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LA MESA -- Word has come to city officials that La Mesa has successfully competed for a $2-million grant that represents the final piece of the financing for the La Mesa Village redevelopment project.
Mayor Art Madrid confirmed Wednesday night that the San Diego Association of Governments will give La Mesa $2-million to bring to $5-million the amount the city has to help redesign and rebuild La Mesa Boulevard through the city's historic Village area.
The SANDAG grant still needs to be formally approved by the full SANDAG board, but Madrid described that as a formality after the city prevailed in a rigorous grant process.
"It's a done deal,'' Madrid said.
With the financing in place, however, Madrid said there still remains some final negotiations with downtown merchants and property owners about their contribution to help maintain the new facilities once the city's investment in the area is complete.
"Contrary to what some have been saying, the PBID is not dead,'' Madrid said. "We won't be investing the full amount without some contributions to maintain it going forward.''
The "PBID" Madrid mentioned is the property-based improvement district that has been proposed for much of the downtown "Village" area. Petititons are still being circulated and collected in a process that could result in each property in the Village area being asked to contribute to a fund to maintain downtown improvements and to help with security and marketing for the area.
PBID opponents consider it to be too costly and have discussed but not formally pursued alternatives to the PBID.
Still, with the SANDAG financing, the question is no longer will the Village redevelopment project happen, but whether it will include all the "extras" that would come if the city uses the full $5-million it has amassed for this project. Augmented cross walks, extra landscaping and lighting elements could be dialed back, city officials have warned, unless some system is in place that would assure downtown property owners contribute to the upkeep of these so-called "betterments.''
The city has already used funds from the Downtown Parking District (parking meter funds) to do preliminary design of new streets and sidewalks and also to fund the consultant who has helped guide the PBID process.
Madrid has been open in his support for the PBID, but he has been consistently dealing with fellow council members who have clearly been more sympathetic to the cost concerns of some Village merchants and property owners.
City staff has been meeting with Village merchants to begin plotting out street and sidewalk reconstruction efforts that will be phased in, starting perhaps as early as late this year or early next, and will complicate operating a business during the construction.
The city has assured merchants that customers will have continuous access to their businesses throughout the reconstruction project.
Improvements to this traditional heart of La Mesa will come none too soon for efforts to improve the business environment. Small retail continues to struggle with several recent business closings, including Sugar & Spice and the Art & Light Gallery, two stores that had been seen as hopeful additions to the Village in recent years. The trend toward office space replacing more higher-traffic retail continues.