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Antiques Fill Much-Debated Downtown

LA MESA -- It was just before dusk on Saturday night and many of the downtown La Mesa stores were closing up for the night.

Arlene and Mike Moore were among them, bringing in from the street the antiques they use to attract passersby into Park Estate Antiques.

But the Moore's weren't done for the day. With chalk in hand they were about to start what in many ways is their second job: promoting downtown La Mesa. Arlene leads the La Mesa Merchant's Association.

With the chalk, the Moores started sketching out the booth locations for Sunday's Antique Street Faire, which, in the end, succeeded in attracting thousands of visitors to the much-discussed downtown.

Arlene Moore was focusing on this event. She didn't want to discuss the subject that has caused so much discussion about the future of downtown La Mesa.

The plan being pursued by a group of merchants to form a Property-Based Improvement District for the area has raised some hackles. But in the end, the event on Sunday was a sort of reality test for what it takes to generate traffic and bring business to the city's downtown. PBID or no PBID it takes efforts like the Moores were making.

"It's all about promotion,'' Arlene said. "I have friends with billboards and that's how we get them. You know what they cost? Just $500.''

Moore wasn't speaking for or against the PBID at this point. She's on the committee analyzing what it would take to establish the PBID, which would essentially commit property owners to fund extra services and promotion for the downtown area.

"I want people to get a chance to understand all that's involved,'' Moore said. "But in the end, with or without a PBID, we still have to do things like this (Antique Faire) to grow our businesses.''

Sunday was, in fact, one of those perfect days that allows La Mesa's timeless, other-era downtown to cling to a special place in the San Diego community. Rain threatened but didn't arrive and the gathering of antique dealers selling everything from old stoves to estate jewelry brought more than enough of a crowd to make business brisk for restaurants, bars and La Mesa Boulevard's other tenants.

Moore also didn't want to dwell on the fact that many of these promotional events are fueled by the efforts of a core of Merchants' Association members, but not all the merchants and property owners who benefit from the traffic.

And that is at the core of why city officials are pushing for the establishment of the PBID.
The city is about to spend more than $5 million redesigning and rebuilding La Mesa Boulevard. They clearly would prefer to have the property owners who will benefit so much by that city investment commit to helping maintain the redeveloped commercial core -- perhaps with more consistency than they have supported the Merchants' Association efforts.

And for all optimism a day like the Antique Street Faire can inspire, the truth is that the action in the street was occurring outside an increasing number of vacant storefronts on the boulevard.

As the city enters its centennial year, there are clearly important questions being debated about the future of its traditional "downtown.''

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Tags: Arlene Moore, Association", Centennial, Estate, La Mesa Antique Street Faire, La Mesa Merchants Association, La Mesa'' , Mike Moore


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