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Downtown studies need public exposure

Original post made by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly, on Mar 12, 2010

Two outside consulting agencies have been hired to help the city and the Pleasanton Downtown Association come up with marketing and nightlife entertainment strategies that can attract more people to Pleasanton's downtown.

The efforts coincide with a ray of economic light that more shoppers and diners are visiting downtown stores and restaurants after a post-Christmas lull that's been absolutely dreadful. Some merchants such as Thriving Ink are seeing more activity, with owner Brenda Dronkers re-opening the garden patio behind her Main Street store. Business is also good at Redcoats British Pub and Barone's Restaurant, both for regular diners and the two establishments' entertainment and dancing venues.

It's these successes that the PDA, with the help of the city-paid marketing program, hopes to replicate up and down Main Street.

For the city's part, it has contracted with Danville communications agency EMC Creative for some initial marketing research. EMC will define the marketing strategy that the PDA and downtown merchant group leaders Mike and Melanie Sadek of Murphy's Paw have put into place, which has included discount coupons and later evening hours, even on Saturdays.

Because it's a city-financed effort, EMC won't limit its strategic thinking to just the downtown, but will also include retail centers in other parts of Pleasanton. Stoneridge Shopping Center, which has its own marketing team, will continue on its own.

EMC's a good choice for the marketing job. Since its founding in 1980, it specializes in master-planned and urban/suburban communities in Northern California. Its professionals are now interviewing Realtors, commercial brokers, and other stakeholders, including building owners who need tenants.

When sales tax figures are announced for the fourth quarter of 2009 in a week or two, EMC also will analyze that data to see what sells the best downtown and, based on its survey work in other retail centers, what downtown Pleasanton could do to attract more shoppers. Questions asked at the crowded First Wednesday street parties in the summertime show many who participate in these events come for the fun but seldom or never to shop.

The PDA on its own has contracted with the second consulting agency to focus on making the downtown more of an entertainment destination. Although nighttime music and dancing have given North Main Street greater nighttime appeal, the PDA wants the nightlife extended and expanded.

With the $10-million Firehouse Arts Center scheduled to open in September, it's expected there will be several hundred theater-goers walking down Railroad Avenue, Main Street and the side streets after each evening performance. Already there have been inquiries from cafes and bars about opening on those streets to attract the post-theater crowds and the PDA wants to be ready.

It has hired Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) out of Santa Cruz to handle that initiative, with seminars scheduled later this month for a select group of individuals to focus on six areas: community, development, hospitality, entertainment, safety and research.

If you haven't already been asked to share your views with RHI on what downtown needs, you're not part of the study. RHI's problem right at the start is that it will undergo its study behind closed doors. It's likely that those being hand-picked for the mission also are those who think Pleasanton should have a "right to do business" ordinance similar to Livermore's, where nighttime entertainment can open anywhere in the downtown district with the same hours and noise-limit considerations as given to Barone's and Redcoats.

The PDA, with RHI's help, might win the approval of some on the Planning Commission and City Council for its long-wanted one-size-fits-all entertainment ordinance. But probably not without objections from those who live on First, Second and even Third streets--the Old Town community--who don't want more late night noise, traffic or parked cars than those they barely tolerate now with summertime concerts in the park in Lions Wayside Park.

One restaurant that offered late night entertainment closed its doors and an outdoor holiday skating rink was scuttled along the First Street corridor after these folks, who were never included in the planning stage, objected. If RHI and the PDA move forward with their scheduled private seminars and backroom deal-making, they'll likely have to do it all over again in public. Transparency is a buzz word in this town that doesn't like decisions made behind closed doors.

Comments (8)

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

Maybe its just me, but wouldn't it be prudent for the building owners to first lower their lease rates to make our city (and their buildings) more attractive to entrepreneurs?

Why default to spending city money first?

Respectfully, this is 1.)nothing more than a marketing subsidy for building owners and 2.) because there are two studies being commissioned, one by PDA and one by the city, a waste of taxpayer dollars.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Seriously? Nightlife entertainment? Not much of a nightlife when you can't play music after 10pm without a year long debate with the City Council.

They could have hired me for much less and I would tell them that "night life" for the most part includes dancing, music and drinking - basically the 3 things that we just can't have downtown because someone might be bothered.

Its laughable that they hire a firm for this grand analysis.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

Who OK'd the city to waste our tax money on this venture? I had hoped my tax money would have been used in a more appropriate way. I'm VERY disappointed in the leadership of Pleasanton! How can we as residents, make sure this doesn't happen again?


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Posted by Rick
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Mar 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

The downtown needs stringent standards regarding blight. Many of the buildings have visible signs of decay. Dry rot, peeling paint, dirty store fronts are the norm (Check out Thrive next to Round Table, or walk inside Round Table...what a mess).

I spent the weekend in Nevada City. The quality of its structures and the pride that their downtown association with respect to its appearance offers a stark contrast to run down P-town. Every building was freshly painted and the streets were spotless.

A downtown association should set high standards for the appearence of its buildings. Don't expect shoppers to flock to downtown Pleasanton when its storefronts are a mess (see Deans). Coming up with a marketing campaing really misses the point. If you build it and maintain it, they will come.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Mar 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Cities run on taxes, and the more money businesses make, the more taxes they pay. Thus it is in the city's best interest to do what it can to improve business.

Is it worth the cost of hiring private consultants? Consultants usually remain in business because they know what they are doing and turn that knowledge into benefit for their clients.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

It seems that the City Council, those up for re-election (Hosterman, Thorne, and Cook-Kallio), and the Chamber of Commerce have spent so much wasted effort trying to make housing developers happy that they have totally neglected the downtown area. Downtown Pleasanton is depressing and there is not much variety of things to do. We go to Livermore for the retaurants, pubs, and lively night life. Livermore is thriving. These studies are a last minute effort to use Pleasanton tax payer dollars to come up with a plan that should have been in place 2 years ago. What can we do about it? Let's vote in a new mayor and city council, McGovern for Mayor and Brown for Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maria
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Speaking as someone not yet old enough to go barhopping, the nightlife in Pleasanton is absolutely dismal! The only places generally open are Coldstone, the frozen yogurt places, and a few of the restaurants (not very entertaining if you've already eaten...)


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Posted by Savannah
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 30, 2010 at 3:40 am

50+ Dance/Nightclub ~ that is the type of place Pleasanton needs. My friends & I were regulars at ShBoom's when it was here in Pleasanton. We have tried it various times since they moved to San Ramon...it is just not the same. Since it was always packed when in Pleasanton, their reason for moving was never clear. The club that opened in their place is for the '20-30 yr old or so' group.

My friends are now into their 60's and STILL want to go dancing! While the Brewery, Hotel & Pub are ok, they too entice the 'youngsters'. The 50+ crowd are still feisty, full of fun and love to dance. We would love a venue with dancing (vary with Bands, DJ's & a Jukebox), a bar & appetizers ~ simple fare. Keep your overhead down. Someone hear our plea ~


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