Oxnard hosts event to help shape downtown district
Republished from VC Reporter
By Chris O’Neal 01/28/2016
If you’ve got an idea for what downtown Oxnard should look like, the city wants to hear from you.
Beginning tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 29, the Oxnard Community Planning Group, Congress for the New Urbanism and the city of Oxnard will host a five-day “downtown revitalization charrette” featuring a film festival, walking tours of the district and design show, all in anticipation of a design presentation by the Congress for the New Urbanism before the Oxnard City Council.
Kymberly Horner, economic development director with the city of Oxnard, says that “This is a great opportunity for the public to weigh in on the future of downtown Oxnard.”
“The goal is to get as much input from those that will be affected by the outcome, and so we’re trying to get as much public participation from the business owners, the property owners, residents and key stakeholders on how downtown should develop,” said Horner.
In 2011, Oxnard’s redevelopment plans were put on hold when the State Department of Finance denied more than $609 million intended for plans that the city had drafted, a total that included $167 million for affordable housing projects. To make matters worse for the struggling downtown district, in 2012, The Collection at RiverPark began drawing visitors away.
“We’ve been struggling along for the past few years trying to wind down the redevelopment agency but at the same time trying to be mindful of the fact that we need to revitalize the downtown,” said Horner.
In 2015, a three-year-long legal battle between the city and the developers of the city’s downtown movie theater netted a $6.1 million earmark for downtown revitalization, enabling the city to put once-scrapped ideas back on to the table.
As a result, City Manager Gregg Nyhoff directed staff to develop a downtown vision plan in order to determine how the funds should be spent.
Dao Doan is the senior principal at Main Street Architects in Ventura, and is also a part of the team of engineers, architects and others who make up the Congress for the New Urbanism and a founding member of the Oxnard Community Planning Group. Doan says that when Oxnard began looking at the area around Oxnard Boulevard, specifically in regard to the area considered downtown between Wooley Road and just before Gonzalez Road, Doan thought of the CNU as a good potential partner.
“I thought they could bring along the type of expertise that could help address a lot of questions that members of the community have brought up to me,” said Doan. The CNU is an international nonprofit organization with over 2,600 members made up of various design professionals who donate their time to assisting in the design of efforts to revitalize urban areas.
Every year, the CNU chooses a city to convene a public design charrette, in the past having chosen Newport Beach and Livingston, California; this year choosing Oxnard.
Many residents, according to Doan, are concerned with the area’s walkability — or the ability to move about safely on foot or by other modes of transportation.
One of the group’s key principles is the importance of bringing more residents into the downtown area so as to address the issue of walkability, which in turn would make the area more business-friendly, too.
Doan adds that not everything has to be segregated, alluding to districts in the past wherein residences and commercial properties were intertwined.
“Because everything is so segregated it makes walking extremely hard if not impossble and promotes driving everywhere,” said Doan. “That’s why we have the kind of traffic we have today, and everyone complains about parking.”
The Congress for the New Urbanism will interview downtown residents, business owners and anyone with a vested interest in shaping the future of the area, beginning Friday morning and going through the weekend, and will take concepts from the interviews and use them in creating a vision that may assist city management and the City Council to make decisions about spending the $6.1 million in funds.
Another aspect of the weekend will feature a pop-up art installation, something the Congress calls “tactical urbanism,” featuring local artists on display.
The charrette will be stationed at the former Social Security Administration Building north of Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard from Friday, Jan. 29, when a kickoff event will be held at 5:30 p.m. between 315 and 327 N. Fifth St., Oxnard, followed by the New Urbanism Film Festival on Saturday, Jan. 30, at Plaza Cinemas 14, 255 W. Fifth St. A walking tour and design pinup will be held on Sunday, Jan. 31 and Monday, Feb. 1, respectively.