Just over 30 people attended a presentation reviewing the past year for the Turlock Downtown business district while also taking a look at what is being planned for 2011.
Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association (TDPOA) held its General Meeting and presented the annual report for 2010 on January 20, 2011, at On Broadway with Two Guys Catering.
The TDPOA was formed in 2003 as a public-private partnership governed by the Board of Directors, representing downtown property owners. The TDPOA works closely with downtown business owners, community groups and the City of Turlock to make downtown a better place to do business.
TDPOA’s responsible for the maintenance and promotion of the downtown business district.
The TDPOA Board of Directors for 2011 is comprised of President Dee Dee Thomas (M&M Associates), Vice-President Mike Allen (Allen Mortuary), Treasure Carlos Sandoval (Minerva’s Furniture), Danny Mann (Mann Electric), Mike Kirkes (Retired Properties Owner), Jen Kubala (Ritzy Ragz & Thingz), and Dan Grey (Center Street Grill, Vintage Lounge, Staley’s).
Outgoing TDPOA Board President Randy Avilla began the meeting saying “There have been some positive things happening downtown, it’s not all doom and gloom.”
“I’ve heard, I’m sure you’ve heard, people say that downtown looks like a ghost town. It’s not true,” stated Avilla. “Actually our vacancy is less than a year ago. Is it a hundred percent full? No. Is downtown what it was 20 years ago? No. But it’s becoming what it will be.”
Randy Avilla was the owner of the long-time Downtown Turlock store Richard & Chambers before it went out of business.
“Even in bad times, as we’re trying to get through, we’re moving in the right direction,” said Avilla. “Some things are happening.”
TDPOA Executive Director Trina Walley presented the annual report for 2010 that included the information on the TDPOA, a market overview, development, Association activity, operations, marketing, special events, stakeholder survey, financials, 2011 outlook, and the 2011 calendar of events.
The Downtown district saw twelve businesses move or close and thirteen businesses open or expand in 2010.
While vacancy rates peaked at 21.5 percent in August 2010, by the end of the 2010 year the vacancy rate decreased 1 percent from 16.1 percent in 2009. Ground floor retail vacancy is at 20.3 percent.
Walley said that the Turlock Downtown is continuing to try to improve the second floor use and that only around 35 percent is currently being used.
Investments of approximately $750,000 were put into improving Downtown building facades and interiors in 2010 and approximately $400,000 is planned for 2011.
With mention of 2011, more outlook points were mentioned as is accustomed in the Downtown Annual Report.
Big investments for 2011 include tenant improvements for future businesses, Farmland Management (locating at 301 E. Main St. around March) and Dust Bowl Brewery Tap Room (locating at 200 W. Main St. around April).
In 2011 TDPOA will work on reviewing and updating the Downtown Design Guidelines and Zoning Overlay as the Turlock City Council recently approved spending up to $70,000 to update the Downtown Plan.
The Economic Restructuring Committee will look at seven items, including major focal points of increased housing and the development of an entertainment district, relating to downtown development and how to better work the design guidelines on the zoning overlay to make downtown more appealing to businesses and increase business and activity development.
The City’s General Plan Update is looking to call for more housing in and around the downtown area but there is a current four story limit on buildings downtown. Increasing that limit will be looked at to make the goal of increasing housing in the downtown area more feasible.
The second story rehab will continue as the issue of better utilizing the second story of buildings downtown is to now be included in the Downtown Plan update.
While updating the Downtown Plan, the development of an Entertainment District will involve discussions with Turlock police, planning, and other City departments on how to bring more entertainment uses downtown, more restaurants downtown, and how to make it all more feasible for everyone involved.
A project Turlock Downtown is looking forward to its completion is the reconstructed Carnegie Arts Center, expected to bring a much anticipated increase to downtown activity. The Carnegie Arts Center should be open in the summer of 2011.
Turlock Downtown is also very excited about the new City of Turlock Public Safety Facility to be located right next to the Carnegie Arts Center on Broadway and Olive. The City of Turlock is currently trying to issue bonds but the market is making it difficult to finance.
Another City program Turlock Downtown is looking to capitalize on in 2011 is the Turlock Partnership Incentive Program. The City Council approved funding the program to offset the cost of various City fees and permits.
“When we talked to business about looking downtown and doing some of the tenant improvement that are required, fees and permits seemed to be one of those questionable items that sort of shied them away from the process.”
As development of the Downtown District continues, operations and maintenance levels rise but with a declining budget.
Walley noted that the 2009-10 budget was decreased by 15 percent and expected the 2010-11 budget to be down another 10 percent.
“The board has done some planning and we will be able to adjust without sacrificing too much of our service levels,” explained Walley.
Maintenance is first on the priorities list at 42 percent, second was administration, and third was promotions which took a 3 percent cut decreasing the allotted budget for promotion to down to 25 percent.
TDPOA’s activity involves working with the Promotions Committee, Downtown Advocacy, Redevelopment Agency, Homeless Action Committee, Downtown Entrepreneur Center, and Small Business Development Center.
According to the Turlock Downtown stake holder survey, Walley reported that stake holders felt that there was a small gain in the Economic climate from last year.
Stake holders were most unsatisfied with the homeless issues in Downtown, something that Trina Walley said was in-line with the recognizable increase in homelessness.
Special events received the highest rating among stakeholders due to partnerships with TurlockCityNews.com, the Turlock Journal, and American Legion, among others, and had been able to grow with less of a budget.
Walley explained that marketing efforts focused on two main ways.
“We couldn’t really do a lot of print advertising or any of the other high cost advertising options out there,” said Walley. “But websites were a great way for us to work on increasing awareness of our events, and even extended that into trying to create some specialty group websites as well.”
“Social networking has been all the rage in 2010 and will probably continue in 2011,” said Walley. “So if you don’t have a Facebook, you should think about getting one.”
Trina Walley reported that the Turlock Downtown Facebook grew from 400 fans to 1,100 fans, the Farmers Market Facebook reached 1,200 fans, and the TurlockCityNews.com run Taste of Turlock hit 1,300 fans while the recently started Turlock Holiday Events page collected 1,000 fans.
“These are direct links to send people interested in those events what’s going on, what’s coming up, and when the next year comes around it’s an easy way to reach out to them again,” said Walley. “And promotion through special events carries right over into that they are a way to bring people downtown and provide positive activities downtown.”
Turlock Downtown is planning on keeping the key events in 2010 on the calendar of events for 2011 while an event partnership program is in the works to facilitate more events Downtown.
Key Special Events in 2010, Planned for 2011:
A Taste of Turlock – The biggest change in events as it went from an art themed food tasting event to cultural event that represented Turlock’s heritage. The event had a very great response to the change as it sold out of the 600 food tasting tickets for the first time along with bringing more of the general public Downtown with more street vendors and entertainment
Turlock Farmers Market – The much anticipated Turlock Farmers Market returned as a non-profit ran event working with Turlock Downtown to bring in approximately 300-400 people per week as an average of 20-30 vendors set up on Broadway Avenue + Main St.
Fourth of July Independence Celebration – The TDPOA worked with the American Legion Rex Ish Post 88 on this now annual event that includes a Patriotic Parade. An estimated 10,000 attended the event according to the Downtown annual report.
Downtown Trick-or-Treat – Approximately 1,000 children and their parents were drawn Downtown for this family friendly daytime trick-or-treat event that now includes a carnival ran by the ladies of Alpha XI Delta along with the well-known 12:10 Lions Club and Kiwanis Club of Turlock corn maze in Central Park.
Festival of Lights – Approximately 4,000 attended the holiday season kick-off event that includes music, activities, and the annual tree lighting ceremony at Central Park.
Lights on Parade – The Christmas holiday parade once again topped the previous year’s event with more entries, bigger floats, festivities, and a new record crowd of approximately 24,000. TDPOA assisted with activities, music, and vendors in the downtown core.
A new event is expected in the summer of 2011, Kiwani’s Club of Turlock’s “Fruitopia.”