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Civic beauty, and surviving the facelift.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 3, 2001


"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." — Giuseppe di Lampedusa

While I was in Cleveland I was forced to come to terms with roads in a constant state of being repaired and disrepair. Most intimidating, however, was the widening project along Highway 71. Going 65 mph through a construction zone is never easy, but after doing it for a month I even became comfortable driving on the shoulder. Little did I know that my time in 0hio was preparing me for Encinitas's cosmetic surgery.

For those coastal dwellers not in the know, the City of Encinitas has just begun a comprehensive gentrification project of its coast highway historic district. Years in the planning process, work on the Downtown Encinitas streetscape is finally underway, and will continue through March of 2002. With a price tag of over 5 million dollars the project is designed to enhance the small-town pedestrian environment, while restoring the traditional downtown ambiance and enhancing traffic circulation.

To be honest, even I am excited to see the finished product. Not that downtown Encinitas wasn't perfect the way it was. Oh, sure, downtown could use a restaurant specializing in African cuisine, but I digress. When completed, the new and improved look of the coastal business district will scream success in a way only Encinitas can. What I am most looking forward too is the landscape medians between Encinitas Blvd and D St. and the use of California natives such as quercus dumosa, coastal sage scrub, and wild flowers. It seems Disney is about to be out Disneyfied.

This is not to say the project will be painless, with everyone whistling while the work crews work. As anyone who has ever endured a home renovation project will assert renovation always means chaos, aggravation, short tempers, and dust. Lot's of dust. But unlike a private home renovation, the Downtown Encinitas streetscape endeavor involves thriving businesses being subjected to a no man's land of missing sidewalks, questionable access, jackhammers, and problematic parking. To paraphrase an old cliché, this is the storm before the calm.

At the weekly gathering of Downtown Encinitas merchants, business owners shared their fears and concerned about the impact the renovation is having on their livelihood. There biggest issue was making sure potential customers they were open for business. Which they are. Most of the downtown businesses have alley access, so those of you that don't enjoy the walking amongst the construction crews can slip in through the back door without dust or fuss. Parking is also available in the alley, as well as behind the 101 artist colony until the E street parking lot is open.

Hardest hit are those merchants without alley access. Due to construction limiting access to his restaurant, the owner of Bistro Soliel has discontinued lunch service until the dust settles. The owner of Thrifty Threads, a vintage clothing and costume rental shop, fears her Halloween clientele will have problems finding their way around the construction zone. And speaking of horrors, the Cork and Keg liquor store is wondering how people are going to transport full kegs of beer in light of the aforementioned questionable access.

It would be a shame that a lack of business during construction will force merchants to close their doors before the streetscape project is complete. This is where all of us can be of help. All the merchants are asking that we continue business as usual by shopping downtown during its glamorous facelift. To be honest, nobody should let a lack of asphalt come between you and a day-glo disco wig. In fact, downtown merchants are looking for ways to lure customers in their shops during construction, which means their will probably be bargains galore for those brave shoppers undaunted by a little road work.

At a time when America is coming together to show support for those most affected by the terrorist bombings in New York, it might seem petty to talk about the hardships faced by local merchants. But, if any thing was made clear by the senseless acts of violence on September 11th was how willing Americans are to help others in need. And right now Downtown Encinitas needs our help.

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