from Caltrans. And after years of negotiations, city officials hope to achieve later this year. Once in control of Main Street, the city plans to redirect Highway 4 away from the downtown area so that traffic congestion will be reduced and Main Street can be blocked off for community events such as the Almond Festival.
Rather than wait for all the pieces of the puzzle to become available, Oakley has been taking small steps to move the Downtown Plan forward, and the recent purchases are part of that process. Montgomery said the area redevelopment has been in the works all along, and while Gov. Jerry Brown has threatened to take away city redevelopment dollars – such as those used to purchases the Main Street properties – the threat was not the driving force behind the purchases.
The city will not purchase all Main Street property that exists in the “downtown core” between Vintage Parkway and Fourth Street, but has initiated a Façade Improvement Program that will assist business and property owners with the needed improvements to create a consistent downtown atmosphere similar to that of Walnut Creek.