Old Town’s New Look

Beautification Projects Face Goleta’s Old Town

Neil Mckergee outside the remodeled building where his business Go-Towne Market shares the face of 5718 Holister Ave with Spudnuts Donuts.
Paul Wellman

From Kellogg to Fairview, Hollister Avenue sees its business owners faced with the option to renovate their storefronts with the help of community redevelopment agencies. The City of Goleta provides grants to community redevelopment agencies for projects like the Storefront Façade Improvement Program.

Among businesses benefiting from Old Town’s beautification are Go Towne Market and CrossFit Goodland. The building they share with Spudnuts Donuts underwent renovation in late 2009, which smoothed its stacked cinder block exterior to sandy, tan stucco walls.

The neat and neutral storefronts emerging on Hollister give Old Town’s businesses an appeal that is both welcoming and inoffensive to shoppers from any background. This helps Neil McKergee, owner of Go Towne Market, who says his store will bridge social and cultural gaps with its imported cheese section and its 99 cent shelf.

Remodeled storefronts, said Jaime Valdez, senior management analyst for the City of Goleta, show a distinctive pride of ownership. He believes increased renovation will spur neighboring business owners to remodel their own buildings to remain aesthetically competitive. Another aspect renovating business owners might consider, Valdez thinks, is the long-term investment that comes with the beautification of a building that could one day be sold.

The Design Review Board considers plans to remodel storefronts based on whether the plans will significantly modify the building’s exterior. “It’s up to the property owner,” said Valdez, “but we don’t want complete chaos.”

Once business owners have submitted three qualified bids to the City of Goleta, they can work with the contractor of their choice if the price varies no more than 10 percent. The city considers contractors qualified if they have legitimate licensing, bonding, and insurance, and pay prevailing wages.

Old Town Heritage District has seen 49 store fronts renovated since January, 2006. The Storefront Façade Improvement Program covers up to $60,000 in construction costs for multiple stores that share the same building and opt to renovate. It offers up to $15,000 for a single store’s renovation. The City of Goleta allots an annual appropriation of $100,000 for the program. A total of $770,000 has so far been spent on remodeling. Business owners, who match a percentage of their grant, account for $460,000 of that total.

In the realm of all other beautification projects planned for Old Town, the Storefront Façade Improvement Program is but a small component. A proposed $24 million project toward flood control would improve the capacity of the San Jose Creek. According to Valdez, a clash of priorities regarding whether to await the completion of this project or to go ahead with beautification efforts faces Old Town. Some worry that funds spent on the Storefront Program and the $8 million spent on the Hollister Avenue Redesign project (aimed to improve streets, medians, benches, and so on) would be money quite literally sunk if uncontrolled floods were to rush through Old Town.

Projects like these beautification and improvement programs will cease if Governor Brown’s budget proposal to end funding for Community Redevelopment Agencies goes through. Eliminating the agencies would be another way to allocate money in California without taking more from taxpayers, says Valdez.

Beautification efforts increased last year, says Valdez. For the time being, business have the option to renovate their storefronts with the help of the City of Goleta.


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