Years ago a City of Redding planner – no longer in town – told me what we needed in downtown is an old warehouse district – large buildings with cavernous insides that could be converted into artist lofts and apartments. I responded, only partly joking, that maybe we needed to build some old-looking warehouse type buildings, wait a few years, and then create our own faux historical warehouse district. Certainly a bizarre thought, but still… wouldn’t it be nice to have a place in downtown like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia?
You can literally get lost for hours among the eclectic art in this three-story gallery created from a World War 1 factory. Visiting there earlier this year, I was reminded again of my answer in 1995 to the question of what Downtown Redding needed to be successful. “More people”, I said, “A lot more people”.
1. People working 9 to 5 every day.
2. People living downtown 24 hours a day.
3. People coming specifically because of “destinations” such as theaters and art galleries,.
4. People staying longer because of good restaurants and shops.
With the courthouse and hospital as anchors, the downtown has long had an abundance of 9 to 5 activities, and the addition of Shasta College’s building has only helped. Since 1995 when current revitalization efforts began, many new restaurants have emerged, although small retail shops still have a tough time staying open. In just the last five years, several mixed-use housing projects as well as new senior housing have been built, possibly signaling a new interest in living downtown. With the success of the Cascade Theater restoration and the “almost arrival” of the Riverfront Playhouse, we are ever so slowly introducing more entertainment possibilities. To those who still despair that downtown will never be truly alive with people, I would counsel patience.
For me, I remember the moment I absolutely knew Downtown Redding would eventually succeed. It was the day the wrecking ball was taken to that massive clot clogging the heart of downtown – the roof over the mall – and Redding’s main street again emerged into the sunlight.
Written by James Theimer for The Record Searchlight’s Redding Sketchbook blog at redding.com