Merchants radiant over new downtown lighting
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