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Fourth Street makeover done by Thanksgiving?
Downtown vista
Workers were busy last week pouring and sculpting the new concrete planter curbs on Fourth Street as part of the renovation of downtown Ceres. Below warm temperatures helped the curbs to cure faster. Work is occurring 10 hours a day, six days a week with the goal of being done with the project by Thanksgiving. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The $3.19 million renovation of Fourth Street will be completed by Thanksgiving, pledged City Engineer Daryl Jordan at last week's City Council meeting.

"We're pushing our contractor to go a little bit faster - he'll be working about 10 hours a day, six days a week," said Jordan. "We want to beat the date we set."

The city started construction in June.

The city project will give Fourth Street a new look, complete with new entry way features, landscaping, trees and street furniture. Roundabouts on Fourth Street have also been removed. City officials have ordered the renovation to make downtown more attractive to businesses while retrofitting the storm drainage infrastructure to handle mixed uses such as apartments above ground-floor businesses.

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 is 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 have been 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 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.