A performing arts theater, a linear park atop the Hayward Fault and shuttle service for college students are some ideas that have been floated for a rejuvenated downtown, and officials are hoping to gather more from residents at a Saturday meeting.
Most of all, City Council members said they need to find a way to strike a balance between specialized boutique retail shops and entertainment in the historic area surrounding B Street, and in the process light up some of the perennially dark storefronts.
Councilman Francisco Zermeno pushed for a special attraction. "Let's come up with something unique and different, that we can call our own," he said. "We don't have a mission, or a beach or an amusement park or snow or vineyards, so let's try to create something unique."
Other ideas that surfaced at a brainstorming meeting last week included making the area more pedestrian-friendly, possibly by closing Main Street to traffic.
Councilman Mark Salinas advocated for a Cal State East Bay shuttle as a way to inject younger blood downtown -- and to make sure there's something to draw them there.
"College students spend money, on clothes, and shoes and other stuff," he said. "They like to party. They like to come and eat and enjoy the evening. But students tell me all the time there are very limited things to do downtown."
Officials agreed that people need to feel safe, with a law enforcement presence that doesn't go overboard and make it look "like a police state," said Councilwoman Barbara Halliday.
Mayor Mike Sweeney said problems related to transients and public intoxication need to be addressed.
He specifically mentioned Newman Park at B and Mission streets as a trouble spot that scares others away from the area.
"Until we get serious about loitering problems, they will continue to drive people away," he said at a meeting last week. "It's time to stop making excuses as to why we can't deal with loitering but start figuring out how to deal with the problem and drive that element out of the area."
The current downtown plan is dated, with various elements going back to 1975. Past ideas that didn't pan out include a supermarket where the cinema is now located, creating a "grand boulevard" over the Hayward Fault and a new main library where City Hall sits.
To cut costs on the redrawn vision, the city has been working with urban planning students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and will apply for a state sustainable communities grant to further fund the development plan.