It's been years since I first started holding my breath but it looks as though it might be time to exhale, even if just a little. Let the money start trickling in!
The city says the first phase of streetscaping along Third Avenue is near completion. Streets have been narrowed, sidewalks have been widened, barriers erected and seemingly functional green street signs have been replaced by just-as-functional-but-at-least-these-are-brand -new brown street signs on some of the traffic posts along the thoroughfare.
The idea of applying a makeover to Third Avenue is just a few years old, though the desire to reinvigorate the struggling area is older than the average seventh or eighth grader attending St. Rose of Lima Catholic School near Third and H.
For what feels like decades, businesses along Third and elsewhere have been pleading with the city to make it easier to open and operate a small business, singing the same old refrain: less red tape, more financial incentive.
To its credit, the city has done what it could when it could with what it could (don’t forget that city staff has been decimated since 2006, meaning fewer bodies to help navigate the bureaucracy).
But city obstructionism is only a part of the problem.
There have been enough businesses along Third to open in the last few years to suggest a mini-economic rebound was on the horizon. Sadly, some of those same businesses shut down just as quickly as they set out the welcome mat. At the same time, mom and pop shops and other long-established stores along Third have also closed their doors or trimmed their staff drastically. The reason? Not enough business to stay open.
While you can blame government for making it hard to open a store, you can’t blame it for not bringing in customers.
It’s debatable just how much foot traffic and money narrower streets and wider sidewalks will bring to an area that has more empty storefronts than people.
Some residents are of the mind that if merchants and the city want to see more money spent on Third Avenue they need to get rid of parking meters. The problem, however, is that meters don’t seem to keep people away. There are plenty of parked cars in stalls, with motorists paying 25 cents for an hour of parking. But where they are going remains a mystery. The nightlife in downtown Chula Vista isn’t exactly bustling. At times it makes downtown Coronado seem like Manhattan.
But at least the end of phase one of the streetscape project means something’s been done. At this stage I’ll take some action over none because really, I can’t go on holding my breath forever.