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Breathing new life into Folsom’s Historic District

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom City Manager
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Plans to revitalize Folsom’s historic district were part of the allure when I accepted this position. I had first-hand experience with a highly successful downtown streetscape revitalization program during my tenure as city manager in Encinitas and I looked forward to helping my new community reap comparable benefits. Located on the coast north of San Diego, Encinitas has a long history as a popular beach town. The city is close in size to Folsom with a population of about 60,000. Historic Highway 101 slices right through the city’s central business district. A decade ago that business district was falling into disrepair as residents opted to patronize new shopping centers a few miles away. Summer beach visitors seemed to be the only ones shopping and dining in the district. Sales were down and merchant turnover was high. We launched an extensive streetscape revitalization project in late 2001 with a goal of creating a vibrant district that residents would embrace. Businesses remained open during construction and we invited residents to watch as the project evolved. Now, more than seven years later, civic pride in the revitalized central district remains high. Encinitas retains its classic beach town charm and historic elements remain. Residents and beach visitors mingle in the re-energized district. Merchants enjoy solid stability and increased profitability. Similar changes are coming to Folsom as we begin streetscape work on Sutter Street later this summer. Be assured that you may continue to enjoy shopping, dining and special events such as Thursday Night Markets, Folsom Live and the Peddler’s Fair as the exciting changes take place. We are also planning new events to allow you to observe progress. Our overall goal is to preserve our Historic District’s cherished character and ambiance, while enhancing Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) accessibility and public safety, and attracting new business. The first phase includes removing medians and trees, relocating traffic lanes, creating limited on-street parking, replacing some of the shed roofs and widening sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians, outdoor cafes and shade trees. Speaking of trees, I am often asked why we are removing the large trees in the median. The fact is that those trees are dying and must be removed for safety reasons. The trees were planted in just one foot of soil atop the old roadway, forcing the roots to grow sideways and creating pedestrian hazards. Other construction projects will also help breathe life into Sutter Street. The four-story Folsom Electric & Power Lighting Co will open in November with an upscale steakhouse restaurant, retail, office and loft space, and underground parking. On the opposite end of Sutter Street, work will begin this fall on an open-air public plaza. Groundbreaking for the private mixed-use Historic Folsom Station will soon follow. I envision a reinvigorated Historic District in the not to distant future — an exciting environment to live, work and play; a gathering place for us all to enjoy arts and entertainment, dining and shopping; and a new reason to be glad to call Folsom home.