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Monday ceremony to celebrate new downtown
4:30 p.m. event set for Jan. 22
Two blocks of Fourth Street has a new look thanks to a $3.1 million renovation project. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

With the landscaping portion of the renovation of two blocks of Fourth Street nearly complete, the Ceres City Council has set a time for a small celebration ceremony on Monday afternoon.

City officials will gather at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22 to hold a short grand opening event designed to mark the end of the $3.1 million project and herald the results. The gathering will be at Fourth and North streets.

Fourth Street has been completely revamped with brick pavers, new landscaping areas, architectural pillars and overhead Ceres entry features delineating the downtown shopping district. Improvements also included a new storm drainage and water system. The facelift project is intended to be a catalyst for downtown building owners to improve facades and to encourage new investments for new buildings.

City Manager Toby Wells said the city has heard mostly positive feedback, especially from downtown business owners.

"As a matter of fact since the project has started we have had multiple inquiries for upgrading multiple building facades and property owners discussing possible new tenants," said Wells.

He also noted that Pastas Pronto is close to opening but that project began before the Fourth Street renovation.

Not all are happy with the finished product, however. Some merchants have grumbled over the loss of parking spaces caused by the addition of flower beds, trees and architectural features. The city purchased an empty lot across the street from Wells Fargo Bank and added a new 10-stall parking lot but City Manager Toby Wells acknowledged that the project has resulted in eight less parking slots.

Citizen Dave Pratt wondered why not a single handicapped parking space was offered in front of Ceres Drug Store, which sees a large percentage of customers who are disabled.

While some are bemoaning the expense of the project, Steve Hallam, the city's Redevelopment/Economic Development Manager, believes the project will offer some long-term dividends.

The renovation of downtown is prompting some merchants to consider facade improvements, said Hallam. Downtown building owner Jim Delhart is on track to invest in the facades of several buildings he owns on Fourth Street. Ted Smernes of Ceres Drug said he has ordered new signage as well as a makeover of the interior ceiling and lighting.

The empty DeBoard and Govett Chiropractic building has been purchased by Sam Kachao, who plans to create two lease spaces with a façade renovation to re-open the window spaces. There is speculation that a Mexican restaurant will fill one of the spaces.

New promotional and seasonal banners were to be installed on the new street light poles this week. Hallam said the new banner program also includes 17 special banners commemorating the city's centennial.