What could Santa Maria’s downtown become in the future?

That's the question city development leaders and urban planning consultants began asking the public on Monday night during the start of an effort to engage residents in a plan to revitalize the area.

At Shepard Hall in the Santa Maria Public Library, residents were greeted with maps, markers and worksheets all there to help collect their ideas.

The effort continues today with an open house at the city’s Community Development Department, from 9 to 10 a.m. at 110 South Pine St., Ste. 101 and with a second community workshop focusing on creating a streetscape plan from 6 to 8 p.m. back at Shepard Hall.

“The downtown has lots of opportunity sites. There are lots of areas where there could be redevelopment. If so, what should get redeveloped on those sites,” City of Santa Maria’s Principal Planner Neda Zayer said about the activity starting on Monday.

The community members that attended Monday’s workshop were broken into groups, led by a member of the downtown Santa Maria team to talk about and draw what they liked about downtown, what they didn’t like about downtown and what they’d like to see in the future.

Many people suggested redeveloping the Town Center Mall property, from removing the building’s roof and making it open to the elements, to removing some of the structures there in favor of an open plaza or civic center for performances and other events.

Some suggested closing streets like South McClelland Street to vehicle traffic and others thought developers should build more retail space on Main Street in front of the mall.

The end goal is for the city to have a Downtown Multimodal Streetscape Plan that will help turn downtown roadways, in particular Broadway and Main Streets, into enhanced corridors for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicles and transit riders.

The plan would connect downtown to retail areas, civic areas, Allan Hancock Community College and other parts of the city.

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To create the plan the city and its consultants will study the existing conditions and seek the public’s knowledge and input with the goal of selecting the best design elements to improve the look and use of downtown.

The city was awarded a $300,000 grant from the California Department of Transportation to pay for the work. Portland, Oregon-based SERA Architects along with Raimi and Associates and the Toole Group will help the city formulate a detailed plan to direct downtown Santa Maria’s future.

“We are just getting started and getting to know the town and absorbing everything,” said Martin Glastra van Loon, SERA Architects associate.

The consultants will next take what they learned this week and create some concepts for the city and the public to review some time before the end of the year. The city and consultants are also planning additional special outreach during the Santa Maria Christmas Parade.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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