Citizens hear vision for downtown

DOWNEY - Dozens of interested Downey residents - both young and old - packed the Downey City Library's Cormack Room on Tuesday to listen and share opinions about the tentative but proposed future of the Avenue Theatre and Verizon building.John Perfitt, director of economic development for the city of Downey, spoke at the regular meeting of the Downey Redevelopment Project Area Committee (PAC). The PAC is "a conduit to City Hall, distilling public comment from our meetings into recommendations endorsed by a diverse assembly of citizens from both within and outside the downtown area." The meeting turned into a forum for residents to bounce around ideas regarding the future of Downtown Downey. Most residents seemed to share the same goal: "revitalize" the downtown by increasing entertainment options. But residents had differing opinions on how to accomplish that goal. The city purchased the Avenue Theatre and Verizon building using housing funds, meaning a large chunk of redevelopment needs to be dedicated towards new housing. And at least 20 percent of the new housing needs to be "affordable," as defined by the state of California. Perfitt estimated about 50-100 total units will be built, primarily condominiums and apartments. The city is recommending 1,600 sq. ft. of the theater (the side facing Downey Avenue) to be redeveloped into a "high-quality, sit-down" restaurant. The rest would be housing and "community space." Perfitt said the community space could include art or cultural programming, or perhaps a coffee shop where jazz bands could play music. The final use has not been determined yet, he said. "Everything is conceptual right now," Perfitt stressed. Residents in attendance spoke of the need for greater entertainment options, restaurants and retailers that stay open into the evening hours. "Nobody is going to go to a travel agency at 9 p.m.," one woman said. Paul Granata, owner of Granata's Italian Villa on Downey Avenue, questioned the logic in combing a high-quality (and conceivably pricey) restaurant with affordable housing. Perfitt said people purchasing "affordable" homes have more disposable income than the term would lead one to believe. Teenagers in attendance, meanwhile, said today's Downey kids "have nothing to do." "After the Krikorian, then what?" one young lady said. Entertainment options in Downey would keep teens from traveling across city lines into Long Beach, Pasadena and Norwalk, she said. Perfitt agreed. "I hear you loud and clear," he said. After the city released a Request for Proposals in September, Perfitt said he received six "wide-ranging" redevelopment proposals. A rating panel whittled the list to two finalists, before the city made its choice. Perfitt said construction could begin as early as next year. ********** Published: January 9, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 38