First came plans to renovate Woodland’s old State Theatre into a 10-screen multiplex. Now a developer from nearby Davis has obtained city permission to build a five-story hotel on Main Street.
Historic downtown Woodland, which has struggled with vacant storefronts over the years, is seeing an upswing of interest from developers and restaurant owners.
In the latest sign of a turnaround, the city’s Planning Commission voted last week to approve plans for an 81-room hotel, to be branded a Hilton Home2 Suites, on Main Street near the newly constructed $161 million Yolo County Courthouse.
Developer Michael Olivas said plans are to start construction on the hotel in the spring. It will include 81 extended-stay rooms, with retail stores and restaurants on the ground floor. The new hotel would replace a Budget Inn.
Olivas is also working on two other hotel projects in Yolo County, the Hotel Winters under construction in downtown Winters and an Embassy Suites planned for Davis. He said the hotels in Winters and Woodland are designed to take advantage of and promote both cities’ efforts to revitalize their downtowns.
Community Development Director Ken Hiatt said demand for a hotel in downtown Woodland is high because the courthouse and businesses with Woodland locations like Monsanto and Clark Pacific frequently have out-of-town visitors.
Hiatt said he also expects the city’s revitalization efforts to draw more tourists. Winters, another Yolo County town historically dependent on agriculture, has already remade itself into a mini-mecca for travelers, and its new boutique hotel will occupy half a city block in the downtown.
“We have plans to continue to grow downtown Woodland as a destination,” Hiatt said. “Over the next five to 10 years, we see this growing as an entertainment, retail and dining district.”
Olivas said Woodland’s planning staff has been supportive and proactive about the hotel, and committed to making sure the design fits with the surrounding neighborhood.
Because we haven’t ruined our downtown with brand-new buildings, we’ve kept most of the fabric of the downtown. That’s pretty special.
Ron Caceres, developer in Woodland
Residents’ concerns revolved around the appearance of the building and original parking structure, which has been moved underground.
Because the hotel will sit at the eastern end of Woodland’s historic district, architect Robin Potampa-Ziv drew on elements of the existing buildings to make sure the hotel will fit in with the older architecture.
“We believe that this project will extend the Woodland historical experience and create a kind of gateway to the existing historical district,” Potampa-Ziv wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “The part the ‘streetscape experience’ plays in historic Woodland is essential to the life and character of the downtown.”
Woodland’s downtown has been called a “museum of housing styles” with over 400 buildings from the 1860s to the 1940s.
“Because we haven’t ruined our downtown with brand-new buildings, we’ve kept most of the fabric of the downtown,” said Woodland-based developer Ron Caceres. “That’s pretty special.”
Caceres said there’s been talk for years about revitalizing the downtown, but there was no energy behind the idea until recently.
“Within the last year or so, we’ve seen kind of a renaissance,” he said.
Foodie experiences have popped up in downtown, including fine dining at Morgan’s on Main, sandwiches and beers at Stack’d and Brew’d, and new ownership of the Savory Cafe.
Caceres has played a significant role in the effort to reinvigorate Woodland’s Main Street, which features several historic architectural styles including Mission Revival, Second Renaissance Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival.
He bought the Woodland Daily Democrat building in 2012 and has the Blue Note Brewing Co. operating in the printing warehouse space and a wine bar in the same building. He enticed AgStart, a food and agriculture business incubator, to open an office in the building, and he has several other ventures in the works.
Caceres’ biggest project is the renovation of Woodland’s historic State Theatre. Over the past couple of years, he’s been turning it into a 10-screen, 1,103-seat multiplex with luxury amenities such as cushy, reclining seats. Jumping on a trend, the revamped movie house, scheduled to open in May, will over food, beer and wine service for movie watchers.
Building on the entertainment theme, Caceres is also trying to bring another music venue to Main Street. The Woodland Opera House, circa 1896, sits several blocks from the State Theatre and hosts plays, musicians and theater and dance classes. Caceres’ goal is to open a place for more concerts.
Al Eby, owner of the Blue Wing Gallery on Main Street, is thrilled to see entertainment- and arts-related projects on Main Street, from the State Theatre to the painting of utility boxes.
“We’ve been here so long, I just want something to happen,” he said. Eby opened his gallery 14 years ago. He said someone once told him, “I drove by Woodland and it was closed.”
“Twenty years ago, that was a fair statement,” he said. “Now, there’s constantly traffic downtown.”
People complain about finding parking, and he thinks that’s a good thing because it means people are stopping to shop and eat. The restaurants are keeping downtown open past 6 p.m. Soon, an Irish pub will join the lineup, Eby said.
“Variety and diversity of choices of places to eat in Woodland rather than having to leave to find that … that’s the kind of stuff that makes people start feel good about their community,” he said.
Hiatt said the city has specific ideas for what kinds of businesses it wants to see in the downtown district: locally owned restaurant and retail projects that complement the historic architecture.
Through a collaborative effort between Eby, a local blogger and the city, Woodland has a new visitors page, VisitWoodland.com, which combines business and event promotion with Q&A pieces with business owners.
“We wanted to let people know what Woodland has to offer,” Eby said.