After a year of COVID restrictions and cancelations the Tracy City Center Association is looking forward to more events as business slowly returns to normal in downtown Tracy.
Dino Margaros, TCCA executive director reviewed the district’s efforts over the past year at the annual State of the District Town Hall meeting, held virtually on Aug. 18.
“We really had to scramble and pivot, we had a lot of changes to make,” Margaros said.
TCCA lost about 60% of its revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, when the district couldn’t host events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward the district has a budget of $490,000, about 90% of normal heading into the 2021-22 fiscal year.
“We’ve crammed a lot of our work into the 6 months of this calendar year so you’re going to see a list of all the events we’re trying to make up as quickly as possible, again assuming COVID doesn’t sideline us again,” Margaros said. “We’re just trying to do everything we can to get events in as long as we’re able to and hopefully we can avoid another complete shutdown, especially for outdoor events.”
In 2020 during the COVID pandemic the district’s taxable sales were down 14.3% but the first quarter of 2021 showed an increase of 7%. Margaros said even during the pandemic business were continuing to grow in downtown.
“Another big testament to what we’ve done or been able to accomplish and been fortunate is that we have had a number of businesses open during COVID, which to me is kind of a big leap of faith on a lot of their parts,” Margaros said. “The second anything opens up for tenancy you’ve got people waiting in line to talk about it.”
Several businesses had started recently, including La Boutique, The Station and Revive Cryotherapy.
“Ten years ago, 15 years ago, people didn’t locate downtown necessarily other than if they had to be. They came here because the rents were cheaper and that’s not necessarily the case anymore. People are locating because they want to be here,” Margaros said. “I think the other common thread of all these merchants are that they are local. They tend to be local, they live here, they work here, they have a vested interest in the community, many for generations, and I think that’s a big testament to why they are going to be successful.”
As the pandemic shuttered indoor dining for downtown restaurants, a move to an outdoor “streatery” on 10th Street between B Street and Central Avenue kept restaurants going. Moving forward, Margaros said the streatery will make way for parklets.
“The streatery will come out at some point. It’s just a temporary fix right now, but we’re hoping to replace it on a more permanent basis with parklets and open up that 10th Street corridor in both directions and the parking in both directions,” Margaros said.
Parklet designs are being designed and engineered by city staff and an ordinance for the parklets will go to city council sometime in mid-September.
“We’re going to look for their support on that to get something permanent here,” Margaros said.
He hoped that funding for the parklets would be available from the American Rescue Plan to reimburse the restaurant owners.
“It’s something that has to be done. It’s going to be a great addition to our downtown,” Margaros said. “It will be nice to get the street opened up to regular traffic in both directions but at the same time retaining some outdoor dining.”
He hoped work on the parklets could begin sometime in October.
Michael Nimon, the city’s economic development director, applauded the downtown efforts.
“It’s been remarkable to see the transformation, and you know when you look at great cities around the world, the things that they have in common are great gathering places and great downtowns,” Nimon said. “We’re really up there, and the path that we have taken and the competitiveness that we have to do economic development (will) attract business to town because of the gem that we have in downtown.”
Kristin Barrios, TCCA district manager, discussed some of the events planned for the remainder of the year.
“We have a lot scheduled for this year. We’re just praying we can organize everything with no issues. We have a couple of new events on the horizon, so we’re just figuring out some logistics for that, but we really want to attract all different ages and generations to downtown and that’s what the goal is for each of our events,” Barrios said.
Taps on Tenth beer sampling, which is traditionally scheduled for the spring but was canceled last April because the pandemic, has been rescheduled for Nov. 6.
The event brings nearly 2,000 visitors, both paid participants and others, to downtown and brought in about $30,000 in profit to the district in 2019.
The 2019 Wine Stroll brought 1,500 visitors to downtown and raised $16,455 for the district. The Wine Stroll this year will be held Sept. 18.
“It’s a tradition at this point for the Tracy community,” Barrios said. “Merchants will ask me months in advance about the status of Wine Stroll and they have been asking me since COVID happened, and I’m happy to announce that you can purchase tickets pretty soon for our Wine Stroll event on Sept. 18."
A new Street Dreams Car Show in partnership with the Tracy Clutch Burners is scheduled for Oct. 9. The show will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. along 10th Street and Central Avenue and the farmers market will be extended for two hours on that day.
Barrios said family favorite events including the Halloween Candy Crawl and Costume March will return on Oct. 30th from 3 to 6 p.m. in downtown.
The event will feature trick-or-treating at downtown businesses and will also have the Tracy Police Department’s Safety Scare featuring members of the traffic unit, SWAT team and the department’s Bearcat armored vehicle.
The Holiday Light Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony that draws a crowd of nearly 5,000 will return to downtown on Dec. 4, with the parade set to begin at 6 p.m.
Other holiday events, including Santa’s Hut will also come back.
Margaros was thankful of all the district members and city staff’s efforts during the year and was happy things were moving forward again.
“Hopefully we can right the ship this coming year and get back into the swing of things and hopefully we can get over this COVID monstrosity we’re dealing with,” Margaros said.
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