Merced County Times Newspaper
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‘Historical Downtown Atwater’ formed to revitalize town

At the May 28 Atwater City Council meeting, John Cardenas, vice president of the Atwater Chamber of Commerce, gave a presentation on “Historical Downtown Atwater,” a newly formed non-profit which aims to revitalize downtown by creating occasions to bring people together.

Cardenas, the non-profit’s CEO, and Stephanie Wood, Treasurer, described the goal of Historical Downtown Atwater, saying, “We just want to see Atwater thrive. We see the potential. Downtown revitalization is about more than making physical improvements. It’s about bringing people together.  A vibrant downtown, main street and city center will give people reasons to return to our neighborhoods over and over again.  Creating great walkable and connected places is the new recipe for strong economic and community development.”

Cardenas outlined the progress made so far — on Jan. 21, the concept was developed, on Feb. 13, the first meeting was held, on March 2, a Facebook page was set up, on April 18, a rigatoni fundraising dinner took place, on May 8, the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the California Secretary of State, and on May 23, the nonprofit, Historical Downtown Atwater, was granted 501c3 status.

He explained that Levi Ortega of Urban Illustrators, a downtown business, designed the logo for the Historical Downtown Atwater shirt, and 22 businesses have already joined in support of the non-profit.  The members are part of the Board, so they have a say in what direction to go.

The following are some of the supportive businesses/entities: Atwater VFW, Atwater Historical Society, Granny’s Pantry, Expressions of Love, Urban Illustrators, Castle Antiques, Cocomo’s, Anderson Flooring, Holman Accounting, A-1-A Lock and Moore’s Karate.

Cardenas said, “We are recruiting directors, and each would be the liaison to one area of Atwater.  I selected downtown. In my travels, I have encountered some downtowns that have turned themselves around from ignored to successful. I have seen how downtown Clovis, Lodi and Stockton were turned around. It starts with locals first, and then others come to town to see what is going on.”

Describing a car show on the horizon, Cardenas said, “The first event, a car show, is scheduled for June 22, and the City of Atwater has agreed to block off Broadway Avenue to Second Street. The plan is to have hot rods, trucks, imports, low riders — just to get activity and energy going. The cars will be on one side of Broadway. On Third and Fourth, we’ll have food vendors. There will be a Beer Garden. Water and soft drinks will be donated. Retail vendors would be selling arts and crafts, food items, desserts, honey. It would be like the Fall Festival used to be. We are hoping to have a Kids Zone with face painting. We would like to rent bounce houses.”

He continued, “With the proceeds from the first event, we’re going to purchase commercial LED lights and place them on the fascia of buildings from Winton Way to Third Street, illuminating Downtown.”

He added, “We eventually want to put an entranceway arch in two locations with a banner that says, ‘Welcome to Historical Downtown Atwater.’ We are looking for a structural engineer to do the design of the arches.”

Cardenas concluded, “Additional ideas for events for the future are concerts on Broadway with dancing in the street, a farmer’s market, merchant fair, comedy night, Karaoke night, food competitions and cook-offs. We feel confident and optimistic. The key is to provide hometown-feel event that people can come out to.”

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