As a small city in Placer County, Lincoln has a lot to offer.

It's in a prime location with a regional airport, good schools, recreational facilities, golf courses, a vibrant arts community and diverse housing options.

Lincoln's growth ballooned during the home-building boom of the past decade, then slowed with the real estate downturn. But these days, community leaders anticipate additional growth and new retail construction.

"The beauty of where we are is that we are set up for growth," said Jill Thompson, city public information officer. "And when things take off again, the city of Lincoln will be in great shape."

Things already are taking off.

Businesses have opened downtown, a Highway 65 bypass project to route heavy traffic around downtown is nearing completion, and several home builders are offering new developments.

"We continue to promote the downtown businesses with mom-and-pop stores that add to the charm of the town, which has a lot of local flavor and local culture," Thompson said.

"It's nice to see new homes going up and businesses moving into town," said Rick Bluhm, a Realtor with Century 21 Select Real Estate and a member of an advisory group to the city's economic development department.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is expected to open in March, and Wal-Mart plans to open one of its smaller stores at the site of a former independent supermarket.

Beermann's Restaurant, which closed about seven years ago, is expected to reopen under new ownership in the spring.

"Lincoln needs a good steakhouse, and it's a nice addition for downtown," Bluhm said of the restaurant. "When residential construction stopped, so did retail."

Behind Beermann's is Knee Deep Brewing Co., which brews and distributes handcrafted beers. Owner Jerry Moore said his brewery has been open about eight months.

The Highway 65 bypass should make Lincoln's downtown area better for pedestrians, with new street signs, landscaping and sidewalk and intersection improvements.

Traffic will be slower and quieter, helping make downtown a destination, said George Dellwo, assistant director of development services for the city of Lincoln.

"Less traffic means that people won't be walking in the quaint downtown area and see several 18-wheelers passing by," Bluhm said. "We'll have some traffic, but 70 to 80 percent will be shuffled off to the bypass. Lincoln Boulevard will look more like a typical downtown."

"The physical heart of historic downtown is Beermann Plaza, which has a beautiful quatrefoil-stacked water fountain manufactured locally at the Gladding, McBean terra-cotta plant," Dellwo said.

The base of the fountain is in the shape of a quatrefoil, an architectural design with four converging arcs combined with a square.

The area also has restaurants, shops, businesses and professional offices along its tree-lined streets.

Some people will move about the city in golf cart-style vehicles. That's because Lincoln is one of a few California cities designated for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, which are electrically powered, low-speed four-wheel vehicles.

"That's a result of Del Webb's age-restricted Sun City community, where there are a lot of golf carts," said Bluhm, referring to the Sun City Lincoln Hills retirement community in Lincoln.

Besides Sun City Lincoln Hills, Lincoln master-planned developments are Twelve Bridges, Catta Verdera, Lincoln Crossing, Foskett Ranch and Teal Hollow.

Twelve Bridges has approximately 10,000 residences, which included 6,800 homes in Sun City. Lincoln Crossing is approved for 2,901 homes, 117 lots remain to be developed at Catta Verdera, and Foskett Ranch and Teal Hollow are fully developed, Dellwo said.

The growth is notable, considering Lincoln's humble beginnings, Bluhm said.

"Lincoln started as a little old dinky town in the sticks," he said.

The city still has vintage homes, some dating back 100 years, in the downtown area.

Several new-home communities were built during Lincoln's building boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, KB Home, JMC Homes, Meritage Homes, Standard Pacific Homes and the New Home Co. offer homes, and a Tim Lewis Communities project is in the works, Dellwo said.

Lincoln has 183 resale homes on the market now, compared with December 2010, when 410 properties were for sale.

Prices range from $68,000 to $70,000 for a 900-square-foot home to $1,750,000 for a 5,000-square-foot to 7,000-square-foot home.

Lincoln's median home price is $238,000.

"The current number of homes being built is positive, and there are signs it's moving in an upward direction," Bluhm said. "Lincoln was one of the first communities hit hard by the downturn in real estate because it was a new community with many new homes.

"I like the old adage of first-in, first-out," he said. "We took the lead in going down; I'd like us to lead the way in going up. Lincoln is still on the fringe of being rural, so buyers can qualify for United States Department of Agriculture loans."

Such loans originally were designed to help people buy farms in an agricultural county or area of a county designated as an agricultural district.

According to the USDA website, loans are backed by the agency, have 100 percent, no-money-down financing and can be used to buy a home.

Bluhm said Lincoln is in a good spot geographically, with its proximity to Roseville, Rocklin and Sacramento. It's also home to a number of civilian and enlisted people who work at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, about 25 miles north of Lincoln.

Major employers in Lincoln are the historic Gladding, McBean terra-cotta plant, now a company of Pacific Coast Building Products; Home Depot; Safeway; Target; the city of Lincoln; and Western Placer Unified School District.

Lincoln has one of the area's larger municipal airports and the only one that can accommodate private jets, Bluhm said.

"The schools are terrific, and their ratings are very good," he said.

Western Placer district serves the area with seven elementary and two middle schools and a high school.

Lincoln has two health facilities

wide teams compete in soccer tournaments.

McBean Park and Lincoln High School both have pools, and other parks offer picnic areas, playgrounds and ball fields.

Lincoln has four 18-hole golf courses. Catta Verdera Golf Club is private; two courses at Sun City and the Turkey Creek Golf Course are open to the public.

Thunder Valley Casino and Resort in Lincoln

attracts people from throughout the region, offering hotel accommodations and shows by popular entertainers.

A major event each May is Feats of Clay, sponsored by Lincoln Arts. The international ceramic-arts competition draws thousands of visitors annually to the Gladding, McBean facility.

Another well-attended event, Dellwo said, is the annual Lincoln Showcase, hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in September. It celebrates diverse community arts, agriculture and music.

The Tour de Lincoln, a bicycle ride through the back roads of Lincoln and south Placer County in May, benefits the Lincoln Volunteer Center.

Also in May, the city's weeklong Holy Ghost Festival celebrates Lincoln's Portuguese heritage and the people who originally worked as farmers or laborers in the clay factory. About 5,000 people attend the barbecue each year, Dellwo said.

In late May, the chamber sponsors a Shopper's Expo with vendor exhibits.

A farmers market in downtown Lincoln from June 14 through Aug. 30 features food and live music.

Lincoln's history is tied to the railroad. In 1857, work began on the California Central Railroad, which eventually linked Auburn Ravine Station to Sacramento via Folsom.

California Central's chief engineer, Theodore Judah, acquired the town site in 1859 and later sold his interest to California Central, which changed the name Auburn Ravine to Lincoln, the middle name of the railroad's superintendent, Charles Lincoln Wilson.

With the extension of the railroad to Lincoln in 1861, the first wave of development began.

Lincoln's days as a railroad terminal ended in 1869 with the extension of the railroad to Marysville. In 1875, extensive coal and clay deposits were found, renewing Lincoln's development.

Charles Gladding, Peter McGill McBean and George Chambers established the Gladding-McBean Clay Works, which produces clay sewer pipe and architectural terra cotta.

Lincoln was incorporated in 1890, and over the next 100 years experienced slow population growth.

By 1990, Lincoln had 7,400 residents. Growth took off in the early 1990s when Del Webb Corp.

began developing Sun City Lincoln Hills.

Lincoln grew from a population of 10,000 in 2000 to more than 42,000 in 2012. The U.S. Census Bureau named Lincoln the fastest-growing city in the country from 2000 to 2010.

In 2006, Lincoln was named an All-America City by the National Civic League -- one of 10 cities nationwide and the only one in California to earn the honor that year.

Dellwo said Lincoln is confronted with a challenge: remaining a small, friendly city where residents and visitors feel safe, while also welcoming and encouraging new residents.

Lincoln leaders are working to ensure a good balance for the city.

"The Economic Development Committee has been looking for ways to help businesses here stay here and encourage new businesses to come here," Bluhm said. " and m Members are scheduled to present a proposal to the city council in late February." Bluhm said.

"Lincoln's community vision for the future is to actively engage in enhancing the economic vitality of our community without sacrificing our vision of a well-balanced, well-planned, people-caring community," Dellwo said. "It's a community where Lincolnites are doing things for the betterment of Lincoln. It is a place where our citizens work and play, families and friends come together and trails, paths and buses connect the city as one unit."