Stephanie Taylor was sitting in the tropical garden patio of Tower Café last week. As large trucks and cars sped by on Broadway, Taylor tried to make her point over the noise.
“I just think Broadway could use a little love,” she said.
Taylor’s family owns Willie’s Burgers, the crowded little joint on 16th Street a block off Broadway. They also own the Iron Grill restaurant on Broadway. And Taylor is a bit frustrated because she sees the city spending a lot of money on K Street and thinks Broadway needs help, too.
This raises an interesting question: Is City Hall too focused on downtown? Many people agree that a healthy city depends on a vibrant downtown. That’s why the city has spent millions upon millions of dollars trying to spruce up K Street. It was also one of the justifications for dedicating a quarter of a billion dollars in public funding toward a new arena.
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But there are many other streets in this town that, as Taylor said, could use some love. And not all of them are in challenging neighborhoods.
Freeport Boulevard in Land Park is going through an odd time. A few businesses have closed and the burned-out shell of a restaurant has stood for months near Sac City College and some of the city’s wealthiest blocks. Broadway is bordered by Land Park and another upscale neighborhood, Curtis Park.
“Downtown is the city’s living room,” said Michael Rios. “But the commercial corridors like Broadway are the neighborhoods’ living rooms. It shouldn’t be an either/or of where we invest.”
Rios is a professor of urban design at UC Davis. Last year, at the request of Councilman Steve Hansen, his class took a close look at Broadway. They came up with some ideas of how to make the street a little more welcoming.
The priority: Calm the traffic. Maybe put in a landscaped median. And build a park near Tower Café to serve as a meeting spot.
Taylor’s son, Greg, a budding architect, thinks there should be a unifying theme to the street, something like trees or art that distinguishes Broadway.
The bones are there. Broadway has an eclectic mix of restaurants, and there aren’t many empty lots. The Tower Theatre is an enduring icon. The Broadway Partnership, a business group, does a lot to promote the area.
But Rios said Broadway needs more public investment. And the next few years are pivotal, as plans progress to build a bridge over the Sacramento River at the foot of the street.
“It’s got the ingredients, but it’s missing something to pull it all together,” Rios said. “You need to give people a reason to slow down and see what’s going on.”
So that even as people like Taylor keep talking about Broadway, they won’t have to yell over the noise.
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.