Today’s news and notes includes new tenants for the historic B&M building, the Asparagus Festival’s attendance drop, and another big city that may be forced into the bankruptcy club with Stockton. Happy bike to work week!
Downtown block welcomes two new neighbors
The block between Dean DeCarli Square and the Ed Coy Garage is becoming quite the hub of activity. Already home to the City Centre Cineplex and various attached restaurants, the block welcomed a couple of new tenants over the past few weeks and will be welcoming more in the not-so-distant future.
On Monday, the Stockton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau moved into their new home in the historic B&M Building between the Hotel Stockton and the cineplex. While they are the building’s first tenants, they won’t be alone for long as the Downtown Stockton Alliance is slated to move into the top floor of the B&M in the coming months. This move makes sense as both the bureau and alliance work to promote Stockton, so being in such close proximity is a no brainer.
The building was redeveloped by downtown veteran Cort Companies who is luring a first floor restaurant/wine shop featuring local wines, cheeses, and other products. President Dan Cort says he has some promising leads for the space, hopefully something materializes soon.
Next door at the Hotel Stockton, French 25 has opened its doors to enthusiastic crowds so far. If you recall, the location of French 25 was once the site of Paragary’s, one of the city’s most visible blunders. As part of a plan to jumpstart downtown, the city provided free rent to Sacramento restauranteur Randy Paragary. The restaurant lasted just a couple years as many Stocktonians refused to patronize the establishment in protest of the city’s decision to subsidize it. The city has no business subsidizing one restaurant over others and the fact that the subsidy went to an out of towner added insult to injury for other downtown establishments. That being said, the location in the Hotel Stockton is fantastic, boasting impressive views of the waterfront from the roof top terrace. It’s great to see that spot humming and even better that it’s being run by a local who understands the market. Best of all, French 25 is completely unsubsidized. Also, I am a big fan of chicken and waffles, I hope to try them soon.
Asparagus Festival likely to stay downtown
The Record is reporting that the Asparagus Festival will most likely remain downtown as both the city and festival organizers have expressed a willingness to work out a deal. If true, this is great news. Moving the festival to the fairgrounds would have been a step backwards for several reasons. According to SCL’s own poll, 85% of SCL readers want to keep the Asparagus Festival downtown. However, the festival may be facing bigger problems than choosing a location: attendance.
After another year of 100,000 plus attendees in 2012, the festival’s attendance inexplicably plummeted to around 75,000 this year. Hopefully this is an anomaly and attendance rebounds next year, but it does beg the question: what happened? There are several theories being tossed around, from issues with parking to a lack of variety from year to year. The festival’s director blamed the drop on the tragic Boston Marathon bombings and uncertainty surrounding the festival’s future location. Personally, I think the main reason is Stockton’s constant negative publicity. The city’s bankruptcy may be too big an issue for out of towners to overlook. Warranted or not, Stockton’s bankruptcy blemishes our already rough reputation. Hopefully, as the city rebounds and makes positive strides, the narrative will turn around. Speaking of bankruptcy…
Detroit to follow Stockton’s lead?
Stockton may not be the only big city to go broke as Detroit, Michigan is reportedly in more of a financial morass then we realized. Detroit’s emergency manager announced this week that the city is on the brink of insolvency, projecting that negative cash flows will result in a $386 million deficit by the summer. This revelation has many people in Mo Town uttering the B word: bankruptcy.
The story in Detroit is much the same as it was in Stockton: pensions may be slashed, services cut even further and unions may be asked for concessions. But while Stockton and the Motor City may soon become bankruptcy brethren, the outlooks for both are not the same. Detroit was once a city of over two million people, but now has less than half of that. As a result, the city suffers from a devastating oversupply of housing, dragging down property values and creating immense blight. In Stockton, our population is still growing (albeit more slowly in recent years) and housing prices are rising (thanks to investors). Either way, it is sad to see another city succumb to bankruptcy, but hopefully Detroit will use this situation to put itself in a better position for the future.