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Vision for downtown Ceres being cast
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Ceres residents will get their first opportunity to give the city input on the future of downtown Ceres on Tuesday, March 11, at a community workshop. The event will be held at the American Legion Hall, 2609 Lawrence Street, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Revitalizing downtown is a key element of the City Council's Strategic Plan and in October 2007, consultant Design, Community & Environment (DC&E) was hired to begin an analysis of the area. DC&E will complete a comprehensive study - costing $350,000 - of existing and potential markets for retail, office and residential, as well as traffic, parking and infrastructure issues. Throughout the project, there will be many opportunities for public participation, city officials noted.

"It is very important that we hear from business owners and residents on what they think that future should be," said Mayor Anthony Cannella. "The plan created from this study will be used to enhance the potential economic viability of downtown businesses and properties."

The information gathering process includes three community workshops; the next two will be held on April 8 and May 6. The public input will help the city assess what the community's priorities are and is an essential part of planning for downtown Ceres' future.

Completion of a development plan will provide the city with a clear strategy, implementation plan and tools for revitalizing the area, improving and expanding housing opportunities and promoting economic development.

The quest to revitalize downtown Ceres dates back to more than 20 years ago. The city developed design guidelines and established a Downtown Revitalization Area Board but private interest was so sparse that the panel had trouble drawing board members. Nor has much private money been invested into downtown. In the 1990s, the CRA did install a number of improvements, such as roundabouts and old fashioned street lamps but the action was seen as the first step.

City officials are hoping that the construction of the Ceres Community Center south of Magnolia and between Third and Fourth streets spurs greater interest in rehabilitating downtown.

City Manager Brad Kilger said the downtown plan will define a vision for downtown but noted "we want to ensure that it becomes reality and not just a shelf document."

"Part of the concept of redevelopment is that you use some of the redevelopment dollars to jumpstart the local economy by partnering with the private sector to increase value," said Kilger.

"There's been talk of revitalization for the past 20 years but I don't think we have seen a real effort," noted Mayor Cannella. He added that little will be accomplished without the involvement of property owners.

For more information on the workshops, citizens may visit the city's website or call Redevelopment and Housing Coordinator, Jack Newell at 538-5630.