Everyone loves to bash Stockton these days. The thing is, those of us that live here, love the city. We know there are good parts, and parts that are struggling– like any other city. And the citizens of these struggling areas are just as concerned as the citizens of areas with less crime, though they often feel outnumbered and defeated by the criminals. Occasionally, there are so-called “pockets” of criminal activity such as where Tuesday’s drive-by shooting took place. North Madison Street, between West Fremont Street and West Harding Way, is a corridor that sits on the edge of a nicer, relatively safe, historic neighborhood to the west.
Let me qualify “relatively safe” with the exception of a few pockets around busier Park and Oak Streets — thoroughfares designed to quickly move vehicles, at the expense of the traditional walkable neighborhood. A few blocks to the east of Madison, there are less single family homes, and less eyes on the street.
Even though there’s a direct connection between the trendy Miracle Mile and downtown amenities, such as the ballpark and arena, Madison is a street that many avoid after dark. On the flip side, Madison Market, where the shooting took place, sits directly next door to a wonderful non-profit called Community Center for the Blind, which does great things in the community. This area is surrounded by beautiful, historic homes, some of which were considered mansions back in the day. Many concerned and frustrated citizens live in this area. They demand change.
Because Madison Street is adjacent to a more stabilized neighborhood, it’s what redevelopment types would call “low hanging fruit.” If you focus on fixing it up, it could push the unfavorable elements out, frustrated citizens will become more active, and the neighborhood will become safe again. Former redevelopment plans suggested a focus on this neighborhood pocket, along with Park and Oak Streets. With limited resources, those plans never materialized. What this corridor needs is energy directed towards investment, private and public.
There are a lot of neighborhoods in Stockton in need. Public resources are slim.
This area would greatly benefit from partnerships between the Stockton Miracle Mile, the Stockton Arena, the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel, the Stockton Ports, the City of Stockton, Public Works (to consider connections/streetscapes/bike lanes, possibly on Madison between the Miracle Mile and Downtown), the Police Department, Code Enforcement, and so on.
During the pre-bankruptcy, Redevelopment Agency era the city started a Neighborhood Renaissance Program. Only one plan was completed (for the adjacent University Neighborhood) before the program was scrapped due to budgetary challenges. However, the University Neighborhood’s citizen’s committee is active to this day, working towards implementing elements of that plan. They recently joined forces to raise funds to install twinkle lights on the Miracle Mile. It’s a small, yet effective step in creating an inviting atmosphere that demands respect.
That’s exactly the type of program this neighborhood is longing for. I don’t argue that Madison Street will be saved by twinkle lights. But, they need a plan — a strategy, and they need a citizen’s committee made up of people who live and work in this neighborhood to work to make sure there is coordination between the stakeholders in finding the best way to implement that strategy. If the funds are not available to pay for a plan, the stakeholders need to join forces and apply for grants to make it happen.
It’s crises like Tuesday’s shooting that spur us into action. It just takes someone, especially those that live in this neighborhood, to step forward and start the ball rolling