“It’s a significant plan,” assistant director of development and engineering services Bill Dean told members of the Tracy City Center Association’s Land Use Committee on Tuesday afternoon. “We will look at the plan lot-by-lot,” during a minimum of six workshops.
Development department director Andrew Malik told the committee that city officials realize they can’t force downtown’s retail market to blossom. He said the city must, however, be grounded in some type of reality for planning out the downtown’s future. He said, right now, downtown is too spread out.
Dean said the city’s proposal is to bring retail back into a specific downtown zone. He said the workshops will go over a draft plan that will address a number of things related to downtown, including zoning, business standards and designs.
The goal is to concentrate businesses in a specific downtown are to enhance its drawing power and give people a feel that they’re visiting a unique part of the city.
Downtown property owner Dino Margaros said he had hoped the city’s plan was something that could gently guide the future of downtown Tracy. He said downtown is already better than it was 20 years ago.
“We’re discussing this for a reason,” he said. “It’s positive that the interest is there.”
To help improve the area, Margaros said there has to be a balance to the types of businesses that move into the downtown. He said landlords have to look for renters that would help downtown, as opposed to ones that would just pay the rent.
Sixth Street property owner Dale Cose added that, though the plan sets the stage for an improved downtown, housing must be present before the city worries about retail. He questioned whether more properties could be turned into rentals for the current housing market.
Cose said some areas need to be mixed between retail and residential uses, including the West Side Market, which the city of Tracy plans to purchase and develop. Cose opposed a proposal that would require specific areas be left as open space.
One thing that will help the downtown achieve a sense of place is signs and markers, said planning commissioner Pete Mitracos. He said they will help visitors identify where the downtown starts and ends and enable the city to concentrate on those specific areas.
Business owner Ray Misfeldt, meanwhile, questioned why downtown could not attract big chain businesses. He said property owners and city officials need to continue to try and lure big names and chains.
Margaros said if the smaller businesses succeeded, then the chains would want to come into Tracy for a piece of the financial pie.
Cose said he didn’t think downtown met the requirements that big chain businesses set, such as a specific number of passers-by on both foot and driving. He said that’s the reason why they tend to set up shop at the West Valley Mall.
To make downtown successful, Mitracos said the city and retailers will need to break shoppers’ habits and get them into the heart of the city. He said that means businesses that draw people to the area.
“I really do care what happens,” he said. “Downtown is the future (of Tracy).”
At a glance
WHAT: Downtown Specific Plan workshop
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 27
WHERE: City Hall, Conference Room 109, 333 Civic Center Plaza