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PLACENTIA : City Merchants Sprucing Up Downtown

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Using a small federal grant, the city’s merchants association is helping shop owners spruce up the old downtown district with awnings, planters and other additions to improve the area.

The district--known as Placita Santa Fe, or Little Santa Fe Plaza--has a Southwestern architectural style similar to that of Old Town in San Diego, said Carol Gallo, executive director of the Placentia Chamber of Commerce. “At the rate we’re going,” she said, “it’s going to look very, very nice in the next couple years.”

The chamber and the Placita Santa Fe Merchants Assn. have been spearheading the drive to improve the area by applying for money available through various state and federal agencies.

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Under the latest program, six businesses have put up new awnings, and eight more are on the waiting list for $22,000 being distributed by the city’s Housing and Community Development Agency and funded by a federal block grant.

“I didn’t have to pay a dime,” said Dennis Blake, the owner of Better Floors & Restorations, as workers installed new green-and-burgundy awnings on his building Monday.

Mike Rocha, owner of Placentia Auto Body, said that his store added an awning three months ago under the same program and that he expects more merchants to take advantage of the program while it lasts.

“Other businesses in the area are going to start seeing what we’re doing,” he said, “and they’re going to start doing the same thing.”

City officials say that about $6,000 is still available from the latest grant.

Improvements over the past few years have been gradual, merchants say, but they are transforming the old downtown.

Brick crosswalks have been added at some intersections, and banners have been erected on utility poles to proclaim the district, “Placita Santa Fe.”

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“This place gets better by the day,” said Frank Gutierrez, a sales clerk for Placentia Glass. “It used to be a little run down, but improvements are being made all the time.”

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