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Downtown renovation project on
Downtown renov
Workers cut into the concrete sidewalks on the east side of Fourth Street south of Lawrence Street on Tuesday afternoon. Fourth Street will be shut down for months during the facelift and infrastructure project. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

There will be lots of dust on Fourth Street with the reconstruction effort now underway.

The downtown's main thoroughfare will be closed down beginning today, said Ceres City Engineer Daryl Jordan.
"For the next two and a half months it's going to be in construction," said Jordan.

Crews were out yesterday cutting into the concrete sidewalks and removing the lamp posts on Fourth Street. Work will first concentrate on paving the dirt lot on the east side of Fourth Street opposite Wells Fargo Bank.

"We're going to pave that first and get that parking lot open with extra spaces and then demoing half the sidewalk and still have half so people can have pedestrian access," said Jordan. "And we'll start tearing the street up."

The goal is to work quickly as possible to minimize the inconvenience to businesses on Fourth Street between North Street and El Camino Avenue.

The city awarded the $3.19 million makeover contract to George Reed Inc. Work includes installing infrastructure such as water, sewer and storm drainage and streetscape changes. Two existing Fourth Street roundabouts will be removed, trees will be planted in spaces now occupied by parking stalls and artistically designed arches will define the two main entrances into the downtown Ceres district. The city is hopeful that the new look will entice private investment into Ceres' oldest shopping district.

The city will be investing $2 million to $2.5 million on the renovation from proceeds of the bonds sold by the now defunct Ceres Redevelopment Agency in addition to other pots of money set aside for infrastructure.

Mayor Chris Vierra said if the city expects downtown to become more robust, the city project is necessary to create excitement. Vierra said that he has been in talks with business people who are considering opening businesses in Ceres who are "very excited to know we are looking to invest in the downtown area."

Wells said the city wants to create a "very unique and special environment that's different" for downtown, adding that palm trees are unique from any other downtown in the area. The idea of moving trees out into the street would enable 10-foot-wide sidewalks to be utilized for outdoor café dining or latte drinking. He said trees - possibly palm trees - would be planted nine feet out from the existing curb. He said Silva Cells will be installed underneath the permeable asphalt to allow the trees to receive enough water to sustain them.

The ultimate transformation of downtown is expected to take a decade or longer, said City Manager Toby Wells, based on his experiences in helping to renovate new downtowns for Livermore and Turlock.

"It doesn't happen overnight, but we're really setting a foundation of infrastructure for that growth and that potential," said Wells.

The city hopes to start construction in June and finish by the end of the year.

The concept calls for Fourth Street to be striped so that bikes and cars share the same thoroughfare, similar to what one sees in beach communities, Wells said. Expect Fourth Street to become narrower to slow traffic.

Wells said downtown will never change unless private parties invest in downtown for new buildings or renovation of old ones and bringing new businesses and new life. Wells said several properties in downtown changed hands with new eyes on downtown.