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‘Quaint, Market-Like Atmosphere’ : Carlsbad Street Plan Has Competitive Edge

Times Staff Writer

Carlsbad business and civic leaders, hoping that a revitalized downtown will spur new business ventures and attract consumers, have pledged their support for a project that is expected to give the city’s prominent thoroughfares a new look.

The City Council on Tuesday authorized local redevelopment officials to solicit bids from contractors who will give a face lift to the downtown’s two major streets, Carlsbad Boulevard and Elm Avenue, said John Cahill, the city’s municipal projects manager.

The Carlsbad Redevelopment Agency is spearheading the $8-million “streetscape project,” which includes plans to widen and rebuild streets, construct a sculpture park, build a pedestrian mall and install fountains and decorative paving, Cahill said.

‘Destination Spot’

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Project advocates say the improvements will not only enhance the coastal city’s appearance but establish the city as a “destination spot” and a retail center capable of competing with North County’s growing number of shopping malls.

Council members unanimously approved the $1.8-million second stage of the project at Tuesday’s meeting. The improvements are to be made in five stages, with completion scheduled for early 1991, Cahill said.

The decision allows the city to solicit bids from contractors to begin the second stage, which calls for the rebuilding of Carlsbad Boulevard, from Walnut Street to Buena Vista Lagoon. The money allocated in the second phase will also be used to improve Elm Avenue, from Ocean Street to Washington Street.

“When the Redevelopment Agency was established in 1981, one of its long-term goals was to improve and revitalize the core area along Carlsbad Boulevard and Elm Avenue,” said Cahill, who will be responsible for overseeing the construction.

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“We have been interested in improving the area to promote tourism and the business area and establish effective traffic and pedestrian circulation,” he said.

The project, which was approved in concept last February by the council, calls for the rebuilding and expansion of Elm Avenue from two lanes to four from Pio Pico Drive to the ocean. It also calls for the rebuilding of Carlsbad Boulevard from its northern end to Ocean Street.

Landscaped medians are planned for both thoroughfares.

Architectural Award

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The project, which will also adorn streets with several art projects, received a landscaping award in December from the American Society of Landscape Architects, said Chris Salomone, the city’s redevelopment director.

Such improvements will result in a dramatic change from the city’s appearance in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, when it was tarnished with many run-down areas, according to Mayor Bud Lewis.

When the redevelopment agency was established in 1981, it was charged with removing those decaying structures by coordinating the efforts of city officials, merchants and residents, Lewis said.

Meanwhile, the streetscape project developed from simultaneous efforts to enhance the city’s image by creating a village environment and bolstering its economic position, Salomone said.

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“The downtown area was incredibly impacted by the regional mall,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t compete head-to-head against the malls that have these big anchor stores. So we decided to persuade people to spend money here by creating a quaint, market-like atmosphere with specialty-type retail stores.”

The first phase of the project was, in essence, approved when the City Council blessed plans by developers to construct Village Faire, a 3.7-acre retail center at the intersection of Carlsbad Boulevard and Elm Avenue.

Agreed to Incorporate Ideas

Salomone said the developers have agreed to incorporate the city’s streetscape plans into their plans for the retail center. The city will contribute about $400,000 to the first stage of the project, which is expected to begin in mid-March.

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The other stages of the project include:

- A $500,000 outdoor sculpture park, scheduled for construction this fall at Ocean Street and Carlsbad Boulevard.

- Improvements along Elm Avenue, from Washington Street to Pio Pico Drive, during the summer of 1990. This fourth stage is expected to cost at least $3 million.

- Three downtown parking lots to be built this summer at a cost of $1.5 million.

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“Personally, I think it’s a great idea to spruce up the village area,” said Scott Little, president of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. “We’re always concerned about the tourism factor, and this will make Carlsbad a destination spot. But I think this will do a lot to attract local residents to the area, too.”

To bring even more dollars to Carlsbad, redevelopment officials have decided to rename Elm Avenue, calling it Carlsbad Village Drive.

“The name change was a blatant economic move,” Salomone said. “That sign will be out on Interstate 5, and we’re hoping that people will say, ‘Hey, there’s a village here, let’s go check it out.’ ”

“Elm Avenue is a generic name,” Salomone said. “But Carlsbad Village Drive . . . that will attract people off I-5 and bring them into Carlsbad.”

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