Mer­chants radiant over new downtown light­ing

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY WIL­LIAM ROLLER Staff Writer

EL CEN­TRO — Mer­chants and city of­fi­cials are hope­ful a newly com­pleted $1.1 mil­lion street­light pro­ject will serve as the cor­ner­stone for re­build­ing and ex­panded in­vest­ment in downtown.

The city Wednesday held an of­fi­cial cel­e­bra­tion of the pro­ject, which saw the in­stal­la­tion of some 27 retro-style lamp posts be­tween Eighth and Fourth streets. The fix­tures on Main Street in­clude over­head and pedes­trian-level light­ing, the lat­ter of which will help pro­ject light un­der build­ing canopies and re­duce shad­ows, ac­cord­ing to Deputy City En­gi­neer Abra­ham Cam­pos.

“These are great,” Cam­pos said. “I drove in at night, and it’s bright. We re­ally made an ef­fort … so stop by and en­joy Main Street.” In­stal­la­tion of the lamps be­gan five months ago as the sec­ond part of a three-phase plan to at­tract com­mer­cial growth downtown. The first step was to change zon­ing downtown from mixed use, which in­cludes res­i­den­tial, to strictly com­mer­cial. The third step will in­volve seek­ing mer­chant in­put for ad­di­tional im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing park­ing and pub­lic safety, to make the area more at­trac­tive to shop­pers.

El Cen­tro Mayor Alex Car­de­nas said one goal as the ef­fort moves for­ward is to bring in ab­sen­tee own­ers to im­prove stan­dards.

“We’re in a good sit­u­a­tion,” he said, “Be­cause with the light­ing there’s min­i­mal im­pact to the gen­eral fund, which al­lows us to al­lo­cate more money to hire more po­lice, so it’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion.”

Fund­ing for the street­light pro­ject in­cluded $746,000 from the fed­eral High­way Safety Im­prove­ment Pro­gram, $104,000 from lo­cal Mea­sure D fund­ing and $250,000 in pri­vate fund­ing from AT&T.

CS Legacy, of Pomona, was awarded the con­tract, which in­cluded an ad­di­tional $700,000 in curb, side­walk and gut­ter in­stal­la­tion along Dog­wood Av­enue, near Chili’s and Fa­mous Dave’s restau­rants.

Wendy Lue­vano, owner of Sim­ply@Home, an an­tiques and col­lectibles re­tailer on Main Street, said peo­ple have been afraid to shop downtown after dark.

She’s hope­ful the new light­ing will make shop­pers feel safe and will en­cour­age busi­nesses to stay open later.

“Last week I stayed open un­til 8 p.m.,” Lue­vano said. “It was a long day, but I wanted to see what it was like. We’ll con­tinue stay­ing open un­til 8 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month for six months to see how it goes.”

Shop­pers who visit dur­ing the ex­tended hours have the op­por­tu­nity to win ex­clu­sive dis­counts on their pur­chases, she said.

Lue­vano, who grew up in El Cen­tro, said she has happy mem­o­ries of downtown from her child­hood, and she is look­ing for­ward to more im­prove­ments ahead.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate what city did,” she said. “Hope­fully more can be done and get it back like it was be­fore. But ev­ery­body needs to be on board; it’s not just up to the city.”

One of many new downtown street lamps in­stalled on Main and State streets cel­e­brated dur­ing a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony, Wednesday in El Cen­tro. WIL­LIAM ROLLER PHOTO

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