Franklin Boulevard in south Sacramento has come a long way since it was a stagecoach route from Sacramento to Stockton. Long a thriving commercial center, it went into a downward spiral when Highway 99 arrived in the 1960s. The area around the four-lane Franklin Boulevard became the site of vacant property and crime.
And the neighborhood in the last year suffered two blows – the closing of the Campbell’s Soup factory, with its 700 jobs, and the closing of Maple Elementary School.
Yet this neighborhood exudes a new sense of optimism.
UC Davis researcher Jesus Hernandez has teamed with Marti Brown, executive director of the North Franklin District Business Association, to jump on the opportunities that change brings, especially around the 47th Avenue light-rail station that is disconnected from Franklin Boulevard.
Hernandez and Brown point to Fruitvale Village in inner-city Oakland as an example of what is possible with the right community attitude and financial partnerships.
In that deteriorating community, with the Bay Area Rapid Transit train station separated from the commercial district, the community and nonprofit Unity Council mobilized. After residents were involved in laying out a vision, Fruitvale Village was the result. Now housing, shops, offices, library and child-care facilities are within easy walking distance of the station.
The North Franklin District Business Association is holding meetings today with business and property owners, including many small businesses that have been in place for decades. It will hold another meeting with residents and community leaders on March 1.
The aim is to involve the community in building an economic development plan by the end of the summer.
What was known as “El Barrio Alegre,” the colorful, thriving Franklin Boulevard neighborhood of the 1950s can become so again.