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Highland a harbinger of great things ahead Chris Zapata | Sat, Sep 24 2011 12:00 PM

Citizens, visitors and sports fans know Highland Avenue in National City. Stretching from our San Diego boundary north to our Chula Vista boundary south, Highland is one of National City's key business corridors. Everything is on Highland, if one wants a variety of excellent food, automobile parts, groceries or other services - Highland is the place to go. After years of planning and a concentrated effort the entire stretch of Highland is undergoing a transformation.

Highland Avenue is in the heart of National City. In the past eight years over 30 projects have been completed on this four mile corridor. These projects represent well over $60 million dollars in public and private investment. Basic public projects such as burial of power lines and pedestrian crossings have been catalysts for private investment in dining, shopping and services. The curb appeal of Highland has been enhanced by businesses taking pride in their properties through higher levels of maintenance and improvements.

Public and private investment in Highland peaked last month with the opening of the $47 million dollar Sweetwater High School project. This project was long awaited by our students, community and alumni. But major changes have occurred on Highland as part of the City Council's strategy to improve key business corridors and highlight gateways into National City. This began over 10 years ago with the location of Walmart in the old Fedco site. It continued with an infusion of $4 million more to repave the entire street, as well as median and landscape improvements from 8th Street to 16th Street, providing for a safer and visually pleasing corridor.

Working in partnership with Foodland Market a faade, and sign grant was provided to spur $1 million worth of improvements. More private investment generated excitement when El Super located on the vacant Mervyn's site in 2010 and spent approximately $3 million renovating the property. At 6th and Highland, Monte de Piedad opened its store in 2009. Auto Zone built a brand new facility on Highland and 21st street which opened last month. In addition, Walmart expanded its store significantly this year and continues to be a downtown anchor.

Aesthetics as well as safety are key to Highland's revival. Our graffiti team pitches in with our code enforcement team to make sure a positive appearance is maintained. Public Works crews, engineering and police work to ensure traffic flows smoothly and safely. Coming soon is a $1.5 million street improvement project for the north end of Highland Avenue from 8th Street to Division Street that will improve walkability, enhance safety and access for pedestrians, and increase parking for local businesses. Highland Avenue has become a vibrant business area in a challenging economy thanks to property owners, tenants and National City's strategic investment.

Another major corridor improvement recently completed involved $4 million for National City Boulevard, including street resurfacing, streetscaping, landscaped medians, a public plaza and pedestrian bridge. Much more is scheduled and planned over the next two years. The next phase of our corridor improvement plan is the $6 million revamp of 8th Street, from the trolley station to Highland Avenue, which includes major streetscaping, pedestrian and parking enhancements, undergrounding of overhead utilities and sewer replacement.

To further this momentum another corridor improvement is being proposed. In October, staff will request City Council approval for $1.2 million in grants and city funds to begin work on the entire stretch of 4th street. 4th Street is another key walking and bicycling corridor and this project would compliment our recently completed $1.14 million multi-purpose field, El Toyon Park improvements, our largest housing project ever - the 497 unit Paradise Village developments and Paradise Valley Hospital. These projects coincide with National City's continued effort to be a thriving center of commerce in our region by investing in our key business corridors.

Zapata is the National City city manager.

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