Reinvigoration set to bring
more people to Downtown Tulare
By Mike Danahey
Tulare civic leaders believe the key to revitalizing the city’s downtown is getting more and more people to live, work, shop, dine, recreate, entertain and be entertained there.
Efforts toward that include the renovation of Zumwalt Park, turning a former courthouse into a business accelerator, updating a downtown master plan and other city government initiatives as well as projects underway or in the works from the private sector.
“The Zumwalt Park project proposes to take a passive park and create a year-round destination for recreation and community events,” said Traci Myers, Executive Director of Economic Development & Redevelopment, City of Tulare.
A new park feature will be an outdoor amphitheater with general and lawn seating areas big enough to hold 2,500 people. The park will also be designed in a way that some events can accommodate crowds of up to 5,000.
“The central location of the park makes it an ideal focal point to unify the community and, through the planned concert series, attract 30,000 to 50,000 visitors to downtown annually,” Myers said.
The park is also set to hold upgraded restroom facilities, a vendor and food truck area, open green space and a splash pad. The Tulare City Council earmarked $5 million of ARPA funds towards the project. However, the project is going out to bid during the first quarter of 2023 when a more defined cost will be identified. The work is set to be completed by late 2023 or early 2024.
Tulare also purchased the vacant, former courthouse adjacent to City Hall in 2021 from Tulare County for $500,000, which completed the city ownership of the 400 block of East Kern Avenue.
Plans are to use about a quarter of the 20,000-square-foot building for police investigations, with the rest of it developed into a business accelerator.
“The city has partnered with the Tulare Chamber of Commerce to operate the accelerator, which will be responsible for bringing support services to startup businesses,” Myers said.
The accelerator will have room for up to 24 community-based startups, as well as a makerspace with 3D printers, CNC machines and other technology that can be used by the businesses, and by others through membership.
Local business people are contributing to the rebirth of the downtown, too.
Myers noted that Adrian Herrera is in the process of plan design for the remodel of the old Toledo Jewelers building, at 147 South K St. to facilitate a tap room, patio for outdoor seating, an area for food trucks and second floor residential units. He submitted for a building permit in December 2022 and is moving forward with the project.
The total project is estimated at $1.7million, Myers said. Tulare will provide Herrera a $250,000 Downtown Building Rehabilitation Grant, contingent upon the completion of the project and submission of paid costs for reimbursement.
Another project underway is from Michael Limas, who owns the property located at 122-132 E. Kern Ave. Limas is currently renovating the building’s firstfloor through façade improvements, Myers said.
To drum up more downtown redevelopment, the Tulare City Council approved a $1 million allocation of ARPA funding to a Downtown Building Rehabilitation Grant program. Funds can be used to improve the visual appearance of buildings and to improve the accessibility on the interior or exterior of commercial structures in the downtown district, Myers said.
“The priority of the grant program is to encourage new, highest and best uses in the downtown to increase both daytime and evening foot traffic,” Myers said.
Additionally, Tulare is in the process of designing, constructing, then operating a homeless shelter at the Tulare County Hillman Center campus south of downtown in an industrial area. The permanent location of a homeless shelter will enable the City to relocate the homeless population out of the downtown area to a location where they can receive shelter and services.
“This, in turn, will remove blight and improve the appearance of the downtown area,” Myers said.
While leveraging its initial investments to attract additional private sector investment, Tulare is also in the process of updating a master plan for the city’s downtown.
“The new plan will identify future opportunities based upon land economics,” Myers said. “This approach is important to yield a downtown that will be a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented environment, filled with experience-oriented niche retail, restaurants and cultural activities unique to Tulare.”
Redeveloping the downtown will enhance the city’s overall fiscal health and tax base through sales tax, property tax and potential transient occupancy tax its new attractions will generate, Myers said.
Myers said that vibrant downtowns greatly enhance the quality of life for residents by offering a mix of entertainment venues, retail establishments, affordable housing, job opportunities and outdoor recreation conducive to walking and shopping. And safe downtowns with thriving businesses and residential development create another experience for residents to live, work, shop, eat and gather.
“A successful downtown will provide its residents with a sense of belonging, pride and place from which all Tulare residents can benefit,” Myers said.