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DeWerk: city rebukes consultants remark about abandoning downtown
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The city of Ceres has no plans to discard efforts to revitalize downtown Ceres despite a paid consultant's recommendation to do just that.

"It was not enthusiastically received," said Acting City Manager Art de Werk in seeking clarification of what Steven Dukett, a managing principal of Urban Futures, suggested in September. Dukett said that Ceres should not invest time and money in revitalizing downtown because the city's "immediate opportunities are not in downtown business." He cited two reasons being that downtown is comprised of multiple owners and that the highway interchange is not efficient.

"There is no reason to throw away the downtown," said Dukett in September. "It's always important to be ready to respond to opportunities when they come but you've already invested a significant amount of money in a Downtown Specific Plan. What we're suggesting here is when the time is right ... that might be the opportunity that comes forward."

His remarks resulted in unintended fallout, said de Werk.
"None of the councilmembers believe that is a policy we should adopt and I do not believe it nor do key staff of the city organization," said de Werk. "I just want to get it out in the public that the downtown is very much a big concern of ours. I did hear some feedback from people who left this room thinking that was the de facto policy of the city and that is not the case. Our downtown is really the icon of the community. It has perhaps the most immediate potential for development and attracting business off of 99."

De Werk said he would be meeting with key downtown stakeholders to "give them assurance that what they heard at the meeting is not the council's position and that they can, in fact, look forward to quite a bit of interaction with us to make improvements there."

Duckett made his remarks as his firm delivered and explained the Ceres Economic Development Strategic Plan.

DeWerk's remarks came a week after the city came under criticism by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 21 for failing to do much to revitalize downtown in the approximate 25 years of effort. The Chamber also indicated that business owners feel like the city is not hearing them on downtown needs.

The city countered that its pricy Downtown Specific Plan is in place and ready to be used but that the city no longer has redevelopment funds to install infrastructure to spur private development. Economic development manager Bryan Briggs defended his outreach, saying he has personally reached out to all businesses in downtown to encourage involvement with the Ceres Downtown Revitalization Area Board.