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Editor's View: Is Streetscape a financial boon or bust?

By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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Saturday was a fine morning in the Folsom Historic District. Residents, city officials and business leaders gathered on the chilly morning in the parking lot at Wool and Sutter streets to break ground on the long awaited Sutter Street redevelopment project, known as Streetscape. Some readers have charged the Telegraph with taking a supportive stance on the project. The Telegraph has no official position, for or against, the redevelopment and revitalization efforts. Personally, I enjoy the median, trees and high sidewalks. Like many Gold Rush era towns, the historic street gives the town character and charm. I’m also a realist. Change happens. Fifty or so years ago when the city created the Gas Light Mall on Sutter Street and added the medians and trees, I’m sure there was some controversy at the time as well. Before then, the street had no median. The city’s efforts all those decades ago were to make the area more tourist-friendly so folks could come from out-of-town, spend their hard-earned cash and leave. The latest project seeks to do that and more. Residents will benefit from infrastructure improvements, additional on-street parking and easier-to-navigate sidewalks. One reader called to complain about early plans to put umbrellas at Sutter and Riley streets. I looked at the plans and I looked at the area as it stands now. There are currently umbrellas at that intersection, outside Chicago Fire Pizza. If we turn our gaze up the hill to Auburn, we see they’re undergoing much the same process with their Streetscape plans. Their efforts are to create a new central square, reminiscent of the historic square that was once there at the intersection of High Street and Lincoln Way (part of the original Lincoln Highway system back in the early 20th century). They expanded the sidewalks to allow for more outdoor dining, planted a living Christmas tree and made the intersection easier to navigate for pedestrians and motorists alike. Auburn is nearing completion on its first phase of the project. Eventually, they plan to link their historic district with the downtown business district through the Streetscape project. Folsom’s efforts may be the economic shot in the arm the Historic District needs. Sure, it will sting for a while, but when it’s all said and done, I believe we’ll be able to look back and recognize financial benefits. Am I for or against the project? I have mixed feelings. Change is uncomfortable, painful and unfamiliar. Let’s just say I’m hopeful. Don Chaddock is the managing editor of the Telegraph. He can be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.