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Downtown redevelopment ‘like a chess game’

Goal is to make a 24/7 district where people live, work, play
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Roseville is preparing the game board, setting out all the pieces needed to make an economically and socially vibrant downtown, city officials say.

In August, the Roseville City Council approved 13 projects in the downtown and Old Town redevelopment districts, including the creation of a town square and amphitheater, changes to pedestrian bridges and infrastructure improvements.

The projects will be completed over the next three years for an estimated cost of $37 million, the majority of which will be paid by funds allocated specifically for physical improvements and not intended for operational expenses.

“It’s like a chess game,” said Assistant City Manager John Sprague. “We have to strategically make moves to lay the foundation for other projects. … The goal is a 24/7 downtown that draws people down there.”

The city plans to create a neighborhood where people want to live, shop, eat and play. Doing this, they say, requires a town square, which will act as a “community living room,” said city Spokeswoman Megan MacPherson.

This will be an active feature with a water fountain — MacPherson calls it a “sprayground” — and a stage for ongoing theatrical and musical acts. The city has funding set aside to program this stage on an ongoing basis.

There will be public WiFi, restrooms, plenty of seating and space to host vendor fairs. The town square is modeled after Redwood City’s downtown.

Local business owners are hoping the completed space will generate more customers. Many of them rely on Downtown Tuesday Nights, which runs from May through July, to supplement their revenues and get them through slower months, Sprague said.

Scott Alvord, president of the Downtown Roseville Merchants Association and owner of A Dash of Panache, said of the 13 items on the list he is most excited about the town square.

“This particular project is the most visible and the best one to bring our beautiful downtown to life because it will help make it even more of a destination,” Alvord said. “The businesses in the area will benefit from the extra foot traffic and exposure this town square will bring and the community will benefit from wonderful family events that bring us all together.”

How redevelopment works

In 1989, the city decided to launch an ongoing revenue source to help downtown be competitive with the rest of the local development occurring, and enacted the Roseville Redevelopment Agency.

Using tax increment financing, the agency attempts to eliminate blight. This can be through commercial loans, improving an existing location, providing marketing assistance for businesses in the redevelopment zone and more.

In 2006, the city completed an intensive visioning process that defined a successful revitalization of downtown as critical. The Downtown Specific Plan was completed to provide the regulatory framework and a list of capital improvement projects.

The current list of 13 approved projects is expected to create about 400 short- and long-term jobs, said Kevin Payne, the city’s assistant planning and redevelopment director.

Working together

Currently, city staff is working on acquiring the land at Oak and Lincoln streets for the future site of Fire Station No. 1, which will move from its current location at 401 Oak Street to free up space along Dry Creek — or “Ray’s River,” as City Manager Ray Kerridge calls the waterway — for “riverfront” development.

The goal is to have restaurants and office businesses oriented to the stream, and a creek walk for pedestrians.

The city will upgrade underground utilities and possibly relocate a major sewer line adjacent to Dry Creek to make the area shovel ready for eager developers.

Some residents have expressed concern over the potential flooding of Dry Creek — which has flooded in the past — and the effect on future development along the stream.

Payne said the city performed a hydrologic analysis that assessed the impact of the improvements and indentified the flood boundaries.

“As part of this modeling, the entire creek/park area was surveyed, so that we were using real data, not just aerial photographs or outdated topographic maps,” Payne said. “What this analysis showed was that the proposed improvements and adjusted flood boundary did not create a significant rise in the water elevation.”

He said the increase in the water surface elevation is not greater than one-tenth of a foot upstream or downstream of the project.

The redevelopment project also includes relocation of the Icehouse Bridge (also known as Rube Nelson Bridge) to accommodate bicycle connections, construction of a new library bridge and a pedestrian bridge into Royer Park.

“I would not discredit the role the bridges are going to play,” Sprague said.

The Community Development Corporation is tasked with attracting new businesses to the area. The corporation recently acquired its first building, a vacant former restaurant on Vernon Street, and is negotiating with a second property owner.

Dominick Casey, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department, said utilizing Royer Park and other recreational venues in downtown is critical to increasing Roseville’s tourism industry.

“People usually travel someplace for a reason,” Casey said during the city’s strategic planning meeting Sept. 28.

The city’s role is to give them those reasons, he said.

“Tourism is an excellent tool for revitalization, as it is an economic engine in the areas of business development, retail sales and several areas of hospitality,” Casey told the Press Tribune. “The town square has great potential.”

The city plans to break ground on the town square in spring 2012 and unveil the space in fall 2012.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Downtown Specific Plan public improvement projects include:
• Development of town square
• Vernon streetscape enhancement
• Vernon streetscape sewer, water and electric mainline improvements to support additional development
• Additional parking in Old Town
• Fire Station land acquisition to enable construction of new facility at Lincoln and Oak streets
• Construction of new Fire Station No. 1
• If warranted and funded, relocation of 63-foot sewer line along Oak Street
• Development of streetscape project on Atlantic Street to activate businesses fronts and enhance interface with the railyard
• Construction of a new library bridge, relocation of Icehouse Bridge and design of pedestrian bridge into Royer Park
• Completion of major infrastructure in Vernon Street corridor to allow for shovel-ready development sites