The debate rages on about ways to revitalize State Street and downtown Santa Barbara, and the World Business Academy remains at the forefront of the public discussion about this vital issue. On Wednesday, December 5th, Rinaldo Brutoco and Director of Energy Research, Robert Perry, participated as panelists in the latest public forum focusing on revitalizing lower State Street, sponsored by local news website Noozhawk. With attendance reaching almost 100 people, it clearly demonstrated the continued and vigorous community interest in engaging and finding a solution to this complex issue.
Many ideas discussed at the forum have been suggested before, such as building more housing downtown, and perhaps closing off some blocks along State Street to cars for special events or festivals. With regard to the latter suggestion, the panel discussion revealed that not all State Street businesses are on board with the idea of creating a pedestrian mall in downtown Santa Barbara, fearing that closing State Street to vehicular traffic would hurt business by decreasing visibility of storefronts.
We at the Academy beg to differ. While some pedestrian malls have historically not been successful for various reasons, many others are experiencing tremendous success due to flexible, adaptive planning, and a comprehensive vision. Consider the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, a wildly popular destination enjoyed by locals and tourists of all ages, which has been closed to vehicle traffic for decades. Another similar place with great success is the Pearl Street Mall, a thriving four-block pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado where shops, restaurants, and entertainment bring fun back to the shopping and restaurant experience.
Many agree that State Street seems tired and lacks the kind of energy that makes other downtown retail areas and shopping districts successful. This malaise is due in large part to the failure to make each block of State Street a unique place where both tourists and the community can come together for shopping, dining or special events. Also, developing the open public parking areas along Chapala and Anacapa streets into retail and high-density residential spaces will bring the kind of living vibrancy that can only be realized by locating people close to where they work and play.
As Robert Perry also noted, these new structures can also house advanced distributed renewable energy resources that will make the area more resilient against frequent power outages and other disruptions. Finally, the last ingredient for success involves the creation of a comprehensive phone application that easily informs consumers of popular venues, upcoming events, and more importantly, quickly directs them to parking and shared transportation that can get them out of their cars and into the new State Street Experience.
Please take a look at Robert Perry’s vision for State Street and contact him at [email protected] with any questions, comments or suggestions. Until there is a consensus on a viable, holistic solution, the World Business Academy will continue to advocate for a sustainable and vibrant downtown State Street.