Doc Rioux At Large

Why the revitalization of downtown Newhall?

Richard "Doc" Rioux · June 9, 1996

Why the revitalization of downtown Newhall? You might live in Valencia, Canyon Country or Saugus and rarely use San Fernando Road to leave the valley. Or if you have used San Fernando Road and passed through Newhall, you probably didn't turn your head left or right to notice the plywood and "For Rent" signs in windows where merchants once prospered.

Ask yourself this question: If we, the citizens of Santa Clarita, don't do something to save, restore and enhance downtown Newhall, when will the disease of deterioration come to our neighborhood, our shopping center, our school, our business?

The answer for me is simple: It won't take long, not long at all.

We who live in and care about the quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley must act to save Newhall from blight. We must overcome our differences, reach out over the walls of our disputes, and put our fears aside in order to do what is right for downtown Newhall. For what is good for Newhall is good for every community in this valley.

When an infection in your leg goes untreated, it will spread and can ultimately consume your entire body. The sickness in downtown Newhall must be treated, or it will creep into other parts of the city.

A friend told me she has been working for over 20 years on downtown Newhall revitalization. She believes, as do many citizens in this valley, that to wait any longer will spell disaster.

It is time to place the goal of restoration first and the needs of special interests and personalities last. It is clearly more important to get the process of revitalization started than it is to engage in divisive debate over which 't' should be crossed and what 'i' should be dotted.

On Tuesday evening, June 11, 1996, the members of the City Council will be asked to adopt, in concept, the "Newhall Improvement Program." Hundreds of people have attended a series of public meetings held over the past 18 months to outline strategies for architectural design, capital improvements and financing. The debates have been intensive, educational and productive.

City staff and consultants did a skillful job in bringing the process to this point. Not everyone was always happy, but a consensus of support for a moderate to narrow-sized redevelopment area has continued to grow, as we all now await the moment when our elected officials must decide on Newhall's future.

Democracy has been and is at work here. I have watched it, participated in it, and enjoyed it. There is no way the council's decision Tuesday night will please everyone who has an interest in what happens to downtown Newhall. That's impossible. But I do believe that once the process of renewal has started, the doubtful will join the chorus of believers to sing the praises of the mayor and members of the City Council for their decision to cross this valley's Rubicon.

So much hinges on what the council does.

The fight against the Elsmere dump will be helped because of a decision to beautify Newhall. The process of developing a plan to improve Canyon Country can begin. Chances of attracting more money to expand Heritage Junction will improve. Plans for maximizing the use of the William S. Hart Museum and Park will move forward.

The day laborer situation will be addressed in a positive manner. Crime in Newhall will be reduced. Children on the east side will have something positive to be associated with. The new Metrolink Station will be built in attractive surroundings. People will drive downtown to shop, eat and go to the theater. Business investment will grow. Another center of excellence will have been created.

The City Council has made some difficult decisions in its relatively short history. But nothing could be more important to this valley's wonderful and rich history than the resolution to proceed with the revitalization of downtown Newhall.

History records moments of significant change. Rebuilding the corridor through Old Newhall will be this City Council's crowning achievement. And to get the process going, I hope they will choose a redevelopment option that will not be challenged in court and that is primarily focused on downtown Newhall.

There's excitement in the air! I suspect the City Council chambers will be packed Tuesday night. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. The press will be there in force. It ought to be great theater. The main actors are Carl Boyer, Jo Anne Darcy, Clyde Smyth, Jan Heidt and Jill Klajic. The city manager is George Caravalho.

What will happen? What will they do? Tickets are free. See you there!

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Dr. Richard Rioux is president of Old Town Newhall, USA. His commentary appears on Sundays.


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