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Communication and Collaboration Key to Success of the Grand Avenue Vision Project - Phase 1
Grand Avenue is undergoing some major improvements thanks to City leaders and local business owners who worked together to design and refigure the road so that it would improve foot traffic and increase parking along the avenue.
The Grand Avenue Vision Project stems from 2015, when the City looked for ways to improve the parking situation along the avenue. The first phase of the project will be completed in April 2022.
The Grand Avenue Vision Project included sidewalk widening for sidewalk dining and pedestrian traffic.
“The success of this project comes from the fact that the City and its business owners worked together to create a solution that worked for everyone,” said Jennifer Schoeneck Escondido’s Deputy Director of Economic Development. “By working together, the Grand Avenue Project is bringing a fresh, new look to the area while working to solve some parking and safety concerns.”
Because of early COVID restrictions, many restaurants and eateries on Grand were forced to move their dining tables outside either onto sidewalks or street parking locations. This caused Grand Avenue to go from a double-lane to a single-lane road. However, this change also allowed for the City to examine the effects of these changes. They found that it had positive benefits and decided diagonal parking — which will add approximately 100 parking spaces — and extended outdoor dining were more beneficial than extra driving lanes.
“The Grand Avenue Vision Project was essentially born from emergency measures we put in place during COVID,” said Alex MacLachlan, President of the Downtown Business District. “COVID ended up becoming our pilot project and gave people the confidence that we were making the right decisions.”
Phase I of the Grand Vision Plan, a $2.5 million project funded by SANDAG with a Smart Growth Incentive Program grant and TransNet funds, began in January and is set to be completed by the end of April. It includes re-striping some parking in a diagonal direction along Grand Avenue with pavement resurfacing from Escondido Boulevard to Juniper Street. The medians between Maple Street and Kalmia Street have been removed to allow space for diagonal parking, sidewalk widening and a single vehicular lane in each direction of travel.
The sidewalks on the north side of the road from Maple Street to Broadway have been widened and new light posts that will hang string lighting criss-crossing the avenue will be installed in the two-block section from Maple to Kalmia streets.
Construction for the project was slated to start just after Cruisin’ Grand last fall. However, many business owners felt the construction would be an inconvenience to their businesses, especially during the holiday season, which tends to be their busiest months. City leaders responded to their requests to postpone the project until after the holiday season.
Along the way, the City has continually worked to update business owners and community members of the progress on the project with weekly progress emails, community meetings and QR codes that were strategically placed within the city.
Signage directing patrons to the information website, which received over 250 scans
“We did our best to accommodate the businesses along Grand Avenue during construction in a number of ways,” said Jonathan Schauble, the City’s project manager.
These steps included:
The City kept businesses informed throughout construction by sending weekly email newsletters and daily updates to the City’s project webpage.
The City placed posters with QR codes downtown near the construction project to direct people to the project website
The City ensured that the contractor provided access to the store fronts during construction.
The City posted signs and distributed flyers to let the community know that the businesses were open during construction.
The City worked with the contractor to facilitate night work where feasible to minimize impacts to the business community.
City staff provided project updates to the Downtown Business Association at their quarterly in-person meetings, both before and during the project construction phase.
“They also asked the Downtown Business Association to disseminate information so the public would be fully informed of the work and the timeline to completion,” said MacLachlan.
“I commend the City for how diligent they were in getting the information out.”
Jonathan Schauble, the City’s project manager providing an update to the downtown businesses association members.
The response to the changes have been very positive.
“The businesses I have talked to are thrilled to have the City invest in the historic Downtown by installing wider sidewalks and decorative string lighting across the street,” said Schauble.
“These improvements will create a more pedestrian-friendly, festive atmosphere which will reinvigorate the downtown businesses by attracting more customers to the area.”
The project included removing the medians.
Phase II is a larger project budgeted at $5 million and slated to begin in early 2023. It will expand the Grand Avenue Vision Project further on Grand Avenue. The Phase II vision includes widening the sidewalk on both sides of Grand Avenue between Maple and Juniper streets and adding a traffic circle at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Broadway. Like with Phase I, the City is getting input from City leaders and business owners.
When completed, the project will not only bring more parking to the City, the hope is it will also bring more foot traffic, giving the area a vibe like that of Little Italy or Sunset Market in Oceanside.
Nearly completed, wider sidewalks and new streetlights fulfill the Grand Avenue Vision Plan.
Grand Avenue has always been a city center for Escondido. Events and festivals such as Cruisin' Grand, the Escondido Street Festival and Second Saturday Art Walks have brought visitors to the City. With this new look, City leaders and business owners are hoping an energized nightlife will also become a regular occurrence in the City throughout the year.
MacLachlan had hoped for the revitalization of the area, which was made possible thanks to the Grand Vision Project.
“Everybody loves the area,” he said. “The historic architecture, the fun vibe; we are just trying to make Grand’s potential realized.”