By Seth Schmidt
Mayor-elect Tony Dimmers says that planned Phase 3A infrastructure improvements on Third Street in 2019 represent an opportunity to consider changes in the downtown.
A traffic-restricted mall between Morgan and South, Dimmers believes, is an idea worth considering. But he stresses that consideration of a downtown mall, which was periodically discussed by the planning commission last year, is “still in its infancy stage”. Much more study needs to be done on the idea, with more comment sought from property owners and downtown business owners, if the idea is to move forward, he says. It’s timely to consider the new ideas for the downtown now, Dimmers believes, because Third St. is scheduled to be excavated this year for new sewer and water main installations.
A mall is among the new ideas to consider for Tracy’s future downtown, Dimmers says. Another would be to turn the downtown Third St. into a one-way thoroughfare, with diagonal parking on one side. The one-way concept, Dimmers notes, has not yet been discussed by the planning commission.
Dimmers, who will succeed Pam Cooreman as mayor this month, believes that new approaches are needed to revitalize the downtown, which has numerous vacant and under-utilized buildings. He is concerned that the former Masonic Temple building had to be razed in 2017 after standing vacant for many years. The former Enderson Clothing building has been condemned and is expected to be razed this year.
“Part of Tracy’s small-town charm is the architecture and character of its downtown buildings,” Dimmers comments. A new direction for the downtown, he feels, is needed to find new uses for buildings that lead to their maintenance and repair.
And yet, Dimmers adds, any public investment in the downtown needs to be justified with an economic return on that investment.
A downtown mall in Tracy is not a new idea. A 1966 plan drafted by a Minneapolis firm recommended that downtown Third St. be developed into a non-traffic mall with trees and planters, and the expansion of public parking lots in the surrounding area.
The “Sabongi Plan,” that was developed in 2000-01, proposed “bump-outs,” one-way traffic, and diagonal parking in the downtown.
Development of a new Tracy industrial park, Dimmers feels, could be another component of a new city plan. Dimmers says that while everyone supports the idea of economic development, a significant amount of groundwork and investment is needed to actually achieve that growth. Development of a new industrial park could be a part of that groundwork, the incoming mayor feels.
“If a business wants to come here, we need to have a place to put them,” Dimmers sums up.