If you haven't driven through downtown Galt in a few months, you might not recognize it.
A new three-story senior citizen housing complex rose from the ground up, and the city's oldest building was refurbished for an upscale steakhouse.
In the next year train horns will be silenced, and a movie theater is in the development stages.
Last February, the city launched efforts to spruce up the area along C Street and Lincoln Way using a combination of private and public money through its redevelopment agency. Despite a setback with state funding last month, City Manager Jason Behrmann said Galt will forge ahead with projects already in the Old Town Relocation pipeline.
Among those is linking downtown with the new Central Galt interchange, installing a gateway landmark welcoming motorists to the area, and constructing a small park where pedestrians might stop to rest. The city will vote Tuesday to acquire properties to build an $8 million entertainment venue complete with a theater and bowling alley along Fourth Street.
Mayor Barbara Payne, who operated a shop at C and Fourth streets, said it is exciting to see the fresh, new look that is emerging.
"The old buildings that have looked neglected now have fresh paint and new awnings, and a hope for revitalization," she said.
Spaans Cookie Company is included on the list of other businesses improving their facade as part of the area's revitalization efforts. About 30 percent of the $100,000 project was paid for with public funding through the redevelopment agency.
The buildings in the Old Town area are unique and have a personality that you don't see in a strip mall, Payne said.
"To preserve that area, helps to give Galt an identity that seems to have been missing. People have driven through Galt in the past looking for downtown Galt and don't see it," she added. "The goal is to not only to preserve the small town that people come here for, but to make it a small-town community."
Meanwhile, the city is ramping up efforts to create a "quiet zone" along the central Galt railroad tracks where train engineers agree not to blow their horns except in an emergency. Behrmann has said the decrease in noise will draw more development to downtown.
Last month, the state's high court determined that lawmakers have the authority to eliminate community redevelopment agencies. However, Behrmann said the city can continue for at least the next six months with design work already underway. It will be discussed at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The Old Town Relocation Project has been supported with money collected by the city and county specifically for redevelopment. The funding allowed the city to sell blighted property downtown and revitalize the buildings for new tenants.
Payne encourages anyone who hasn't been downtown recently to drive through it and imagine the vision the city is working towards.
"People who love the small town atmosphere of Galt really should appreciate the new look that takes you back to a time of happy, relaxed communities," she said. "There needs to be an atmosphere of support, optimism and dedication from the people that want to see Galt become a sustainable, small-town community."
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.