A Community Conversation on the Future of Modesto?s Downtown
CVAR is working for you, and makes every effort to attend meetings that may affect you as a REALTOR® member of CVAR. Take a look at the event below, and what transpired at the meeting last night in Modesto and let us know what you think. We love to have our members? thoughts, comments, and opinions. You may respond on any of our 3 social networks, Facebook, Twitter, & Linkedin. Thank you!
Brief of the Event:
The event included a featured presentation by Joe Minicozzi followed by a panel discussion and community conversation. Those featured on the panel included Mayor Garrad Marsh, Chris Ricci with Common Wealth Modesto and X-Fest! organizer/promoter, and representatives from the development community – Peter Janopaul (local developer who recently purchased Modesto’s historic downtown post office) and John Given ( Principal of Investment & Development for CIM Group whom pioneered urban investment and development starting on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, the Gaslamp District in San Diego and Pasadena?s revival of Colorado Blvd.)
Joe Minicozzi is with Public Interest Partners, a private, for-profit real estate company that concentrates on urban infill, historic preservation and business start-ups in downtown Asheville, NC. He will be sharing results of a study he conducted in Modesto evaluating the impact of various development choices on City property tax revenues. Minicozzi has conducted similar studies in other communities across the nation and is finding the positive impact of downtown investment on city finances is often underestimated. See a recent profile of Minicozzi’s work here: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/03/simple-math-can-save-cities-bankruptcy/1629/
6:00 p.m: Welcome & Introduction
Judy Corbett- Executive Director, Local Government Commission
6:10 p.m: Modesto: The Dollars and Sense of Downtown Development
Mr. Minicozzi presented a slideshow presenting the downtown development growth of a city in North Carolina by the name of Ashville. Some background on Ashville shows that in the past the City faced similar developmental and revenue stream problems that Modesto faces today.
The slow decline of Ashville began in the 1950?s and 1960?s when development outside of downtown was encouraged by the City Council in the form of new expressways installed to connect the City. A large mall was developed on the outskirts of town encouraged by the infrastructure upgrades to the City in the form of expressways. In the 1970s and 1980s a large mall moved in, and the business in Downtown Ashville perished. In recent years the City has made a booming revival by incorporating intelligent investment decisions into the downtown revitalization strategy.
Modesto?s downtown today is looking to encourage business, and climb out of an economic slump. Mr. Minicozzi?s main point was that the same principles that were applied in Ashville can be applied in other cities with similar productive results. For example, Ashville did not go on a public building spree to spend their way out of their recession. Instead they revamped and revitalized existing buildings, which proved to be much less expensive than new construction costs. Additionally by building residential communities in these 3-6 story buildings the property taxes of those buildings dwarf the property taxes of large businesses like Walmart, or other large strip malls. The property taxes paid from a 5-6 story apartment building produces much more income to the City per acre than the larger business compounds because there are more people packed into that acre in the apartment building, than in the 30+ acre enclosures of a Walmart compounds. From the City?s business strategy perspective, which business would they rather have? Mr. Minicozzi’s argument was that produces lots of revenue on a small geographic area, or the one with less revenue that takes up 30 acres?
Ashville began investing in the revitalization of existing buildings downtown because that was less expensive than new construction. They then converted these buildings into revenue generating engines for the City by making them into residential apartment buildings where tenants pay property taxes that go straight to the City coffers. Promoting residential apartment living Downtown encourages pedestrian foot-traffic, which is one of the hallmarks of a thriving business community. One of the panelists made the point that you want the types of retail stores where people go in every day and spend about $5.00 for a coffee or something like that. In comparison people only go to the mega stores like Walmart once a month. By promoting small and successful retail business and residential apartment buildings in downtown Modesto Mr. Minicozzi suggests is a smart way to promote development and growth. Another smart move is to look at the downtown business atmosphere and see how many of those lots are tax producing.
7:00 p.m: A Panel Discussion with the following panelists:
Garrad Marsh ? Mayor, City of Modesto
Chris Ricci ? President, Chris Ricci Presents, Inc.
John Given ? Principle of Investmeent & Development, CIM Group
Peter Janopual ? CEO of the Peter Janopaul 3rd Companies
Mayor Gerrad Marsh was asked: What do you see here that not all of us see in regard to an optimistic outlook for Modesto?
Mayor Marsh went on to describe the growth of Modesto in his lifetime, and how he always wanted to see the City grow. However, in recent years he has become concerned with the City growing beyond its means. He doesn?t want to see the City cease to use agriculture as one of its main traditional sources of revenue. He made the point that it is one of the best methods Modesto has for getting money to come into the City. Selling produce on a national and international basis does wonders for Modesto?s economy. Mayor Marsh is concerned with the state of the City and how it plans to develop into the future.
Mr. Ricci was asked: We need places where young creative professionals want to be. And unless we can create that in this area, we are going to lose them. What possibilities do you see here, that might make Modesto?s youngsters stay here?
Ricci went on to describe that Downtown has developed well in Modesto, with lots of restaurants and small businesses, including nightclubs and the State Theater. Additionally he sees the festivals that come through and the wealth they can bring. He noticed that entertainment-wise young people have many options, but what they don?t have is a place to live. He thinks it?s probably 60% cheaper to build the regular track house than to build downtown. 2nd piece missing here is on the retail side. He thinks we need more small business retail downtown to stimulate the economy. What?s more important is that they need to be successful business retail. Right now Modesto has prime retail space downtown on J Street. It?s a problem that it?s not doing better and something that Modesto as a City needs to figure out.
Mr. Janopaul Spoke:
He remembers the population sign seeing 69,000 when he was in school in the 1070s and now it?s around 220,000. He made the point that the loss of one or more key retailers would set retail development growth downtown back very far. So it?s important to invest in the small business owner to encourage growth.
What?s missing from downtown?: Residential housing and he emphasizes the importance of avoiding new construction, he wants to focus on ?adaptive reuse of existing buildings.? New construction costs far too much, and is an inefficient use of minimal funding. If one retail project goes, there will be many to follow, so he hopes that doesn?t happen. The redevelopment money from 3 years ago is gone, and Modesto cannot build its way out of the current problem. He also thinks that Modesto should stick to its roots and its authentic character based on agriculture, and small downtown business models.
Mr. Given was asked: What advice would you give the City to make investment happen. What would it take for him to invest in this City?
Mr. Given replied that one of the wonderful things that has occurred in the U.S. (he started as a City Planner, 1976), there was only one product available and that was being delivered. So the conclusion was that that was what people wanted, because that?s what they were buying. Somewhere along the line a generational change occurred. He started working in 1980 on downtown LA, demographics were not all in place, but it?s been a tremendous explosion in two areas: 1) Diversity goes way beyond ethnic. Economic, age, lifestyle, household composition all encompass diversity ? and this no longer supports the suburban model for a majority of households in the U.S. anymore.
7:40: Comments from audience
Cities like capturing their authenticity to become successful.
Question 1: How do we get the cities and planners to recognize and agree that nightlife, and entertainment etc. is a good investment? How do we get new development here in Modesto?
Focusing on authenticity there is many ways. Make the artist part of the process. Ashville came up with the slogan that they need to stay funky, and keep the funk. It?s capturing the spirit of the community and making it work for everyone. Mr. Minicozzi used an example in Ashville where through the summer one year, a community member brought hula hoops downtown and gave them out to people. They had hula hoop fairs and had a lot of fun with a simple and cheap idea that the community together Downtown, which of course helped business.
8:00 p.m: Adjournment