The buildings that house the many retailers and restaurants along School Street memorialize the architecture of days of old in Lodi.
The gold-flaked sidewalk, shaded by trees, provides a welcome reprieve from the extreme heat of the summer sun.
Downtown Lodi is considered a triumph by city officials, as the once struggling area is now a bustle of business activity. And other cities are beginning to notice Lodi’s Downtown success as well.
On Tuesday, the city of Martinez joined the growing list of cities throughout California that have come to Lodi to see Downtown and ask city officials just how the area was revitalized so well — and without the assistance of a redevelopment agency.
For city representatives from Martinez, Lodi’s solution to their revitalization plan was a surprise — they kept things simple.
City spokesperson Susan Moreller said throughout the revitalization process of Lodi’s Downtown, city officials never had complicated guidelines or regulations.
Rather than completely leveling the old buildings, the city used the architecture to its advantage to give the Downtown area a unique look, she added.
“It seems as if Lodi’s Downtown is the heart of the community, and throughout the process it was an important aspect to not only preserve but to enhance the area the city was working with,” Moreller said.
Maintaining some of the “old world charm” is what sets Lodi’s Downtown apart from other cities, though it was not necessarily the most cost-effective option, said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of Lodi’s Chamber of Commerce.
Patrick said numerous city officials from all over the state, including Turlock and Roseville, have visited and asked not only how the city was able to afford the project, but also if the costs were worth it.
While capitalizing on using old buildings gives the Downtown the sense of being the “real deal,” Patrick said the decision to keep many of the original structures came with a price as the city had to pay a little extra to bring older buildings up to fire and safety codes.
But in the end, Patrick said meshing the older architecture with new and unique businesses is what makes Lodi so special.
“We’re not looking for a national chain to come to Downtown, because then we are just like every other downtown there is,” he said. “When people come here they don’t want to see the same thing they have at home. They want something totally different.”
And while there is still room for improvement, city spokesperson Jeff Hood said Lodi was “ahead of its time” in determining how it wanted the Downtown area to look and how to create a space that is special only to Lodi.
“Cities really have a tough time figuring out how they want to define their downtown areas,” he said. “It’s flattering when other cities look at your downtown to use as a model. We wanted to create this ambiance where people would want to get out of their cars and stroll and look in shops. It’s hard to do that, but we did it.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.