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Watsonville's Downtown, Part I: Business in Photos

Watsonville's downtown is in the process of growing and improving.

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories about downtown revitalization in Watsonville.

Lately, the city of Watsonville has been trying to spruce up its downtown to attract more business.

The old Gottchalks building has remained empty since the chain store went bankrupt in the summer of 2009, and no one has yet filled it, despite the city’s attempts to lease the space.

Many businesses, such as , housed in a historic Mansion House on Main Street, struggle to retain clientele. It keeps prices the same as they were two years ago, baiting in a lunch time crowd with a $6.99 all-you-can-eat buffet, but cannot make a profit.

Yet signs of progress dot the streets, be it brightly painted strawberry and pepper murals that sit at the corner of the City Plaza. New businesses, such as Second Street Cafe and Shortcut Computing, have opened their doors—Second Street three years ago, and the computing store in the last eight months—and are already expanding. A line forms outside of Shortcut Computing around 6 p.m., its clientele drawn in by the only computer repair shop downtown.

A park , a recent project of the city’s Redevelopment Agency. Soon, this agency will be funneling funds into improving street lights, brightening the area that remains dark once the sun sets.

New chain businesses—an ARCO, Wingstop and Supercuts—also have recently set up shop in the city. And every summer weekend, festivals converge on the square nudged into the corners of Peck and Main streets, and the farmers’ market now stays open a half hour later, until 7:30 p.m.

Rebecca Tait July 06, 2011 at 03:28 PM
And take a look at the Restar Hotel at the corner of Main and Lake. It is truly beautful.
Cathy P. July 06, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Just one note about Hansen Park: it's a nice clean, open space, but if it's a "park" where are the park benches, picnic tables, etc., for people to linger on? The biggest draw downtown for me is the library, the post office & Cabrillo College; save for a handful of eateries, there's not much that caters to my taste downtown. I think I've stated my opinion for what needs improving but it's always money, money, money ot that we don't have the population/demographics or income levels most worthwhile retailers require. I don't see much of that changing in the near future.
Jennifer Squires July 06, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Rebecca, I agree with you about the Restar and also some of the other historic buildings downtown. They're great pieces of architecture .... I thought there were some benches at Hansen Park, but not much else. That grass could be a good spot for a picnic blanket though.
Kurt Overmeyer July 07, 2011 at 04:11 PM
itsmecissy - I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression with my last comment. There are a number of retailers that would be happy to be in Watsonville if we could provide the appropriate space for them. Over the past two years, I have met with a number of brokers representing national retails ranging from discount stores to higher end retailers. I just was trying to point out that there is no point in trying to attract a business that will never come here (Ikea, Trader Joe's, Macy's) and to focus on those that might. I also wanted to point out that the problems in getting new retail downtown are not simple from a structural and economic point of view - That is not to say that they cannot be solved - just that it is difficult and it will take years not weeks. I think we are making good progress given our economic constraints and the fact that retailers nation wide are pulling back rather than expanding. We WILL get there - it will just take time, money and a long-term focused effort that addresses all of the key problems.

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