Guerra defends plans for downtown

DOWNEY - Despite slow progress in Downtown Downey redevelopment, Councilman Mario Guerra assured nearly two dozen community members Tuesday evening that steps are in place to bring dynamic change to the area.Speaking at a meeting of the Project Area Committee, Guerra discussed several redevelopment projects that are currently in the works, including Porto's Bakery, which Guerra believes will bring more traffic and business into the district. "Porto's will open up this summer," said Guerra. "And whether you like it or not, it is going to dramatically change the downtown." With concept boards in hand, Guerra also explained many upcoming city projects including the low to moderate-income housing units the city will build downtown where the Verizon facility and Avenue Theater now stand. However, several residents expressed their concerns regarding the city's decision to transform both properties into affordable housing units. Guerra assured those in attendance that the housing units would bring a positive change to the area. "These apartments are not Section 8 housing," said Guerra, holding up a design of the structure. "These will be the nicest buildings in Downey - there will be a community room there - you and I will want to live there once they are completed." The housing units, which will take about two and a half years to construct, will replace the Avenue Theater, a historic site that many residents are petitioning the city to preserve. Guerra said he agrees that the downtown could use more cultural and artistic events, and offered ideas that could utilize the Avenue for both community activities and housing. "George Krikorian, who owns Krikorian Theaters, proposed we turn the bottom into a Lucky Strike - with that classic bowling alley look - and put the apartments on top," said Guerra. "But a big percentage must be housing - if someone is interested in saving the Avenue, write us a check." In addition to redevelopment projects, Guerra also hopes the city can change its image and brand itself as a community of innovation and aerospace history. "Our city has 115,000 people, we have our own police and fire and our own school district," Guerra said. "We're big, but small in a way - we don't need to think small, we need to think big."

********** Published: February 5, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 42