Merchants get lowdown on Arcade
by Bret Bradigan
No question about it, said city officials Wednesday, redevelopment
plans for the Arcade Plaza are going to inflict pain on merchants.
But with close communication, signs, marketing and patience,
that pain can be made bearable.
"It's absolutely going to be inconvenient," said Dan
Singer, Ojai's city manager. "In the long term, we absolutely
believe it'll bring in more people to your business, and it'll
be more beautiful."
The Arcade Plaza renewal project is scheduled to start April
29, and is designed to improve the appearance, parking, pedestrian
circulation , entries and gateways of the downtown landmark.
Public art and facade improvements are also part of the plan,
which will total about $1.8 million, and is scheduled to be completed
before Thanksgiving. The previous renovation took place 12 years
About 60 merchants and interested people attended the breakfast
meeting at the Offices at the Pews, where concerns centered on
parking, construction disruptions, vandalism and security. Besides
city officials Singer and Kathy McCann, Redevelopment Analyst,
project manager Neva Williams and representatives of McGillvray
Construction, the successful bidder for the project, were on
hand to field questions.
McCann said that Arcade renewal design was done by RRM Design
Group of San Luis Obispo, and that many of the features - light
fixtures, pavers, tile, etc. - were included after consulting
with local residents and merchants to be consistent with Ojai
style. The plaza centerpiece will be a bronze Matilija poppy
sculpture with fountain, created by Sandra Johnson, a San Luis
Obispo artist, surrounded by sandstone benches.
This attention to design details, McCann said, informed the entire
renewal process, which began in 1997. "One of the things
we wanted to include in the plaza was sense of heart, a sense
of place," she said.
Businesses with entrances onto the plaza - Arcade Salon, Busy
Babes, Christian Science Reading Room and the Ojai Valley Land
Conservancy - will be the most affected, said McCann, and people
from those businesses did express their concerns about taking
out shade trees, as well as closing them off from their customers.
Neva Williams said that the first phase of the construction,
expected to last until September, will effectively shut down
the interior space of the plaza. Businesses may have to take
deliveries through their front doors, she said.
Steve McGillvray said that the first period of construction will
involve grading and demolition work. This will be noisy and disruptive,
he said. But "won't shut you down for long periods of time."
Williams and McGillvray said they would work closely with merchants
on the construction schedule to minimize those disruptions. "We're
going to use appropriate equipment for the job," McGillvray
said. "We will take into account businesses as best we can."
Singer said that the low-bid process won by McGillvray Construction
had its drawbacks in the loss of flexibility, or ability to accept
proven performers familiar with the area. But he said the city
was fortunate, because McGillvray lives in Ojai, and has done
other projects in and around the Ojai Valley.
Parking was brought up several times. Singer admitted the project
would result in a net loss of 18 spaces. He said that most of
those spaces would be lost along Matilija Street, where the present
spaces are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities
Act. Those spaces would be lost regardless, he said.
Niles Dohrn, with Bonnie Lu's, brought up two concerns, sewage
problems and security problems. He said local hooligans clambered
on top the roof for parties and malicious mayhem.
Capt. Gary Pentis, Ojai Police Chief, said that suspects had
been arrested for burglaries, though he acknowledged that others
were likely to take their place. He suggested that locking devices
for roof access would help, as would merchant vigilance.
Hallie Katz, of Human Arts, said that skateboarders were a recurring
menace, particularly in the walkthrough by Nancy Rupp Studio.
"They will ruin whatever you put in there if it's not a
deterrent," she said. McCann said design elements included
oak leaf wraps on curbs and other edges to deter skateboarders.
Plans for getting the information out about the renovations and
construction schedule were discussed. Singer said that city staff
would work with Elements, a graphics and design firm, on a campaign
to run through the construction, including newspaper ads. A website,
signs and brochures would also part of the approach.
Singer said further meetings would address security, trash pickup
and more specific situations that emerge as construction commences.
Mary Trudeau, owner of Rainbow Bridge, said she understood the
benefits in the long term of a revitalized city showcase. "We've
got to keep looking at the long-term goal," she said, and
acknowledged the obstacles ahead. "I hope the public is
nice to you."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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