The transformation of Fourth Street to give downtown Ceres a fresher look has been occurring at a slow rate since construction started in May but activity coming next week should inject more excitement.
Downtown Ceres is in the midst of a $3.19 million makeover, paid for partly by bond proceeds issued by the now defunct Ceres Redevelopment Agency before the state dismantled those agencies.
Arriving next week will be the pavers for the parking areas along Fourth Street, the Fourth Street crosswalks and its intersections. Installation of those pieces is expected to take three to four weeks.
"It's quite a bit of handwork to place these," said City Engineer Daryl Jordan.
During the week of Oct. 23 the project should be seeing the installation of the structures for the new arches that will serve as the entryway into the Fourth Street shopping district. Arches will be placed at Fourth and North streets and at Fourth and El Camino Avenue within view of Highway 99.
Palm trees will also be planted at the entry ways sometime in the later part of this month.
Jordan said that the final laying of asphalt is currently scheduled for the week of Nov. 13-18 with striping to follow.
Last month Jordan reported to the City Council that the desire is to finish the makeover by Thanksgiving. The city pushed for contractor George Reed, Inc., to work faster and the crews are working 10 hours a day, six days a week.
When it's over, Fourth Street will sport 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 is hopeful that the new look will entice private investment into Ceres' oldest shopping district.
Some of the work accomplished in downtown will not be seen because it involved underground water, sewer and storm drainage changes.
Two Fourth Street roundabouts were removed and trees will be planted in some planters in former parking stall spaces.
City Manager Toby 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 will be planted nine feet out from the existing curb. Silva Cells have been installed underneath the permeable asphalt to allow the trees to receive enough water to sustain them.
Wells said the infrastructure improvements will set the stage for private investment to develop downtown. One critic, however, liken the expensive project to placing "lipstick on a pig."
Downtown property owner Shane Parson remains positive about the future of downtown. He is working to bring an antique dealer to one of his buildings. He also expects a new eatery, Pastas Pronto, to open in one of his retail buildings before the downtown project is done. Parson also said that the new Flawless Hair Salon & Makeup Studio in his building at 2938 Fourth Street is enjoying a growth in business despite the disruptions on Fourth Street.
To create interest in downtown, the Ceres Chamber of Commerce is hosting a weather-permitting "Dinner and A Movie" Night at Whitmore Park at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21. The event will celebrate the arrival of fall with dinner by Pastas Pronto and the showing of the Hitchcock suspense thriller "North by Northwest."
Served will be salad, bread, and choice of Chicken Alfredo, Capelline Pomodoro or Eggplant Parmesan and cake. Advance ticket sales are $30 per person or $50 per couple. The bar will sell beer and wine at $5. Cocktails will be served at 5:30 p.m. with buffet style dinner served at 6 p.m. and movie at 7:30 p.m.
Popcorn will be served during the movie.
Tickets may be purchased by phoning 537-2601 or at the Ceres Chamber of Commerce office, 2904 Fourth Street, Ceres; or online at ceresdinnerandamovie.eventbrite.com (a convenience fee will apply). Ticket sales will end Monday, Oct. 16 and will not be sold at the event.