In a special meeting called to order on Friday morning, Aug. 5, Mayor Richard O’Brien welcomed the public and invited them to start a discussion on downtown Riverbank. The goal, he said, is to facilitate new business and create a vibrant downtown to encourage people to visit.
There were a few downtown business owners at the meeting including Lana Clayton, Vena Pearson Hudgins, and Robert Guardiola, along with two council members, Cal Campbell and Darlene Barber Martinez.
There were also two representatives from Opportunity Stanislaus, formerly known as Stanislaus Business Alliance.
City of Riverbank staff was on hand as well including Norma Torres-Manriquez Administration Analyst II/ Human Services Specialist and Director of Finance Marisela Garcia, soon to be the interim City Manager.
Mayor O’Brien began the meeting by asking everyone to state their name and what they do and explained that he would like to start working together to bring the downtown more business and direct traffic to downtown instead of people going around the downtown.
Guardiola expressed that there needs to be better marketing as well as bringing excitement to the downtown by creating an event to bring people to the downtown area.
“The goal would be around marketing and developing an environment for downtown,” said Guardiola. “You almost have to have something on a monthly basis.
“If you want to create excitement you’ve got to bring it. People won’t come until there is excitement.”
Clayton expressed that there are residents that would like to get involved in this movement for the downtown growth. She also stated that she would like to see the downtown be similar to Turlock’s downtown.
“I would like to bring new business to downtown,” stated Barber Martinez. “Honestly in my heart I believe it can happen. I love Riverbank.”
There was buzz throughout the room about possibly bringing events like the Blues and Bibs event back to downtown to create some excitement.
The Del Rio has been sold and it will be renovated early next year, attendees learned. O’Brien stated plans call for there to be a piano bar, and an event center geared toward weddings. There will also be a breakfast restaurant with a drive thru. Reeds Garage is slated to be torn down and should have a new building up around the end of October with new businesses.
In years past, there was a Downtown Revitalization Committee managed by former Economic Development Director Tim Ogden around 2004-2005. According to Ric McGinnis, former councilmember and committee member, it was formed as a response to the difficulties caused by having to shut down areas of downtown during redevelopment, street redesign, and construction of the Plaza del Rio.
Members of the committee included councilmembers, downtown business owners, downtown residents, and the city staff. Appointments to the committee were made by the mayor, supported by a council vote, and served as an advisory committee to the council.
The committee was later disbanded in 2012.
Due to the work and plans that this group did in the past, however, it may be a building block to where they begin with this new downtown idea.
There was a lot of excitement in the room with all the ideas that were circling, noted officials, and they have a start to something that may take several years but will be well worth the efforts.
There will be another public meeting to discuss the goals and create a new committee to keep things going on the revitalization of downtown on Friday, Sept. 16 at 8 a.m.