Workshop on future of Old Town Elk Grove draws large audience, spirited conversation

Elk Grove city planner Antonio Abalog (center) facilitating one of five groups at the Old Town visioning workshop. |   

A workshop held last night at the Elk Grove Public Library on Elk Grove Boulevard drew a large, engaged audience who offered ideas on how the City of Elk Grove's Old Town area should be revitalized.

The workshop is part of a lengthy city-initiated process with expected completion in about one year seeking to make the historic district a valuable community amenity. Old Town Elk Grove, which is on Elk Grove Boulevard between Elk Grove-Florin and Waterman Roads, was designated a so-called Special Planning Area (SPA) by Sacramento County in 1985 and was updated 2005, which placed constraints on the district meant to preserve its historic character.

Although the city has undertaken a variety of measures since its 2005 update intended to draw diverse businesses and resulting visitors and shoppers, such as the establishment of the Old Town Plaza, results have been mostly disappointing. Several restaurants attempted to operate with only two achieving long-term success and the current mix of businesses is mostly personal services like hair and nail salons.   

Facilitating the meeting was the City of Elk Grove's Innovation Czar Christopher Jordan and representatives from outside consultants Economic & Planning Systems, Fehr & Peers, and Ascent Environmental. After hearing comments from Jordan, the consultants commented on trends that could affect the Old Town plans.

David Zehnder of Economic & Planning Solutions noted that the average American has about 25 sq. ft. of retail space per person compared to 16 for Canadians and 2.5 for Europeans. This glut of retail space is reflected in that online sales are quickly expanding, and there are increasingly large empty retail spaces in Elk Grove.

"Lots of our retail space has been better days," he told the participants.

Cheryl Croshere of Fehr & Peers discussed one of Old Town's many perception problems - parking. Croshere said their weekday study showed there is sufficient parking in the area and that it is underutilized. 

"Even during the peak hour when the highest number of vehicles were parked in those spaces, they were still two-thirds empty," Croshere said. "So there is a lot of parking and there is a lot of potential to increase the intensity of use in this area and still have parking available." 

When asked about weekend parking, Croshere said there was a previous study that looked at weekday and weekend parking rates. Comparing their weekday study results showed little difference to the previous weekday report, and land use had not changed, so they surmised there would not be any significant variance if they were to study weekends. 

"As is, there is a lot of parking," she added.

Before the audience broke into five groups, several participants voiced concerns about the district. Those concerns included opposition to changing the name from Old Town as had been suggested and rhetorically asking what benefits have Elk Grove taxpayers received for the millions of dollars already spent on previous projects. 

The participants were asked for their ideas and input on a host of design plans and specific items like signage, parking, new housing, traffic lights, bike trails, sidewalks and other amenities proposed for the area. While the facilitators gathered and recorded their ideas, many of the participants raised ancillary issues affecting Old Town like the effects the growing homeless population located along the Union Pacific Railroad track that bisects the district is having on businesses and residents.  

The ideas and suggestions from the workshop will be incorporated into the consultants' studies. A draft for proposed changes to Old Town is to be considered by the Elk Grove City Council in about one year.   

"We don't have any other meetings scheduled on the books yet," Jordan told the participants in closing comments.

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.










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