A large crowd gathered at the city’s renovated Old Town Plaza on July 21 to celebrate its grand reopening.
Located on the south side of Elk Grove Boulevard, at Railroad Street, the plaza features a 9,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion with an L-shaped canopy and an elevated platform, seating, walkways, landscaping and car and bicycle parking. A driving path around the pavilion is also included in the project to accommodate food trucks.
The city invested more than $12 million on the plaza’s revitalization, which includes amenities intended to draw more people to the area, host concerts and festivals, support Old Town businesses, and assist the local economy.
Last week’s event, which also highlighted the reopening of Railroad Street, included a ribbon cutting ceremony with confetti cannons, speeches, a trackless train for children, food trucks, and music by Todd Morgan & the Emblems.
While standing in front of attendees of the event, Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen described the significance of the plaza, as well as upcoming Old Town amenities such as the Dust Bowl Brewing Company on Railroad Street and the new Elk Grove Library at the corner of Elk Grove Boulevard and Waterman Road.
“These measures are all part of an effort underway to update our Old Town Specific Plan and revitalize Old Town in a way that respects our heritage, supports our existing businesses, and maintains our focus on a future that offers our community and visitors a vibrant retail, dining and entertainment district that brings new opportunities to connect and enjoy the quality of life in our city,” she said.
Among the people Singh-Allen thanked in her speech were the many women involved with this project.
“Our project leads were all women, and the project was supported by more than 20 other women in professional leadership roles,” she said. “This kind of female-led coordination is rare. In fact, it only happens once in every 364 projects. I think that’s something worth celebrating.”
Rachael Brown, the city’s economic development manager and one of the women mentioned by the mayor, spoke about her involvement with the plaza and Railroad Street projects.
“My role was to help the liaison between the city and the developer, make sure there was coordination, so the projects could be coordinated schedule-wise,” she said. “All the details were shared. Everything is on time and on schedule.”
Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, spoke of his desire for the plaza to attract more people to Old Town.
“The heart of Elk Grove is downtown Elk Grove and a lot of businesses down here have been in business for years,” he said. “Hopefully the opening of this (plaza) brings a lot more folks to downtown, to Old Town, to come down and support our businesses.”
Darrell Doan, the city’s economic development director, spoke about the economic importance of the plaza.
“This is the kind of venue that’s going to attract, not only business, but visitors and residents down to Old Town – some would say back to Old Town,” he said. “And this is just the first step. We’re building streetscapes, we’re putting in restaurants; we’re putting in housing. We’re going to get more stuff happening, because we built (the plaza).”
While standing alongside his son, Travis, Elk Grove Police Chief Tim Albright referred to the plaza as “transformative for the downtown area.”
“We’re looking forward to partnering with community groups, nonprofits, community-based organizations, and really providing a safe environment for our community to gather, to shop, to experience all that Elk Grove has to offer,” he said.
Various other attendees of the event shared with the Citizen what they like about new plaza.
Sharon Renzo, co-president of Soroptimist International of Elk Grove, praised the new plaza.
“I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “I love it. I think it’s going to be a great asset for the city. I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen here in the future. I’m already eyeing it for something we have planned.”
Elk Grove resident Anthony Abeyta mentioned that he was among the people who traveled to the event by bicycle.
“I rode my bike through here,” he said. “I wanted to see what it was going to be, how it’s going to turn out and who is going to be out here. It’s pretty nice and enjoyable, you know?”
John Hall, a 47-year resident of Elk Grove, also spoke positively about this new venue.
“I think it’s great to bring the community together, definitely a plus,” he said.
Hall added that he is most interested in having activities “for the young people.”
“Anything they can get involved in, any activity,” he said. “Have a dance, a barn dance (with) bales of hay around.”
Anthony James Johnson, who moved to Elk Grove three months ago, expressed his excitement for the plaza.
“I love what they’re doing in the city of Elk Grove, and just overall the downtown area, revitalizing, really appreciate (those improvements),” he said. “I not only plan on coming (to the plaza), but all my boys are musicians, as well, so we plan on getting on the roster to play here one night. You can call (the group) J Fire.”
While standing in line for a cold treat from one of the food trucks with her husband David, Old Town resident Debbie Burke noted that she plans to walk to events at the plaza.
“It was good before and now it’s going to be better, because you’ve got some shade for coming for the food trucks and events, and we’ve got a brewery coming up, all within walking distance,” she said. “We’re going to be walking (to the plaza) like always. But there is parking.”
With much enthusiasm, Claire Jordan called the revitalized Old Town Plaza “super pretty.”
“It used to just be a dusty, old lot,” she said. “There wasn’t like a lot going on. I was watching (the plaza) the whole time it was being built and I was always impressed with the progress being made and stuff.
“As long as they keep having events like this, I definitely would like to come out here more and see more of what is going on.”