MODESTO—A lot can change in a year inside of one-square mile. City officials, the public and one guy who’s made of career of loving cities came to talk about such change.
On March 1, the Downtown Modesto Partnership (referred to as DoMo by locals) held its second annual State of Downtown address at the Gallo Center for the Arts. The numbers presented showed a positive impact being made by DoMo staff.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the residents of Modesto, it’s that when we make up our mind to do something, we get it done,” said Fred Silva, board chair for the DoMo Partnership. “We have a wonderful community with hard working and dedicated residents that make Modesto and Stanislaus County a special place to live in.”
The work that the partnership is putting into improving its downtown district is showing an increased interest by the public in the region. Pedestrian counts were up 20,000 people from 2016 to 2017. Those numbers were up due to DoMo’s Market Night and the First Friday Street Faire.
Attracting more people isn’t just about making the region safe, said keynote speaker Peter Kageyama, it’s also about making it fun.
“‘Where’s the fun,’ is a perfectly legitimate question we should be asking a whole heck of a lot more in the context of better city-making, better place-making,” Kageyama said. “Because, when you ask that question, you change the dynamic in the room in the way that people are fundamentally thinking about the problem.”
The speaker went on to show examples of how cities have enlisted the help of its citizens to make regions more inviting, like Greenville, South Carolina, where an artist created “Mice on Main,” a series of small brass mice people can look for.
Great cities begin with relationships, Kageyama said. Most people look at what the city government can provide for them. He cited the example of the pothole. He said every pothole could be fixed, and people wouldn’t think twice about it.
“We are in a relationship with our places,” Kageyama said. “When was the last time we stopped to think about our relationship we have with our place? Probably not often, if ever. An unexamined relationship—it can go stale, it can go bad.”
Kageyama is the author of “For the Love of Cities,” which highlights the ways people are changing attitudes about the places they live.
“It’s not just what our cities can do for us, it’s what we as citizens can, potentially, do for our cities,” Kageyama said.”
It can also be something as simple as whimsical as a small design element. Surround the Gallo Center, the crosswalks have a musical theme, such as keyboards and musical notes. The cost doesn’t need to be huge, Kageyama pointed out, saying surprise and delight don’t cost anything.
“When more people start saying they love Modesto, more people are going to see it, more people are going to feel it, more people are going to believe it,” Kageyama said.
Interim City Manager Joe Lopez and CEO of Stanislaus County Jody Hayes, joined by Brad Hawn, the co-chair of Focus on Prevention Stewardship Council talked about what’s being done to reduce crime and find solutions for homelessness in the region.
Unfortunately, the homeless population increased 15.8 percent throughout Stanislaus County from 2016 to 2017.
Hayes, seeing his own neighborhood being impacted by the homeless plight, decided to take action. His organization is currently working on plans to create a homeless shelter that will also serve to help the population getting back on its feet.
DoMo CEO Josh Bridegroom rounded out the program with his address, showing numbers that prove the positive impact his organization is having in its efforts. In the past year, DoMo has:
- Referred 401 homeless people to services
- Abated 1,097 anti-social behavior problems
- Removed 561 graffiti taggings
- Collected 383,542 pounds of garbage
- Had 12,075 business interactions
- Had 5,179 patron interactions
That was just a small sampling of the work being done.
“We began this journey approximately two years ago. We set out to make the world a better place,” Bridegroom said. “When we set out on this journey, we knew it was going to be a long road. We weren’t going to accomplish everything we wanted to overnight.”
Domo, Bridegroom said, knows its vision and is sticking to its path.
“Part of our journey has included a ‘leave no trace’ principals,” Bridegroom said. “The idea behind ‘leave no trace’ is keeping the environs that you come across in the same condition you found them in.”
He said that principal is important for future generations.
“Not everybody treats an urban environment the way they do a wilderness environment,” Bridegroom said. “We certainly believe that we should keep our downtown looking safe and clean … when there is a mess, and it’s not being kept up the way it should, our downtown ambassadors come in to pick up the slack.”