LODI — Lodi Mayor Mark Chandler said right now is an exciting time to be in Lodi.
The second-term councilman, serving his second stint as mayor, laid out how the city is currently growing both economically and population-wise, and what lies ahead in the coming months during his State of the City address on Wednesday morning at the Woodbridge Golf and Country Club.
“You’re going to see some things we’re doing that are going to significantly enhance our quality of life,” he said. “We have a lot to celebrate, we have some challenges, as you all know.”
One of the things the city can celebrate is the recent reopening of Lockeford Street, which was closed for repairs and renovation for about five months.
Chandler highlighted several improvements happening on the thoroughfare, including the development of the addition of Doors Plus, Papapavlo’s and the Kingpin Bowling Alley, complemented by Estate Crush.
“There’s a lot going on down on Lockeford Street, if you haven’t noticed,” he said. ‘It is now a real gateway into Lodi,” he said.
The bowling alley, which broke ground in February, will be a 42,000-square-foot project with 32 lanes on two stories. There will also be a restaurant, second-story banquet hall and a bar. Kingpin Bowling Alley is expected to open sometime next year.
Other improvements planned for Lodi is the city-wide bike lanes improvement project, city-wide pedestrian enhancement project, and ongoing residential development.
Chandler spoke briefly about Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting on Industrial Way, commending the officer who escaped injury from gunfire
He added the city is using Measure L funds to fulfill its promise to keep Lodi streets safe, stating 75 of 77 positions at the Lodi Police Department have been filled in recent months. Measure L has also allowed the Lodi Fire Department to keep Engine 1 in operation full-time for the first time in about a decade, he said.
Last year, Lodi voters approved Measure L, the half-cent sales tax increase that is expected to generate $5.4 million in revenue annually. Funds will be used to hire new police officers and improve many of the city’s parks and playgrounds, among other allocations.
“It’s not easy to attract new officers into police these days,” he said. “They’ve had a pretty rough go the last five years. It’s a tough job, and sometimes you have applicants that can’t pass the background check or can’t get through the academy. It’s a big job to fill those positions.”
Also of note were a new virtual-reality system to help train officers, a new drone for surveillance and apprehension, and the reduction of gang-related incidents from 252 in 2011 to 17 this year as more accomplishments Chandler said the city should celebrate.
Chandler touched on the city’s efforts to combat homelessness as well, noting he recently instituted a public and private partnership to fund reduction efforts.
He said he made a $1,000 donation to the partnership, as did his wife Jan and her parents, Dave Kirsten and Vino Farms. In addition, local developer FCB Homes donate $5,000 to the partnership.
The donations, he said, will be matched with pollution prevention funds to remove unregistered recreational vehicles from Lodi streets that are overstaying their welcome throughout town.
“(Community Liaison Officer) Dan Scheile and the PARTNERS went out and tagged about a dozen of those RVs about two weeks ago,” he said. “Just the threat of being towed away, and knowing the resources are there to conduct that work, five out of the six that were tagged left. So it’s working, just the threat.”
Outside Lodi, Chandler sits on the Northern California Power Agency board, and noted a recent grant the city obtained through that agency that will be used to fund several solar projects throughout town.
Those include installing panels on the Downtown Parking Garage, at Pixley Park and along Century Boulevard.
Several city parks will also see a variety of improvements soon, as the DeBenedetti Park master plan is currently gaining steam.
In addition, Measure L and Proposition 68 funds will be used to renovate Blakely Park and its wading pool, as well as to renovate Hale Park and the Lodi Lake Park nature trail.
Proposition 68 was approved by California voters last year authorizing $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, as well as environmental protection, water infrastructure and flood protection projects.
Other development projects planned
John Vierra, owner of NJA Architects, presented a list of new developments Lodi residents can expect to see complete in the near future.
Along with the Lodi Bowling Alley, Vierra said a mixed used development planned for the corner of Lower Sacramento and Turner roads is “very exciting.”
Located across the street from the former General Mills plant, the project includes a boutique hotel with ground-level retail.
“It will be almost a city center for the north portion of Lodi,” he said. “It will have coffee shops, bakeries, a restaurant... more hospitality-driven uses.”
The new development will also include a parking structure to accommodate visitors and keep the surrounding green, open spaces available for people to enjoy, he said.
In Downtown Lodi, a long-time business has plans to expand its services and attract more tourists to the region.
The Dancing Fox on School Street will replace its parking lot with a distillery, brewery and beer garden, along with two tower residences that will be breaking ground this spring.
In the city’s industrial area, plans are under way for a $6- to $7-million commissary project at Guild and Lockeford avenues.
“Food trucks have kind of evolved in the last 10 to 15 years,” Vierra said. “They’re not taco trucks anymore. They’re decked out in new technologies to cook food. This will house about 100 food trucks and will be a nice draw for the city of Lodi.”
He said the commissary will offer the atmosphere of a restaurant, depot and grocery store in one location.
New Chamber promotional project
Lodi Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Pat Patrick also unveiled a new marketing tool his organization plans to roll out in the coming months to attract new businesses to the area.
The “Grow in Lodi” website will showcase the city’s average climate, housing costs, transportation assets and trends as mechanisms that may goad business owners in the Bay Area to move operations to the Central Valley.
Patrick said the website focuses on attracting people from the Bay Area because many of their employees live the valley, and would trade hours of commute time for hours of resting at home after work.
“The goal of the website is to communicate the beauty, history and wealth of our culture to the Bay Area,” Patrick said. Lodi is a great place to work and live, and there’s never been a better time to do that than there is now.”
The website is funded completely by local businesses such as F&M Bank, Adventist Health and Wine and Roses, Patrick said, and should be online in about three weeks.
“Pretty exciting stuff,” Chandler said of the presentations made Wednesday. “There are so many more entertainment venues and ways that are going to help create more employment. It’s an exciting time to be in Lodi.”