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January 14, 2009 > Editorial: Centerville revisited... again

Editorial: Centerville revisited... again

It doesn't take an expert or a prolonged study to figure out what is happening - or not - in Centerville. Action by the Fremont Redevelopment Agency has slowed to a crawl and earlier promises summarily swept under the table. Even bureaucratic smoke and mirrors cannot disguise the lack of progress and enlightened thought necessary to transform the environment from dive to thrive.

Development of the Unified Site is, so far, a bust. Current plans to build apartments with a minimal retail faŤade along Fremont Boulevard will not create the desired economic stimulus. Using land in a retail corridor primarily for housing is not the answer. Instead of spending millions of dollars on this failed concept, the Unified Site can wait and redevelopment money should instead be spent on economic stimulation from a different direction.

The Center Theater waits patiently for someone in officialdom to finally recognize its potential. Well over a year ago, a group of concerned citizens - the Center Theater Preservation Committee - brought a proposal to the Redevelopment Agency. A contract with a consultant, VenuTech Management Group, Inc., was signed for three one-year periods contingent on achievement of goals by the committee. It has now been approximately 18 months since the initial agreement and so far, although the citizen group and consultant have fulfilled their end of the bargain, no action has been forthcoming from the Fremont Redevelopment Agency. What a travesty! This is a blatant abrogation of responsibility by the agency.

The ostensible reason for this delay is to allow time for another study. This one is to determine whether a performing arts venue in Centerville would be detrimental to a much larger regional performing arts center. This is absurd. The Center Theater concept as an incubator and resource center for the local arts community will only enhance the community, spurring additional interest in a larger theater complex. In addition, at this time the dream of a major regional performing arts center remains solidly in the wish phase, especially in light of the present economic situation. Even the current push by the Redevelopment Agency to increase their cap to $1.5 billion does not envision any expenditure for such a venue.

Combine a rejuvenated Center Theater with a new jazz club in the old fire station across the street and the economic spark so desperately required in Centerville - and the Tri-City area - will be ignited. Instead of attracting tattoo parlors, life will be infused into Centerville's dilapidated and deserted buildings. Pedestrians will be attracted to the area throughout the day and especially during evening hours. Restaurants and high-end retail establishments will come to the area. As these flow outward, the Unified Site will command attention as a desirable location for more retail development. All of this is possible from a relatively minor commitment from the redevelopment agency. The fine arts community, local citizens and VenuTech have praised the concept, but bureaucratic nonsense is blocking what they have been hired to promote. Why?

It is time for Mayor Bob Wasserman to show leadership and put this item back on the agenda. To thrive, our cities must allow innovative ideas such as this to surface and nurture them. In this case, as Dirk Lorenz of the Center Preservation Committee says, "It's a no-brainer!"


For more information about the Center Theater Preservation Committee proposal, go to www.tricityvoice.com and review "A regional home for the performing arts" in the November 5, 2008 edition.

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